By Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.
In his conversation with World Economic Forum (WEF) President Borge Brende in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 19, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. said: “I was determined not to go into politics. I could see the sacrifices he [his father, Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.] had to make to do a good job. But after we came back from the United States, after exile, the political issue was Marcos. And for us to defend ourselves politically, somebody had to enter politics and be in the political arena so that not only the legacy of my father but even our own survival required that somebody go into politics.”
So, that was what his entry into politics was all about — to defend the legacy of his father and the family politically, not to serve the people. He ran for senator in 1995, just four years after his return from exile, but the veterans of the People Power uprising in 1986 waged a vigorous campaign against him, foiling his first bid for national office.
He retreated to Ilocos Norte, home province of the Marcoses, to mend his wounded pride. There he ran for and was elected governor of the province in 1998. He was re-elected twice. Having reached his term limit, he ran for and was elected representative of the 2nd District of the province in 2007.
Considering himself ripe for the Upper House of Congress, he ran again for senator in 2010. By then, the remnants of the anti-Marcos forces that foiled Bongbong’s previous senatorial bid had passed on and people who were too young to know what life was like during Marcos Sr.’s military rule and those born in the 1990s had become voters. He got enough votes to win a Senate seat.
In the Senate he gained the reputation of being the laziest member. He was absent 67 times. He was also among the senators who were frequently late. After all, he entered politics not to craft laws that would benefit the people, but to defend the legacy of his father and to defend the Marcos family politically.
Having been a senator for six years, he felt he had become vice-presidential timber in 2016, even if only one of the bills he filed — the postponement of the 2013 Sangguniang Kabataan elections — was enacted into law. He lost to the unpretentious representative of the 3rd District of Camarines Sur, Leni Robredo. In the three elections where Bongbong ran for national office, he got no more than 35% of the votes of the electorate.
Bongbong became a private citizen after June 30, 2016 when his term as senator ended. He did not do anything between that time and 2021 to improve his political stock or gain the admiration, gratitude, or goodwill of the electorate. He did not champion any worthy cause, or add his voice to any advocacy, or visit any disaster area to extend help or at least comfort the afflicted.
While his battery of election lawyers filed protest after protest against the election of Robredo as vice-president, his vast army of trolls re-launched a decade-old campaign to rebrand is father’s presidency as the “Golden Era” of a booming economy and magnificent infrastructure, with discipline and order the habit of the day — rather than a period of horrific human rights violations, unbridled corruption, massive looting of state coffers, soaring prices of basic commodities, with the economy on the verge of collapse, and millions of Filipinos living in abject poverty, all while the First Family lived a life of imperial luxury and extravagance.
The campaign was waged vigorously in social media. Younger generations live in the age of social media. Social media play an important role in that they greatly influence the thinking of the youth. According to the Commission on Elections, the number of registered voters as of 2021 as 65.7 million. More than 37 million, or 56%, are aged 18-40.
Hundreds of old videos were edited and then uploaded to YouTube, which were later reposted in Facebook. Social media was also used to counter the campaign of Leni Robredo with false or distorting information. The rebranding was helped by President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to bury Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (the National Heroes’ Cemetery).
On Oct. 5, 2021, Bongbong Marcos announced he would seek the presidency in the 2022 elections. He ran on a campaign of “national unity,” a subtle way of telling the electorate to forget the corruption and brutality of his father’s regime and to think of the reprise of the “Golden Era” that his father supposedly brought about. Bonifacio Ilagan, a martial law survivor, said before a group of aging activists and their young supporters at a shrine for martial law victims, “Can you imagine we were young when we fought Marcos Sr.? Now I’m 70 and we’re facing Marcos Jr. It’s hard to accept.”
Bongbong Marcos won with more than 31 million votes, an unequivocal mandate. He is the first presidential candidate to be elected by a majority of voters since his father. By that alone he has fulfilled his personal mission to defend the legacy of his father and the family politically.
But not by deeds alone but by words as well he must defend the legacy of his father. At his inauguration as president, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. said: “I once knew a man who saw what little had been achieved since independence in a land filled with people with the greatest potential for achievement, and yet they were poor. But he got it done. Sometimes, with the needed support. Sometimes, without. My father built more and better roads, produced more rice than all administrations before his.”
Bongbong Marcos has told the Filipino people how great his father was. He must also tell the whole world. After all, the Guinness World Records attribute to his father the record for “the greatest robbery of a government.”
So, that was what his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos was all about, to tell the world the Marcos version of the Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. story. That must have been what all the previous seven foreign trips were all about, to show the peoples of the member nations of ASEAN, of the European Union, and of the United Nations that the Filipino people truly acknowledge the greatness of his father by electing him to the same office that his father occupied for 20 years. He brought with him to Davos the heads or representatives of the eight biggest business empires in the Philippines to show the business world that not only the Filipino public has faith in him but the business sector as well.
As to his flying to Singapore in acceptance of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s invitation to watch the Singapore Grand Prix, it can be said that was to undo the damage Mr. Lee’s late father had done to the reputation of Bongbong Marcos’ father. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had said: “Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos who pillaged his country for over 20 years still be considered for a national burial. Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics.”
Indeed, only in the Philippines!
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is a retired corporate executive, business consultant, and management professor. He has been a political activist since the late 1950s.