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A new Marcos for the Philippines

A new Marcos for the Philippines

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr has won the presidency of the Philippines by a landslide. But he’s not the first Ferdinand Marcos to rule the country. Why is his election so historic?

“Very happy… very very happy… we didn’t know what to say and we didn’t know what to feel but now I know that now Bongbong Marcos is going to be our president, we believe that our nation will be great again.”

Grace, a voter in Manila, the Independent

That’s Grace, a voter in Manila earlier this week. 

She’s ecstatic. 

Her candidate has won the presidency of the Philippines, by about 20 million votes. 

His name is Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, and Grace has good reason to sound amazed. Bongbong’s victory is remarkable.

For one thing he has no political platform to speak of and took part in no debates. For another, he has a criminal conviction on the books for tax evasion. 

Also, his running mate is Sara Duterte, daughter of the outgoing president, who ordered thousands of extra-judicial killings of poor Filipinos who he claimed were drug dealers – usually without evidence. 

But the real reason Bongbong’s win is… historic… is his parents, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, the original 20th century kleptocrats. They were swept from power in a great popular uprising in 1986.

Thirty-six years on, they’re revered. How did that happen?

***

Here’s Bongbong’s father, the first President Ferdinand Marcos:

“Expressly, explicitly, in just this many works, I will support the Aquino government to prevent any… and any attempt of the takeover of the communists. I am against violence, I don’t intend to use violence or to take over the government… there is no reason why you should fear me.”

President Ferdinand Marcos

Marcos Sr was speaking there from exile in the US in 1988. In fact there was plenty of reason for his successor, Corazon Aquino, to fear him. On his watch his main rival – her husband – had been assassinated. 

Thousands more enemies of the regime were murdered. Torturers went to work in the prisons.

Democracy was suspended for nine years of martial law.

“Elections have been cancelled. Criticism of his actions and his regime has been outlawed. His political opponents have been jailed.”

abc News

And Marcos ran the country with a group of henchmen known as the Rolex 12 because of the fancy watches he handed out to them.

Poverty deepened as they got rich, and the Marcoses got very rich.

Imelda, Bongbong’s mother, famously collected 3,000 pairs of shoes and a cluster of New York skyscrapers. 

She once had an airport built for her daughter’s wedding. By the time she and her husband were helicoptered into exile (in Hawaii – their reward for fighting Communism) they’d looted $5-10 billion from the state.

Imelda reckoned the people they had fleeced were just ungrateful.

“When they talk about heroes of… the real hero was Marcus… he had all the resources and yet he did not lift a gun to shoot a Filipino traitor or those who betrayed.”

Imelda Marcos, AP Archive

Imelda’s hero, Ferdinand Sr, died in 1989.

Imelda herself is still going at 93, long since returned from exile, twice a presidential candidate and for nine years a member of the national house of representatives – despite a 42-year sentence for corruption, suspended pending endless appeals. 

Politics is the family business. Bongbong dived into it early and spent decades laundering the family name.

He’s been helped in this election by a divided opposition… but above all by lies. 

With hundreds of youtube videos and a turbocharged social media propaganda team, Bongbong has rewritten his country’s and his family’s history. 

“If there is one thing that I think clearly sets my father apart, it’s that he had a very clear vision for our country. He viewed his work as president as one of nation building. Of building up our country to make it better.”

Bongbong Marcos, abc News

For millions – but especially the young, who don’t remember – the age of Ferdinand and Imelda is one of good times, unity, prosperity for all.

The looting and killing is all airbrushed out and what’s left goes over well.

“The young ones, they don’t know that this happened and they believe that the Marcos’ had a good government.”

abc News

They see Bongbong as an amiable family guy, above politics. Here he is laughing about video games in one of his youtube clips, with an outro by three telegenic sons:

“Thank you… hello, please subscribe to *laughs*

Bongbong Marcos’ YouTube channel

Seven out of ten 18-24 year-olds wanted Bongbong to be president. Now they’ve got their man. 

Not everyone’s happy. There are hundreds of credible reports of vote-rigging in Monday’s election and anti-Bongbong voters have been out in force…

[Clip: crowds protesting against Bongbong Marcos]

But the margin was always going to be enormous. The question now: what’s the future of southeast Asia’s oldest democracy, under the son of a dictator who’s found he can control the past. We’ll find out soon enough.

Today’s story was written by Giles Whittell and mixed by Imy Harper.