Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been elected the 17th President of the Philippines, 36 years after his father, well-known dictator and robber Ferdinand Sr., was ousted in a peaceful revolution.
Marcos Jr. won the presidency with 31 million votes, overtaking his nearest rival, Vice-President Leonor “Lenny” Robredo, who received 15 million votes.
Ferdinand Marcos Sr. instituted martial law in the Philippines from 1972 to 1981, a period of brutal repression with more than 11,000 documented human rights violations. Marcos’ critics were imprisoned, tortured, raped and executed. His family and his accomplices are believed to have laundered nearly $10 billion, and even after the death of Marcos Sr. in Hawaii in 1989, he defied legal claims for the Marcos family’s illicit wealth in Philippine and foreign courts.
Critics accused the Marcos family of whitewashing their family’s crimes and martial law atrocities via social media platforms. In the story of denial, Marcos Jr. promises to restore the “golden age” of peace and prosperity that his father had begun, raising questions about whether this means the future of martial law.
According to Filipino academic Victor Felipe Bautista, the revisionist “tale of nostalgia” has three parts:
a supposedly glorious past under a liberal President Marcos;
The collapse that disrupted the Marcos regime was allegedly interrupted by Corazon Aquino, the widow of Marcos’ political arch-rival, Benigno Aquino Jr., who was murdered on the tarmac of Manila airport upon his return to the Philippines in 1983;
Dark presents, when Marcos is referred to as a “victim of black propaganda”, meaning subtle propaganda that does not come from the source from which he claims to come.
Marcos Jr. Propaganda works include collective memory experts who use revisionist indifference as a tool to drive public opinion.
Critics suggest that massive and well-resourced efforts to change and control the narrative through historical revisionism have been the key to Marcos Jr.’s electoral victory. I complement this with the view that the colonial legacy of the Philippines equally influenced the results of the recent presidential election.
colonial class division
In many post-colonial societies, colonial powers and their elites maintain the class divisions equivalent to modern times. Those divisions allow them to control the masses both as a stable source of extracted surplus and cheap labor and, for local politicians, as a traditional source of votes.
Development in the Philippines has always been linked to colonial relations. Relations with the United States remained strong even after formal independence in 1946, which is evident in bilateral agreements that allow American firms to own and operate public utilities and extract natural resources.
Post-colonial relations and development aid with the US helped generate the fortunes of a Filipino land oligarchy, distributed infrastructure and agricultural credit, and provided military aid during the years of martial law, known as the Golden Age in Philippine history. Marcos set the stage for years.
Returning from exile in the 2000s, members of the Marcos family were elected to various political positions. Efforts to change the anti-Marcos narrative and political culture in the Philippines were massive through the new technologies of social media.
Not long ago, photographs of bridges, roads and buildings created by Marcos Sr. began to suggest on social media that the Philippines was on par with emerging industrialized countries at the time of his administration.
Marcos Jr. said in 2011, “If my father was allowed to pursue his plans, I believe we would be like Singapore now.”
For young voters born in the post-martial law era – the country’s largest voter demographic – Singapore evokes images of globalized progress: dazzling designer malls, savvy digital technology and the posh lifestyle of Westerns that fueled capitalist consumption. . Young Filipino voters also rejoiced in the “cool” Marcos vibe of speaking with tales of American accents and privileges that come with wealth.
Marcos Messaging – carefully curated in over 200 BuzzFeed-style posh, family and cheerful YouTube videos – sought to temporarily bridge the traditionally sharp social divide in the Philippines. It served to momentarily quell centuries-old internalized local racism, self-injustice and deep feelings of colonial, racial and class inferiority among Filipinos compared to Westerners and their local wealthier counterparts, such as the Marcos family.
For a deeply class-stratified and colonialist society, the Marcos propaganda machine raised the aspirations of Western markers of progress and modernity.
But these efforts are not just an attempt to erase the plunder of the Marcos family and the brutality of martial law.
Propaganda also adds to the vision of a neo-colonial, modernized and consumption-driven future. In short, Marcos advances Western aspirations and strengthens the racial and marginalized class identities that capitalism – an economic system organized around a minority class and the pursuit of profit – is dependent on.
Marcos Jr.’s references to a golden age in the Philippines offer a nostalgic look at the past. But it also warns of a darker future.