Family Politics in the Philippines: The Return of the Marcos Clan

The Philippines is about to witness the “final phase of a surprising resurgence,” said Cliff Venzon on Nikkei Asia (Tokyo). More than 35 years after the end of his father’s dictatorship, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is the clear favorite to win next week’s presidential election.

It’s quite the comeback for a family that was once considered “outcasts.” Marcos Sr. and his wife Imelda stole about $10 billion before being exiled to Hawaii in 1986; Much of the money is still missing. But her son could be on the verge of seizing power with current President Rodrigo Duterte’s party.

It helps that most of the country’s 67 million voters are too young to remember the dictatorship. The Marcos camp has taken advantage of this by filling Facebook, TikTok and YouTube with “content glorifying the Marcos regime” – such as montages of infrastructure projects and clips of the late strongman’s speeches – published “in a country known as… one of the world’s biggest users of social media has gone viral.

Like Russians, we Filipinos “are lured by the prospect of returning to the ‘golden era’ of a previous authoritarian society,” said Ramon R. del Rosario Jr. in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Manila). Surely we won’t fall for it and let the “forces of corruption and dictatorship rule again”?

We shouldn’t assume Marcos will repeat “past evils,” Ricardo Saludo told the Manila Times. The Philippines has passed a new constitution and a number of other laws since 1986 to prevent such abuses. And Filipinos today would no longer accept that. It is more likely that Marcos will seek to salvage his family’s reputation by governing with integrity and competence.

“Whatever the outcome, Marcos Jr.’s run certainly adds a new page to Asia’s book of princes,” Lucio Blanco Pitlo III told the South China Morning Post. From China, Taiwan and Singapore to Japan and India, the continent is full of leaders who have followed their parents into the ruling elite. But political dynasties have become particularly pervasive in the Philippines. Marcos would be the third child of a president to fill the role since 2001. The exception is Duterte, the incumbent president — though his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is Marcos’ running mate.

A recent study found that 80% of the governors of the Philippines and 67% of their congressmen had other family members who also held political offices. The Marcos family itself now rules much of Luzon, the country’s largest island. None of this bodes well for reform. Family Politics in the Philippines: The Return of the Marcos Clan

Fry Electronics Team

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