It is quite telling that Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III would go as far as reminding Filipinos to stop referring to the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos as the Philippines’ “Golden Age”. It means BS Aquino now recognises the immense popularity of vice presidential candidate Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr as a grave threat.
This follows a New York Times report asserting that Filipinos yearn for a return to a similar Golden Age marked by a Marcos back in Malacanang…
Michelle Pulumbarit, 31, a customer service operator who lives north of Manila, said Mr. Marcos was putting forward a proposal for the future that will bring back the best of the Marcos years. She is not concerned about martial law and human rights violations, she said.
“For me, those are things of the past,” she said. “That was a time when our economy was booming. Even Imelda did a lot of good things. She shared our culture with the world. I can forgive her for having so many shoes.”
A key concern amongst anti-Marcos campaigners lies in what they regard as an “alarming” position taken by young Filipinos who form a huge proportion of the Philippines’ pool of voters. Most Filipino “millenials” who are equipped primarily with anecdotal evidence of the Martial Law years have expressed a widespread disillusionment with the “democracy” pitched to them under the “EDSA People Power” flag. They only see the absolute wretchedness of life in the Philippines under the current regime and take the position that things need to change — and that the closest model of how things should be in the Philippines was a time when discipline and order ruled…
Apple Buiza, 26, an employee of a Manila aluminum siding company, said the fate of Imelda Marcos’s jewels was not a priority for her in the next election. Ms. Buiza spends hours each day battling traffic to get to work and is frustrated by the current government. She said she has heard stories of how orderly the country was during the Marcos years.
“During the time of martial law, the Philippines was disciplined,” Ms. Buiza said as she gestured toward a group of jaywalkers dodging vehicles and blocking traffic. “People don’t even know how to cross the street now.”
The trouble with Aquino is that whilst he focused most of his media time on vilifying his predecessor former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, blaming “corruption” supposedly perpetrated by previous administrations, and waxing poetic about his parents’ “heroic” legacies, then Senator Bongbong Marcos sustained a message to the public consistently themed on the future and moving towards it. Back in early 2015 in the days immediately following the massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troops by elements of the terrorist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, then Senator Marcos charted a crystal-clear three-point way forward out of the ensuing crisis that gripped the country in its aftermath.
While Malacanang suffered an astounding paralysis and repeatedly stammered out mixed messages to the public as the much-vaunted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) initiative was crushed under the public relations fallout from the massacre, Marcos was in the field cobbling together consensus on how to proceed and assuring a bewildered Filipino public that options were being explored.
Suffice to say, the manner with which Marcos stepped up to the challenge while Aquino and his entire Cabinet descended into an orgy of internal bickering and incompetent statesmanship did not help at all. As is evident in the NYT report, Filipinos long before then had already developed a healthy cynicism for the brand of “demo-crazy” sold to them by the Aquino-Cojuangco clan. Indeed, even the whole notion that the Aquinos and Cojuangcos are symbols of the “Spirit of EDSA” is now being challenged.
It is now a widely-held theory that the renewed — and surging — interest in the virtues of the Martial Law Years of former President Marcos and its regard as a “Golden Age” by some Filipinos is a direct result of a lack of any progress realised over the last 30 years, more specifically over the last six years of the Second Aquino Administration. It could be said that The Great Democratic Experiment of the Philippines was marked more by a wholesale missing of the real point of freedom of an entire society and a series of governments that ruled since 1986.
Instead of a stronger nation, what emerged after 30 years is a country characterised by a non-existent fighting capability, mainstream media networks that dumb down rather than enlighten their audiences, and a people that lack a clear picture of what their long-term future might look like. Filipinos today are also a lot more fearful for their safety and, as a result, have turned to latching on to cowboy rhetoric fielded by the likes of presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte who promises to clamp down on crime by summarily gunning down suspected criminals.
And, yes, Filipinos now also look to the Martial Law years of the 1970s and early 1980s as a Golden Age.
Who’s fault is that?
Well, you can’t be in power and presume to take credit for the good but not for the bad.
It’s been 30 years and the national narrative (as propagated by the powers-that-be) remains stuck in a bygone past — an age when ordinary people supposedly lacked today’s much-hyped technological capability to more effectively “spring” change from the grassroots. Indeed, a people who lacked mobile technology and social media supposedly instigated a “revolution” over a three-year period since Ninoy Aquino’s assassination in 1983. Today, 20 years since the Internet became available to ordinary users and roughly 10 years since the dawn of social media, Filipino “activists” have failed to step up to the promise of uplifting the quality of the way their compatriots participate in a democracy that aspires to join the modern world.