Philippines’ Marcos family rewrites history in bid to regain power

By Federico Segarra

Manila, May 5 (EFE).- The kleptocratic, despotic and oppressive conjugal dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos in the Philippines (1965-1986) has now turned into the myth of a compassionate, modern and patriotic clan for many Filipinos, catapulting their son “Bongbong” Marcos to the verge of winning of the presidency.

“Everything is a lie, everything bad they say about the Marcos’ are lies,” John John, a 32-year old guard at the Spanish colonial city of Intramuros insists vehemently, adding that “the communists” had spread false information about the dynasty.

As per the latest poll released on Thursday, Marcos Junior is set to win the elections on May 9 with 57 percent support, an overwhelming majority, as the successor to controversial incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte.

The misinformation campaign to whitewash the family’s image began over two decades ago, but has intensified in recent years, experts told EFE.

In 1986, Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in a peaceful revolution and the entire family was forced to flee to Hawaii onboard a military plane, with the dictator dying in the US territory three years later.

The couple fled the Malacanang presidential palace in a hurry, leaving behind a massive amount of luxury items, including a collection of over 3,000 pairs of shoes and unique jewels valued in millions of dollars.

This was just a glimpse of the enormous plunder of public funds which was unearthed later, estimated at around $5-10 billion. For years it was considered the largest loot of government funds in history, even listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Imelda ran for presidency in 1992, filing a nomination soon after returning to the archipelago, but the hard years of the martial law under Marcos were fresh in public memory, and she ended up receiving just 10 percent of the votes.

Since then, the former first lady and her children have occupied positions of power in the Congress, Senate and their regional stronghold of Ilocos, with the ascent finally culminating in a bid to return to Malacanang 30 years later.

Social networks have recently been flooded with videos glorifying the Marcos era, painting an idyllic image of a regime which built a lot of infrastructure and put the Philippines on the international map.

Some of thee videos show the power couple leading military marches, while falsely claiming that the Philippines was an “Asian Tiger” under their rule, a reference to an economic boom in Southeast Asia between the 1960s and 1990s.

In reality, the Marcos dictatorship was characterized by a financial crisis and out of control inflation.

“Bongbong,” who has avoided appearing for difficult interviews or debates, believes that he does not need to apologize for the crimes committed under his father’s rule.

An estimated 3,200 dissidents were killed and more than 50,000 tortured during the Martial Law between 1972-1981, while a strict press censorship remained in place.

The rewriting of history has found a key alley in Duterte, who has paved the way for Bongbong Marcos’ candidature according to Jean Encinas-Franco, a professor of political science at the University of the Philippines.

The poll favorite has tried to soften his father’s image with the help of Duterte’s nationalist and populist camp, with the president being a self-declared admirer of the dictator, who he buried in Manila’s Cemetery of Heroes after decades of controversy.

“I think it is the final erasure in the history of Martial Law in the Philippines,” Encinas-Franco told EFE.

The narrative of the Marcos family being the solution for the ills plaguing the country has gained traction among the young and poorly educated population.

As per electoral commission data, 56 percent of the registered voters are under the age of 41, and thus did not witness the Martial Law period.

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