On May 9, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., more commonly known as Bongbong or BBM, was elected as the Philippines president, slaughtering his largest competition, outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo, with 31 million votes compared to her 14 million votes, according to unofficial ballots.
Marcos Jr’s outpouring of support and decisive victory would have been viewed as impossible in the 1990s, given the overthrow of the Marcos regime during his father’s presidency in the People Power Revolution of 1986.
Ferdinand Marcos Sr’s rule from 1965 to 1986 is considered one of the darkest times in Philippines history, as the government was overrun with corruption and was known for human rights abuses. Marcos Sr. enacted a martial law policy in 1972, which was the acme of his political power before his power dwindled. Political rivals and anti-Marcos dissidents were “salvaged,” meaning they were mutilated beyond recognition or completely disappeared.
However, the build-up of the resistance exponentially increased at the assassination of a beloved politician, former governor, and senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
Shortly after Marcos Sr. enacted his Martial Law Declaration, Aquino was imprisoned for seven years and seven months, being sentenced to death by firing squad. Aquino escaped a gruesome death by firing squad and was exiled for three years, residing in the United States.
He may have escaped death from multiple bullets in a firing squad but did not escape death from a singular bullet, as he was assassinated in 1983 in present-day Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the airport named after him, from being shot within seconds of arrival after his exile.
The peak of the anti-Marcos movement arrived at Marcos Sr’s self-proclaimed victory in the Philippines snap elections in 1986. On the same day, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, wife of late Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, led, along with the Catholic Church, the People Power Revolution. Two million Filipinos heartily took to the almost 15-mile Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in Manila in 4 days of nonviolent protest, marching, prayer and sharing food and resources.
Marcos Sr. said they “can be easily wiped out with simple artillery and tank fire,” but as the tanks and artillery reached the people, the people were unrelenting. Filipino children offered the soldiers candy and flowers, citizens sat in solidarity, and nuns and priests kneeled before the tanks praying the rosary. This led to the military joining the rebellion and ultimately the demise of the Marcos regime.
Marcos Jr. may have an immediate stigma on his name due to his father, but he asks the world: “Judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions,” even if he ironically linked his campaign to his father’s by reusing his father’s famous slogan “rise again.”
Marcos Jr. has indeed risen again, as he has been elected for various positions in the executive and legislative branches of government, with 27 years of experience serving in the Philippines government. However, his accolades are not limited to his service to the Philippines, as he has received a world-class education from prestigious universities such as the University of Oxford and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
Are Marcos Jr’s stellar academic record and previous political experience enough to forget the past? Does Marcos Jr’s election prove that it only takes 36 years for time to bring all things to pass?
While most Filipinos support Marcos Jr., given his overwhelming win in the latest presidential elections, nearly 1,000 Filipinos protested against his victory the day after the election. They cited reasons accusing Marcos Jr. of spreading misinformation on the internet, glorifying the former Marcos Regime as a “golden age,” attempting to rewrite history.
Throughout the Philippines’ history, the name “Ferdinand” has a stigma due to Ferdinand Magellan’s harsh Spanish colonization of the Philippines and Ferdinand Marcos Sr’s oppressive regime known for human rights abuses. The name “Marcos” has a negative affiliation due to the previous authoritarian regime of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and Imelda Marcos.
When a newly elected president of the Philippines bears the weight of both stigmas, it will never be easy to assume presidential power.
Regardless of political associations, everyone wants the best for the Philippines, even if time did not completely cause all history to pass. Hopefully, Bongbong Marcos Jr. will fulfill his promises to improve the Philippines’ democratic system, with time continuing to pass with good fortunes to come for the Philippines.