We hear a lot about clamours to block the candidacy of vice presidential candidate Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr coming from the alleged ‘victims’ of the rule of his father, the late former President Ferdinand E Marcos. The most recent is one reportedly organised by “a coalition of martial law victims” calling their movement the ‘Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang’ or ‘Carmma’. According to its ‘lead convenor’ Bonifacio Ilagan; its members are fighting a “grand scheme to recapture Malacañang,” presumably being perpetrated by Bongbong Marcos.
Well now, but of course there is such a grand scheme that is being mounted, Mr Ilagan. It’s called the election campaign of Mr Marcos. To win a national election, it really does help to have such a “grand scheme”. Otherwise, you are less likely to win against your rival candidates who also presumably have grand schemes of their own to win the same election. One needs to be organised to win a national election. And, usually, campaigns are organised around a grand scheme of some sort on account of the office at stake being, itself, a grand achievement to attain.
Thing is, however, these anti-Marcos “activists” who we can generally lump into a community of politically-passionate people who subscribe to the notion that Never Again should a Marcos be ever allowed to sit in Malacanang, are selling Philippine democracy short. The fact that they fear that another Marcos winning a top national office in an election will necessarily precede the Philippines’ descent into another dark age of authoritarianism shows how little faith they have in the country’s democratic institutions.
Is Bongbong Marcos really that dangerous or that vile a man that he will plunge the Philippine back into a dictatorship when he ascends power? Or is Philippine democracy so rickety an edifice that it will simply crumble under the imagined weight of the Marcos family’s supposedly ‘evil’ agenda?
The screaming fits being thrown by these “Never Again” activists are more about what the Philippines cannot be again. In that regard, the Philippines as a society suffers from a fatal failure of imagination. Filipinos cannot seem to imagine a country that is something and can only throw hissy trantrums over what it should not be.
The even funnier thing about these “Never Again” movements is the logic they apply to their advocacy to block Bongbong Marocs (or, for that matter, any other Marcos) from holding executive office. Their advocacy is based on the idea that Bongbong Marcos, simply by virtue of being a Marcos, is responsible for the alleged atrocities perpetrated during the Martial Law years; never mind that Marcos Jr was just a teenager at the time.
What is interesting here is that the alleged architect of martial law himself, Juan Ponce Enrile (who was a middle-aged adult during the Martial Law years), is currently a sitting Senator of the republic. Indeed, Enrile even served as Senate President for five years from 2008 to 2013. Where was the outrage during the time Enrile was, himself, carving out a lofty niche for himself in Philippine politics after the collapse of the Marcos regime in 1986?
The “Never Again” mob seems to prefer to set its sights on a man who was just a kid during the Martial Law years while, at the same time, granting a peachy Get-Out-of-Jail pass to a man who was one of the powers-that-be directly effecting the alleged “atrocities” of Marcos’s Martial Law machine. Yet, groups like Carmma insist that their movement has “no political backing” and that they are “not partisan for any particular vice presidential [candidate] as a group.” The timing of the launch of their “coalition” makes that claim quite suspect.
Those who continue to stomp their feet and gnash their teeth over the continued presence of the Marcos family in Philippine politics should just get over it. The opportunity to exact “justice” for their victimhood had lapsed a long time ago. If there really was a crime, why is no one in jail? Whose fault is it that there is no one true big fish held to account for the alleged crimes of the Marcos years?
The trouble with Filipinos is that those questions are not asked as a matter of institutionalised routine. They are, for the most part, asked only when politically-motivated and are not inspired by a truly ingrained ethic of seeking and effecting justice as a matter of normal day-to-day business. This is why nothing changes in the Philippines — because so-called ‘reformists’ themselves are often driven by a less-than-noble agenda at worst or, even at best, a mere small-minded goal of a nature consistent with the Philippines’ renowned heritage of smallness. No big strategic visions — only smallish goals meant to gratify smallish interests.
In the case of Carmma, what is the long-term end game beyond blocking a Marcos vice presidency? What happens next if that small goal is realised?
Unfortunately, that big void where vision should have been in the national discourse surrounding this election is, as usual, still there and still unfilled. Filipino politicians keep paying lip service to the notion of “nation building”. In reality, however, there is not much of a nation to build — because Philippine society has not much of a vision for would-be builders to work with.