Why do Filipinos continue to support the Marcoses?
The reign of Ferdinand Marcos has left an unforgettable mark in the history of the Philippines. During those twenty long years of being in power, many tragedies took place. Rappler (2016) described the time as “one of the dark chapters in Philippine history,” with thousands of victims of human rights violations, the embezzlement of $10 billion government funds, and an economic crisis, leaving the Philippines with an international debt of $26 billion. The Forbes (2004) even reported Ferdinand Marcos as the second most corrupt leader in the world, with Indonesia’s Mohamed Suhatro in first place. However, despite the many trials that transpired in the time of martial law and the rule of Marcos, many citizens still wholly support the Marcoses.
Back in the year 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte referred to Ferdinand Marcos as a ‘hero’ and as the country’s ‘best ever president,’ completely turning a blind eye to the evidently shown misdeeds of the former president. President Duterte also supported the resolution to declare September 10 as a provincial holiday in Ilocos Norte in celebration of the former dictator’s birthdate. The resolution stated, “The late President Marcos has left us a rich legacy of idealism and philosophy which is a source of pride and continuing inspiration, which deserves to be perpetuated and emulated by our posterity.” The Diplomat (2020), an international news magazine, stated that 59 percent of Filipinos supported the idea when Duterte proposed to bury Marcos with official honors. The President also pushed for Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani during 2016 despite the protests of martial law victims.
Many Filipinos show support for former president Ferdinand Marcos and his family by expressing their thoughts through social media and blogs. Marcos supporters describe the former president as “a man of action” and “the best president the Philippines ever had.” Another supporter named Aldrin Isidro Campos, an entrepreneur that studied in the Far Eastern University, continues, “Corruption then and now I would choose the time of Ferdinand Marcos, at least the infrastructure was there compared to today's Unknown Projs.” The pro-Marcos movement often mentions that during the time of Marcos, the Philippines was the best country in Asia and the economy thrived with the GDP rising up to 6 percent. They also supported martial law, saying that it helped instill discipline and orderliness, as well as lowered crime rates. Marcos loyalists also point out the effective programs implemented and the infrastructures built during the time, such as the San Juanico Bridge, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the Philippine Heart Center, and the housing program called Bagong Lipunan Improvement of Sites and Services (BLISS). They believe that this was the “Golden Age” of the Philippines; however, experts claim that these statements are not entirely true, saying that income inequality worsened, and the country had a debt crisis. Rappler (2020) reports that during the last years of martial law, the nation had a negative economic growth for nine continuous quarters, and the economy fell down by seven percent for two continuous years.
Currently, the Marcoses continue to receive support by maintaining their political positions in Ilocos Norte, which gives them a large sphere of influence. Rappler (2019) reported that Ilocanos, along with other politicians, still give them their whole support. Back in 2019, Imee Marcos, Ferdinand Marcos’s eldest daughter, also specifically urged for the restoration of the Marcoses in her campaigns. She promised to bring back the programs implemented during the time of dictatorship and often used words such as “nutribun” and “BLISS,” depicting the time of Ferdinand Marcos as prosperous and successful, ABS-CBN (2019) reported. She was also the head of the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines and was the representative of the Marcos-era Kabataang Barangay. These positions have helped her gain more influence with the people. Despite the many controversies regarding Imee Marcos, she still gained the support of the people and successfully secured a position in the Senate. As she continues to make efforts in clearing the Marcos name, many citizens choose to stand by Imee Marcos. The support of the largely influential President Duterte has also played a major role in gaining favor.
Further propaganda and social media influence has helped them gain the favor of the people. Facebook accounts such as the “Kabataang Barangay Worldwide” and “Marcos Centennial” actively supported Imee Marcos, but their accounts were disabled after the elections on May 13. The Human Rights Victims Claims Board’s (HRVCB) website related to the Marcoses coincidentally became inaccessible during the elections in 2019. The website has the complete list of victims of human right violations during the reign of Marcos that is approved by the government. Many pages and websites run by Marcos loyalists continue to spread disinformation about the legacy of Marcos to promote the “greatness” of the Marcoses; however, numerous pro-Marcos posts denying the tyranny that occurred have been proven as fake news. ABS-CBN (2020) has also reported that Ilocos Norte continues to promote the “greatness” of former president Marcos through propaganda books and historical sites. Experts warn the people to be cautious of such information as they may spread fake news and disinformation.
At the end of the day, people will support those who appeal to them the most in spite of what society tells them. Nonetheless, it is still not an excuse to simply ignore the wrongdoings of Marcos. Remembering the events that transpired during the time of Marcos is crucial for anti-corruption movements in the Philippines. Ferdinand Marcos set an example on corrupt leaders, which is why we can learn from it and prevent history from repeating itself. This is still evidently relevant, as the 2022 presidential election draws near, and the Marcos heir Bongbong Marcos filed for candidacy. The people received the news with mixed feelings, some wholeheartedly supporting him, while others are worried that he may follow in his father’s footsteps and afraid that tragedy may befall the Philippines yet again. It is true that one must not judge a person according to what their predecessors did, but one must look at the intention of that person and discern whether that individual is capable of leading our country for the better.