“DO I FEEL EMOTIONAL ABOUT IT? I suppose, there is.” Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, namesake and only son of the late Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos, waxed emotion when asked if his political journey into the country’s second top position is personally a sentimental one, this also as latest survey results showed his winnability in the vice-presidential race for May 9 national elections this year.
“Yes. There is also. It’s been 30 years since 1986. I’ts been a long time, all the joy, all the tears, all kinds of emotions have already been felt. And today, what I am doing is none other than to continue the legacy of my father, of my parents,” said the 58-year-old Marcos shortly before his candidacy was launched in his mother’s bailiwick in Tacloban city, also known as ground zero in 2013 super typhoon Yolanda which killed over 6,000 people in the city.
Leyte, with a population of 1.5 million, is the home province of his widow mother Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, who is also a congresswoman in Ilocos Norte.
“I am just continuing the legacy of service that was left behind by my family that is part of the Marcoses,” he said.
According to Marcos, they are brought into this world to serve.
Asked if there is something he wanted to rewrite in terms of the dark historical aftermath of his family when his father declared martial law and clamped down human rights in the country for 14 years, Marcos said there is nothing to be rewritten.
Under then president Marcos, his government was tagged for kleptocracy and profligacy while millions of its citizens were buried in poverty.
A bloodless people power uprising dubbed as “EDSA” in 1986 thrown the Marcos family and their cronies out of the country, yet in just few years they were able to slowly reclaim their ways into the political arena of the country with no less than his mother and sister being also elected into public offices.
The late dictator however died when they returned from exile few years after and his remains have remained unburied due to the protesting Filipinos.
The billions of pesos allegedly looted during the military regime of his father remains dangling in the courts. While the over 75,730 victims and claimants for tortures, abuses and extra-judicial killings during Martial law have yet to claim the Php 10 billion allotted to them as reparation which will be taken from Marcos’s ill-gotten wealth recovered by the government from their Switzerland deposits.
Marcos said that the past cannot be rewritten and that what can be rewritten is the present and the future.
“That is why in this campaign I have chosen not to join this muck wreaking, this name calling, shouting. What I have tried to do is to present to the people a program of government, a program for the future, of program to make the Philippines a better place to live, to improve our status in international community. That is what the people are waiting for, that is what the people are asking for. And I believe we are being voted into office to help the people,” Marcos told the reporters.
Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, Marcos’ cousin also came to the rescue on the various allegations hurled into the candidacy of his cousin and to the Marcos family in general, while asking the media to ferret for the truth.
“Let’s help put things in proper perspective. Why is Bongbong is answering all these issues that are being thrown to him. Let’s remember that Pres. Marcos left the Philippines against his will. He wanted to return to the Philippines and he was not allowed to return. He wanted to face his accusers and he should face his accusers, he should have been allowed,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez then expressed his resentment on the government on the circumstances of Marcoses returning to the country, saying that “we should have already established laws, rights that no institution can remove of Filipinos” for returning to their homeland.
“I do not know why these rights that are built in as a Filipino, we allow institutions to remove them. That’s definitely abuse of power. Then now they are twisting the facts. I am saddened by this. ”
Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino III — son of the late President Corazon Aquino, who was guiding figure in overthrowing the Marcoses in February 1986 – said he would do everything to stop the return of Marcos family into power.
“I will make this country great again. Their slogans are the same. Maybe their plans are the same and if there is anything I can do, that will not come to pass. I don’t want a repeat of the problems we went through especially from 1972 to 1986,” Aquino told reporters in Manila.
Aquino’s handpicked candidate for the vice-presidency is also tied with Marcos in survey results.
Father Amado Picardal, executive secretary of the Philippine bishops’ Commission for Basic Ecclesial Communities, is also worried in the sudden surge of Marcos in the polls.
“I view with alarm the possibility of Bongbong become vice-president, especially if Duterte is elected president. I believe it is an insult to the memory of EDSA and all that we have fought for to depose a dictator. Bongbong, the unrepentant son of the dictator is making a come back using the money that his family stole from the Filipino people,” Picardal said in an interview while also comparing Marcos to the tough-talking and alleged Davao city vigilante killing mastermind mayor and presidential forerunner Rodrigo Duterte.
“He expects to take over if Duterte fails to eliminate criminality within three to six months. Duterte promised to give Marcos a hero’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery). Marcos was Duterte’s idol and he regards him as a great president. Being a victim of martial law, a Duterte-Marcos Regime is great shame for the Philippines. It will show that we as a people have short memories, lacking in conscience, a stupid and foolish people,” he added.
The Redemptorist priest admitted that he too was arrested, tortured and imprisoned for 7 months during the military regime of the late President Marcos.
The Catholic Church, through the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, was at the forefront in overthrowing the Marcoses and restoring democracy in the country in 1986.
EDSA lessons not institutionalized
Meanwhile, academician and former Akbayan party-list legislator Walden Bello said that Bongbong Marcos ascendancy into power is “worrisome,” while calling him a “false prophet.”
Bello, who also suffered abuses during martial law and is now running as senator, also blamed the educational system and post-EDSA Republic for its failure to institutionalize the lessons of the Marcos military rule. According to Bello, the disappointment of the people after EDSA, particularly the young ones, made Marcos appealing to them.
“I think the failure to educate took place among all the sectors. The failure or disappointment with the lack of real democracy taking place is shared by poor and middle class. I am worried about that. It will show two things. That the lessons of the martial law period especially the atrocities committed by the Marcos government have not been fully learned by these generations of Filipinos after the martial law and EDSA period. We assumed only that people could recognize that it was a dark period in our history,” he said.
“No special efforts in education to revise curricula on what actually happened on the record of atrocities. The post-1986 period, people were really learning for real democracy to take place, unfortunately it was hijacked by traditional politicians, so instead of real democracy I think what we have we have are ruling families keeping political power, sharing among themselves. Yes there is fierce competition among dynasties, yet in fact real democratization of power has not taken place. The disappointment that we don’t have an economy that offers future to our young,” Bello added in an interview.
Bello also maintained that Marcos network is “around and quite strong.”
“We would have a danger in lapsing back into that kind of rule or misrule that we had under Marcos, the dictator, if we give Bongbong a change to the vice-presidency in which he would just be a heartbeat away from the presidency. This is so worrisome because he has not apologize or recognize that there were tremendous human rights abuses during that period. At least the one thing he can do is to say, ‘Yes, these took place,’” Bello added.
He said that another reason why the young Marcos should not be voted into office is that he has been party to making sure that the Marcos billions that have been stashed away in different parts around the world, the Filipinos have not been able to claim it because of all the legal obstacles that they put there.
“There he poses a danger to democracy. False prophets like Bongbong thrived in a condition where we have not yet get our promises.”
First published in Philippine News Agency, May 2, 2016