By John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter

PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. Made it to Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people this year due to his efforts to oppose Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

“Bongbong’s desire to rehabilitate the Marcos name has resulted in other shifts,” according to Time. “He brought technocrats back into government, steadied the post —pandemic economy and elevated the Philippines on the world stage.”

Time said Bongbong’s rise to the Philippine presidency in 2022 stemmed from efforts to whitewash his family legacy “through clever manipulation of social media.”

His dictator father plundered billions of dollars from state coffers and stood accused of grievous human rights violations until his ouster in 1986, it said.

“Bongbong has stood steadfast against Chinese aggression in the disputed South China Sea and bolstered his nation’s alliance with the US,” Time said. “Many problems persist, including extra-judicial killings and journalists routinely attacked. But by trying to repair his family name, Bongbong may reshape his country too.”

TIME’s 100 most influential list, first published in 1999, included artists, icons, titans, leaders, innovators and pioneers.

Taiwan President-elect William Lai Ching-te and Argentine President Javier Gerardo Milei were also on the list.

The Marcoses have been accused of living lavishly in the Philippine presidential palace while Filipinos suffered from a collapsing economy.

More than 70,000 were jailed, about 34,000 were tortured and more than 3,000 people died during the martial rule of his father, the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr., according to Amnesty International.

A popular street uprising toppled the Marcos regime in February 1986 and sent him and his family into exile in the United States.

The elder Marcos accumulated ill-gotten wealth of as much as $10 billion (P572 billion), according to government estimates, earning him a Guiness World Record for the “greatest robbery of a government.”

“Despite geopolitical tensions and hurdles posed by the COVID-19 (coronavirus-2019) pandemic, President Marcos has elevated the Philippines on the world state and contributed to regional stability, notably in the Indo-Pacific region,” the Presidential Communications Office said in a statement. 

Arjan P. Aguirre, who teaches political science at the Ateneo de Manila University, said the President’s positive image stems from his foreign policy shift toward the US, Japan and Australia.

“This is perceived as a complete departure from his predecessor’s excessive dalliance with Chinese interest that weakened the position of the Philippines regarding the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat, referring to Rodrigo R. Duterte.

“Marcos gets approval and praises for this foreign policy shift for it also favors or benefits the political interests of other players in the region like the US, Japan and Australia,” he added.

Maria Ela L. Atienza, who teaches political science at the University of the Philippines, said the Mr. Duterte had set the bar too low when it came to the Philippines’ standing in international community.

“For foreign governments and media, President Marcos’ intent to increase Philippine presence again in the global community hopefully to boost foreign investments is a breath of fresh air,” she said in a Viber message.

The Philippine leader last week met with US President Joseph R. Biden and Japanese Prime Fumio Kishida in the nations’ first three-way summit to boost ties in trade, energy and maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region.

Mr. Marcos on Tuesday vowed to bring down drug syndicates and the illegal drug trade without shedding blood.

Law enforcers on Monday seized a record P13.3-billion ($234 million) haul of crystal meth or shabu in Batangas province south of the capital.

“This is the biggest shipment of shabu that we caught, but not one person died,” Mr. Marcos said, in a subtle criticism of his predecessor’s deadly drug war.

“Like it or not, Marcos Jr.’s position in the driver’s seat means he is a functional linchpin of any geopolitical alliance that seeks hegemony within the Asia-Pacific region,” Hansley A. Juliano, who teaches political science at the Ateneo de Manila University, said in Facebook Messenger chat.

“Much of Mr. Marcos’ good press is really mostly his return to the pre-Duterte status quo of Philippine international relations.”