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  • By Diana G. Mendoza

The Marcoses’ unquenchable desire for power

Manila – Any mention of the history of the Philippines always steers us to the Marcos name. Its patriarch Ferdinand was of course the president who did everything authoritarian to stay in power for 20 years until he was overthrown in 1986 by the People Power movement.

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the late dictator’s only son who ran for vice president in 2016 but lost to Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo by a hairline, has pleaded nonstop that the Commission on Elections and the Supreme Court conduct immediate proceedings on his election protest, having filed several motions seeking immediate resolution for a recount to prove that he was cheated and that he won over Robredo.

Last June, Marcos Jr., a former senator, faced Robredo, a lawyer and former congresswoman, for the preliminary hearing of his poll protest before the Supreme Court. Both were asked to lay down their protest and counter-protest as allowed under the rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. They were also asked to post cash bonds of P66.2 million for Marcos’ protest fee and P15.45 million for Robredo’s counter protest. Marcos has paid his full amount while Robredo has paid half and is asking donors to help her raise money.

Marcos wants the electoral body to invalidate Robredo’s win and to initiate a recount in more than 132,000 precincts in 27 provinces and cities and annul about a million votes cast in three provinces in the southern Philippines. Robredo won by14,418,817 votes, a narrow lead over Marcos Jr.’s 14,155,344 votes.

Marcos Jr.’s family has been accused of embezzling almost P10 billion in public funds during the dictatorial regime of his late father. Before becoming a senator from 2010 until he ran for vice president in 2016, he served as governor of his father’s home province of Ilocos Norte where he also served as vice governor and congressman.

His older sister, Imee, is now the governor of the province, replacing her brother and after she served three terms as representative. Their mother, Imelda Marcos, first lady from 1965 to 1986 and is known infamously for her extravagance, is on her third and final term as congresswoman of the province. She replaced her son in 2010 when he ran for the Senate.

Although Marcos Jr. ran under a ticket with a different presidential candidate, he was heavily endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who also had a different vice presidential running mate in 2016. Duterte has said publicly that he felt indebted to the Marcos family, having admitted that the major funder for his presidential bid is Marcos’ older sister Imee. In November last year, Filipinos who are anti-Marcos, were outraged when Duterte allowed a heroes’ burial for the late dictator, whose waxed and preserved body lay in a glass coffin in their home province.

Because of the favors they are receiving from the Duterte administration, the Marcoses have found the momentum to rise to the top again. Marcos Jr. is grasping the opportunity presented by Vice President Robredo’s exclusion from Cabinet meetings for speaking out against Duterte’s war on drugs that has killed thousands in extrajudicial killings. Robredo has faced impeachment proceedings from Duterte allies in the House of Representatives. A majority of Supreme Court justices with alleged ties to the president could make it easier for Marcos to take the vice presidential seat.

Imee Marcos and six other provincial officials of Ilocos Norte face allegations of misusing the province's share of the tobacco excise tax; the money was meant for projects to benefit tobacco farmers but was instead used to buy vehicles for village officials.

Some House members expressed fear of the name Marcos alone. They believe that arresting Imee Marcos, should she skip a hearing on public accountability and good governance, is an impossible thing given that she as well as her family is powerful and that they can buy their way out of trouble, as they have done in the past.

Many Filipinos abhor the prospect of Marcos Jr. getting his way with the courts and electoral bodies to claim the VP seat from Robredo. But this is clearly a likely possibility.

Diana Mendoza is a freelance journalist based in Manila. She wrote for the Manila Chronicle, Today, and Inter Press Service. She also worked as a media consultant for the Commission on Population and the Asian Development Bank.

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