The Philippines before the election: a return to a bloody past?

Status: 05/08/2022 02:29

Marcos – in the Philippines the name is associated with the memory of decades of tyranny. 36 years after the fall, Marcos Junior wants to become president. He thinks his father is a “genius”.

By Ulrich Mendgen, ARD Studio Tokyo, currently Manila

The oppressive heat is on Manila. Boni Ilagan walks slowly past the plates until his sister Rizalina’s name appears. She was only in her twenties when the henchmen of the Marcos regime captured her. After that, she was never seen again.

Ulrich Mendgen

His brother Boni was also imprisoned and tortured. But he was lucky to be released and, as a writer and director, he participated in the overthrow of the dictatorship in 1986.

Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda fled the country after two decades of unbridled enrichment at the head of state.

36 years later, Ilagan faces the future with uncertainty. Should the struggle and years of memory work be in vain? “The majority of voters today did not live to see the revolution,” he explains. “They don’t realize how twisted history is.”

They oppressed their people, persecuted members of the opposition and amassed immense wealth: Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda (here in 1986). Also present: son Ferdinand Junior (right).

Image: AP

The polls speak for the junior

For the first time since the overthrow, a Marcos has taken over the highest office in the Philippines. If you believe the polls, the odds for Marcos Jr. are good. More recently, 56% approval was measured for him.

He is far ahead of Liberal candidate Leni Robredo, who has 24%. However, the credibility of this trend is disputed in the Philippines, as election polls have often been wrong.

Social media instead of critical media

But there is no doubt that “Bongbong” Marcos – as he is usually called – leads an electoral campaign particularly appreciated by the poor and less educated. It relies on social networks, the number 1 source of information in the Philippines – because they are always and everywhere available for free.

Marcos eschews mainstream media, has spared himself many rounds of talk, and rarely answers questions from independent journalists.

When the local branch of CNN was able to take him in for an interview in April, Marcos used it for his own purposes. He praised his mother Imelda as a “first-class politician” and called his father a “political genius” responsible for thousands of political murders.

“Erase Marcos’ Name”

The human rights expert Carlos Conde of the organization “Human Rights Watch” recognizes in such declarations the primary objective of the presidential candidate Marcos: to make people forget the human rights violations of the time of his dad. It’s about “clearing the name of Marcos”.

The candidate vehemently denies that Marcos should even fund troll factories in order to win over audiences via social media. However, it is clear that many accounts spread false information in its favor and try to discredit its competitor Robredo.

Can she stop the Marcos clan from returning? Leni Robredo has experience in electoral campaigns against Ferdinand Junior.

Image: Reuters

Replay of a duel

Robredo in particular has earned respect through his political work in recent years. She even won the vice presidency in 2016, a full-fledged post in the Philippines, albeit without political power. At that time, she beat her competitor Ferdinand Marcos junior.

In public elections, Robredo manages to gather many more supporters than Marcos. Therefore, a phrase can often be heard in the Philippines these days: the best poll is the election – Monday, May 9.

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