A Marcos returns to power in the Philippines

And so the unimaginable happened – the result of the long-awaited presidential elections in the Philippines in 2022 is that Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., will become the 17th president. of the country, succeeding the controversial Rodrigo Duterte. in June. Marcos Jr.’s victory in one of the Philippines’ most important elections since the People Power Revolution of 1986 brought democracy back to the country after 21 years of Marcos Sr.’s rule – 14 of them under martial law – alarmed people living through one of the darkest periods in Philippine history.

After more than three decades, however, the historical memories that might have prevented the return of another Marcos to power have been lost to a diligent and systematic revisionist campaign successfully orchestrated by the Marcos team, using different social media platforms. The efforts, which reportedly spanned a decade, led to an unprecedented landslide victory for Marcos over his nemesis, Vice President Leni Robredo, and the other candidates.

As Ferdinand Marcos Jr. prepares to take office, what does the Philippines have in store?

Political Dynasties vs. People Power 2.0

The 2022 presidential elections have forced Filipinos to confront their turbulent historical understanding of the Marcos martial law regime of the early 1980s, notorious for human rights abuses and corruption that bankrupted the country and made from the Philippines “the sick man of Asia”. The elections also saw a repeat of political dynasty contests. On one side, Marcos Jr. and Vice-President-elect Sara Duterte (daughter of the current president), and on the other, the reformist group led by Robredo. In the 2016 election, Robredo faced Marcos Jr. in the contest for vice president and won. Robredo represented the Liberal Party of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino Jr., son of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Sr., the arch-rival of Marcos Sr.

Aquino Sr. was assassinated in 1983 upon returning to the Philippines from exile in the United States. His death sparked massive protests across the country, led by his widow, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, and culminated in the People Power Revolution that led to the ousting of Marcos Sr. in 1986, forcing the dictator and his family to live in exile in Hawaii. Corazon Aquino was elected president the same year. Marcos Sr. died in 1989 and his family was allowed to return to the Philippines in 1992.

Since 1992, the Marcos family had made no secret of their plans to reclaim political power and influence and restore the so-called Marcos “legacy”. Marcos Jr., was elected governor of the family province of Ilocos Sur, in the north of the bailiwick, in 1992, became a senator in 2010 and ran for vice president in 2016 only to lose to Robredo. Despite Marcos Jr.’s loss, his VP bid would have been an empty run for a 2022 presidential campaign. Having set the stage much earlier, Marcos clearly had the advantage over Robredo and other candidates from the opposition. Her strategic partnership with Sara Duterte as running mate (although the positions are elected separately) has allowed her to significantly strengthen her base of support. By contrast, Robredo’s presidential bid came late and lacked resources, relying more on grassroots support and volunteerism. And although Robredo’s campaign has won the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of his supporters who have turned out in droves to his “pink” rallies organized mainly by young people, drawing comparisons to the “yellow” rallies of the People Power in 1986, it was eclipsed by the vastness and scope of Marcos-Duterte’s resources. With a head start, massive resources, and the strategic partnership with the Dutertes backed by a solid political machinery, Marcos Jr.’s victory was not unexpected. With a breakthrough tenure, Marcos Jr. is now poised to turn his family’s fortunes around. He promised to bring back the “good old days” of the old Marcos regime, which according to his revisionist campaign was prosperous and stable.

How will Marcos rule

Besides the dark veil cast over the presidency of Marcos Jr. by his family’s history of repression, cronyism and kleptocracy, much of the concern expressed not only by the opposition, but also particularly by some quarters of political community in the Philippines, has a lot to do with the lack of clarity in its platform. With the candidate having snubbed every presidential debate, many wonder how the Marcos administration will tackle the many challenges facing the Philippines. There are also fears that with Sara Duterte as Vice President, Marcos Jr. could shield his predecessor from investigation and possible prosecution for human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings carried out during his policy of “war on violence”. dope”.

Certainly, Marcos Jr.’s simple message of “unity” conveyed throughout his campaign has not defined concrete policies on how, for example, he will lead the country towards economic recovery after the impact devastating COVID-19. 19 pandemic. Other pressing issues – like the growing food crisis, aggravated by the ongoing war in Ukraine; scarcity of water and resources; growing energy demands; and the urgent need to mobilize adequate resources to address the multifaceted impact of climate change on people’s security in the face of more frequent and severe natural disasters – also requires clear political direction.

Philippine foreign policy

It’s not just the lack of information about Marcos Jr.’s plans to rule the country that cause concern. Foreign policy was fundamentally absent from his campaign. This shortcoming is of particular concern given the critical issues affecting the country’s security and its relations with the United States, China and its neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

One such issue is the future of the Western Philippine Sea, the Philippine government’s formal designation of parts of the South China Sea that are included in the country’s exclusive economic zone, and China’s refusal to respect the arbitral decision which gives sovereignty to the Philippines over this disputed territory. The outgoing Duterte administration took a non-confrontational approach to China and, to some extent, took an almost fatalistic stance on the Western Philippine Sea issue, opting instead to rely more heavily on Beijing’s pledge to more trade and investment in the country. Marcos Jr. would like to continue Duterte’s China-friendly policy and said the country should “engage with China” as much as possible, while being careful not to get drawn into US-China competition.

This begs the question of how Marcos Jr. would treat the United States and the future of the US-Philippine alliance. During the former Marcos regime, the military partnership remained resilient despite vocal U.S. opposition to martial law, even after the assassination of Aquino Sr. Although the strategic environment has changed significantly over the years 1980, one would expect more continuity than change in US-Philippine relations. . And unlike President Duterte who harbored a personal grudge against the United States and spoke about it, Marcos Jr. has no known baggage. Given Marcos Jr.’s “cosmopolitan” background, he might be less insular and more inclined to pursue closer relations with the United States while taking a balanced stance on the US-China rivalry. Moreover, most Filipinos have a more favorable opinion of the United States than of China. Given the kind of transnational economic and security challenges facing the Philippines, it should also be seen whether and how the Marcos administration will support both regional and global multilateralism.

While the ASEAN neighbors in the Philippines may be too preoccupied with their own problems, especially as they emerge from the thick of the pandemic, it would be interesting to see how they will engage with the new Philippine administration. That Marcos Jr. was democratically elected regardless of his political background is a welcome development for ASEAN, especially in the face of the current crisis in Myanmar. With statements of the Philippines returning to its “past glory” as a leading country in Southeast Asia, Marcos Jr. may want to be seen as having more of a presence than Duterte in ASEAN meetings and adding the voice of his country to regional and global issues. Many of Marcos Jr.’s foreign policy decisions will also depend on who he brings into his cabinet, particularly in the foreign policy and defense portfolios.

As Marcos Jr. assumes the presidency in June 2022, many questions remain. Will he provide a better life for Filipinos and unite a polarized country? Can he allay growing fears of a return to dictatorship and ensure that human rights will be protected and democracy will prevail? Will he ensure that the country’s sovereignty and national interests are not compromised in the face of fears of Chinese aggression? Can he restore confidence and assure the country’s external partners, particularly the United States and Japan, of the Philippines’ commitment to a rules-based international order? With many more questions to come, time will tell if Marcos Jr. will be up to it.

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