Updated: May 11
Diana G. Mendoza
Manila– “Good luck to the Philippines.” Political science Professor Jean Encinas-Franco of the University of the Philippines told a TV interview a day after the May 9 elections, cautioning a portent of darkness in the next six years if Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. assumes the presidency.
The late dictator’s son and namesake has garnered an insurmountable lead over his closest opponent, outgoing Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, in what observers say is a watershed election that is the most consequential to date in the history of this Southeast Asian country since the 1986 people power revolution that toppled his late father's two-decade dictatorship.
His running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, is also winning with significant numbers.
The people most hurting from a possible resurrection of the Marcos ghost are the young Filipinos who experienced a people power-like movement in their fierce campaigning for Robredo, fondly called “Leni” by her supporters, and her running mate, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan. The tandem’s supporters have mounted huge campaign sorties now called the “pink movement,” Robredo’s campaign color.
“Marcos and Duterte may have won the election, but it was Leni and Kiko who have captured the hearts and minds of the young Filipinos,” said Franco. “No one can take that away from them and they will never forget that they stood up even if it seemed impossible.”
Filipino netizens flooded social media with expressions of anxiety, depression and sadness at the loss of the Leni-Kiko team. Most of them who went back to work the following day said they couldn’t work properly due to a lack of sleep from a restless night as they monitored the counting of votes.
So what can Filipinos expect from the presidency of another Marcos? Franco said there is nothing definite and specific to say, noting Marcos’ lack of a policy platform and clear discussions about what he would do should he become president. His campaign message about unity was vague.
“All I can say is, really, good luck to the Philippines," Franco said.
Bongbong Marcos, 64, is setting the stage for a return to power and rule of the Marcos family, 36 years after they fled into exile. In the 1990s, they returned and regained their influence. The presumptive president has been a governor, congressman and senator; his sister, Imee, is currently a senator and the matriarch Imelda, has served four terms in Congress. His son Sandro has just won a seat in Congress.
Pundits say Marcos Jr.’s six-year presidency will only provide continuity from outgoing authoritarian president Duterte, and will worsen the existing problems of patronage politics and corruption.
How did Marcos win? Apart from the fact that Filipinos easily forget, journalists and observers recount Marcos’ army of influencers, bloggers and a social media network that churned out a proliferation of misinformation that challenged historical accounts of the Marcos regime, especially the martial law years. Some false narratives painted Marcos’ rule as the country’s “golden era.”
Although his camp insisted that it has not engaged in disinformation that also targeted his main opponent, Robredo, it can’t be discounted that over the last three decades, Marcos Jr. defended his family from accusations of corruption, mainly of looting around $10 billion from the government before fleeing to Hawaii during the 1986 people power revolt, with no apologies and acknowledgment whatsoever.
As hundreds of protesters stormed the Commission on Elections with complaints of election fraud, a composed Robredo issued a statement the day after, asking her supporters to stay calm, as their journey has just started.
Minka Vitug, a young professional, said she was not swayed by the Marcoses’ disinformation campaign because she sought the correct historical accounts. “The Philippines is in for a long, dark winter” with a Marcos presidency. “Our journey indeed has started. We must be vigilant," she said.