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The Philippines toppled one Marcos. Now his son could develop into president.


They bopped alongside to the beat of a martial legislation anthem up to date right into a pop tune. They cheered when an A-list superstar proclaimed that the spirit of Ferdinand E. Marcos, the previous dictator, was alive. And when Marcos’ son and namesake held up the peace signal made fashionable by his father a era in the past, the shrieking crowds mirrored it in return.

It’s election season within the Philippines, and historical past is being rewritten, one marketing campaign rally at a time.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has spent many years defending his household’s title towards accusations of greed and corruption and downplaying the legacy of his father’s brutal rule. Throughout his presidential marketing campaign, he has portrayed himself as a unifier, whereas false narratives on-line reimagine his father’s regime as a “golden era” within the nation’s historical past.

Now, as patriarch of the Marcos dynasty, Marcos is predicted to be the primary particular person to win the presidential election within the Philippines by a majority in additional than three many years.

The race is being forged as a contest between those that keep in mind the previous and those that are accused of making an attempt to distort it, the final chapter in a brazen try and absolve the Marcoses of wrongdoing and quash any effort to carry the household accountable. 5 years of President Rodrigo Duterte — a powerful Marcos ally recognized for his bloody battle on medication and for jailing his critics — could have presaged a Marcos household comeback.

“It will determine not just our future but our past,” stated Maria Ressa, a journalist and Nobel Prize winner who’s an outspoken critic of each Duterte and Marcos.

The Marcoses are accused of looting as a lot as $10 billion from the federal government earlier than fleeing to Hawaii in 1986, when the peaceable “People Power” protests toppled the Marcos regime. The household returned to the nation shortly after the demise of the elder Marcos in 1989.

Supporters cheer at a campaign rally for Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Santa Rosa, Philippines, on March 11. | JES AZNAR / THE NEW YORK TIMES
Supporters cheer at a marketing campaign rally for Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Santa Rosa, Philippines, on March 11. | JES AZNAR / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Regardless of the exile, the Marcos title by no means really left the political institution.

Marcos, recognized by his boyhood nickname, “Bongbong,” served as vice governor, governor and congressman in Ilocos Norte, the household stronghold, for a lot of the interval between the Eighties and 2010. That 12 months, he entered the nationwide political scene when he was elected senator. Imelda Marcos, his 92-year-old mom, ran for president twice and misplaced within the Nineteen Nineties.

Rehabilitating the household title has been a recurring theme. Over the many years, the Marcoses have sought to focus on younger voters with no reminiscence of martial legislation or the torture and killing of political prisoners. Fifty-six p.c of the voting inhabitants within the Philippines is aged between 18 and 41, and most didn’t witness the atrocities of the Marcos regime — superb circumstances for the unfold of disinformation, opponents say.

In January, Twitter stated it had eliminated greater than 300 accounts selling Marcos’ presidential bid for violating guidelines on spam and manipulation. The influential Roman Catholic Church within the Philippines stated in an announcement that it was appalled by the “historical revisionism” within the election, and “the attempt to delete or destroy our collective memory through the seeding of lies and false narratives.”

Marcos’ spokesman, Vic Rodriguez, stated there was “no certainty” that the Twitter accounts belonged to his supporters.

Final week, Meta, Fb’s father or mother firm, stated it had suspended greater than 400 election-related accounts, pages and teams for violating its requirements. The firm cited a video on Marcos’ official Fb web page that falsely accused his election rival, Leni Robredo, who’s vice chairman, of dishonest within the 2016 vice-presidential race. (The president and vice chairman are elected individually within the Philippines.)

A number of teams have sought to disqualify Marcos’ candidacy, pointing to a 1995 tax evasion conviction and the $3.9 billion (¥488.69 billion) in property taxes that his household nonetheless owes the federal government. Marcos, 64, has disregarded the assaults as “fake news,” and refused to take part in almost all presidential debates.

A portrait of Ferdinand E. Marcos, the dictator, and his wife, Imelda Marcos, in General Trias, Philippines, on March 22 | JES AZNAR / THE NEW YORK TIMES
A portrait of Ferdinand E. Marcos, the dictator, and his spouse, Imelda Marcos, in Normal Trias, Philippines, on March 22 | JES AZNAR / THE NEW YORK TIMES

As an alternative, Marcos has used social media to achieve a captive viewers on-line, reviewing viral TikTok dances and agreeing to makeovers.

At a rally in Las Piñas, Ella Mae Alipao, 15, stated that she acquired most of her information about Marcos from TikTok and Fb, and that she didn’t “believe much in books.” After Marcos’ father was ousted, Alipao stated, “the Filipinos found out how good he was; that’s when they realized that they should have made him president for a longer time.”

Marcos has made related feedback: “I’m not going to vindicate my father’s name because his name doesn’t need vindication,” he stated in 1995. “I am so confident that history will judge him well.”

Within the 36 years because the father was ousted, many Filipinos have develop into disillusioned with the nation’s democracy. Poverty is widespread, earnings inequality stays excessive and few folks belief their elected leaders. When Duterte got here to energy, he promised radical change, ushering in a brand new period of strongman politics that has been embraced by many throughout the nation.

Duterte fashioned an alliance with the Marcoses early in his six-year presidential time period. In 2016, he organized for the daddy’s physique to be moved to the Philippines’ equal of Arlington Nationwide Cemetery, regardless of protests. And it was not till Sara Duterte, Duterte’s daughter, made the shock announcement that she would run for vice chairman as an alternative of president that Marcos gained his giant lead within the polls.

In current weeks, the opposition has been working furiously to counter the false narratives on-line concerning the Marcoses. Sergio Osmena III, a former political prisoner, senator and a grandson of the fourth president of the Philippines, stated he had employed 10,000 volunteers to wage a counteroffensive towards the Marcos marketing campaign by releasing movies on the financial devastation and human rights violations of the Marcos years.

“It’s probably too late,” he stated.

A memorial to some of those who died during the Marcos regime, in Quezon City, Philippines, on March 16 | JES AZNAR / THE NEW YORK TIMES
A memorial to a few of those that died through the Marcos regime, in Quezon Metropolis, Philippines, on March 16 | JES AZNAR / THE NEW YORK TIMES

The Marcoses have been remarkably adept at avoiding jail time. Marcos was sentenced to as much as three years in jail in 1995 for tax-related convictions, however his sentence was overturned on enchantment two years later, though his conviction remained on the books. In 2018, his mom was sentenced to as much as 11 years in jail for creating personal foundations to cover her unexplained wealth. She posted bail, and the Supreme Courtroom remains to be reviewing her enchantment.

The authorities has recovered simply $3.3 billion of the estimated $10 billion that the Marcoses are accused of stealing, however $2.4 billion in property are nonetheless below litigation, with varied teams tussling over them. Ought to Marcos win the presidency, many concern these proceedings, together with the $3.9 billion in property taxes, can be swept away, cementing the false concept that the Marcoses are harmless.

Amongst some younger voters, that view has already taken maintain. “If he is a thief, how come he hasn’t been jailed?” requested Rjay Garcia, a 19-year-old rug salesman, at a current rally within the metropolis of Santa Rosa. Garcia stated that he believed the instances towards Marcos’ household had been meant “to destroy his reputation,” and that he had “never heard” of the Folks Energy protests.

Even these with intimate reminiscences of the nation’s wrestle for democracy could really feel it’s time to transfer on.

Benjamin Abalos Jr., Marcos’ marketing campaign supervisor, led protests towards the Marcos regime as a pupil council officer of the Ateneo Legislation College. He stated he by no means talked about these days along with his candidate. “Whatever justice was achieved in those 36 years, I think that’s already enough,” he stated. “Perhaps now it’s about moving forward.”

Such attitudes might sign {that a} full rehabilitation of the Marcos title could quickly be full. The household now features a governor, a senator, a mayor and a doable congressman. Marcos’ eldest son, Ferdinand Alexander, 28, is working for a congressional seat in Ilocos Norte, the place his cousin, Matthew Marcos Manotoc, is governor.

Marcos has seized on his alliance with Sara Duterte to current himself as a unifier who is able to lead, however his political observe report is generally skinny.

Supporters of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. wait to catch a glimpse of his campaign motorcade in Las Pinas, Philippines on March 13. | JES AZNAR / THE NEW YORK TIMES
Supporters of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. wait to catch a glimpse of his marketing campaign motorcade in Las Pinas, Philippines on March 13. | JES AZNAR / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Whereas in his six years within the Senate he helped cross legal guidelines on defending older folks and increasing emergency reduction to kids, almost 70% of the 52 legal guidelines he pushed for had been on designating holidays and festivals, renaming highways and reapportioning provinces and cities, a assessment by The New York Instances discovered.

An investigation in 2015 discovered that his résumé on the Senate web site had been embellished to incorporate a bachelor of arts from the College of Oxford. The college later stated he didn’t full his diploma, however obtained as an alternative a particular diploma in social research. Marcos has denied misrepresenting his schooling.

Although Marcos is seen because the front-runner within the Could 9 election, rallies for Robredo, the vice chairman, have drawn lots of of hundreds of younger supporters in current weeks. Hecklers have shouted “magnanakaw,” or “thief,” at Marcos’ motorcade, and the petitions to disqualify his candidacy are nonetheless below enchantment, although consultants say they’re unlikely to succeed.

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” stated Ressa, the journalist, recalling a quote from the writer Milan Kundera. She described the election as a “microcosm of a global battle for facts.”

“If facts don’t win,” she stated, “we’ll have a whole new history.”

This text initially appeared in The New York Times. © 2022 The New York Instances Firm

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