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The Philippines toppled one Marcos, now his son could turn into President

They bopped alongside to the beat of a martial regulation 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 identify in opposition to 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 period” within the nation’s historical past.

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

Vloggers livestream the marketing campaign motorcade of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in Dasmarinas, Philippines on March 22, 2022. (Jes Aznar/The New York Occasions)

The race is being solid as a contest between those that bear in mind the previous and those that are accused of attempting 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 identified for his bloody battle on medicine and for jailing his critics — could have presaged a Marcos household comeback.

“It’ll decide not simply our future however our previous,” 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 “Folks Energy” protests toppled the Marcos regime. The household returned to the nation shortly after the dying of the elder Marcos in 1989.

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

Marcos, identified by his boyhood nickname, “Bongbong,” served as vice governor, governor and congressman in Ilocos Norte, the household stronghold, for many of the interval between the Eighties and 2010. That yr, 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.

Volunteers and supporters in entrance of a marketing campaign brand for Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and Sara Duterte, the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, at a rally in Santa Rosa, Philippines on March 11, 2022. (Jes Aznar/The New York Occasions)

Rehabilitating the household identify has been a recurring theme. Over the many years, the Marcoses have sought to focus on younger voters with no reminiscence of martial regulation or the torture and killing of political prisoners. Fifty-six % of the voting inhabitants within the Philippines is aged between 18 and 41, and most didn’t witness the atrocities of the Marcos regime — excellent 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 “historic revisionism” within the election, and “the try and delete or destroy our collective reminiscence by means of 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, Facebook’s mum or dad firm, stated it had suspended greater than 400 election-related accounts, pages and teams for violating its requirements. The corporate cited a video on Marcos’ official Fb web page that falsely accused his election rival, Leni Robredo, who’s vp, of dishonest within the 2016 vice-presidential race. (The president and vp 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 in property taxes that his household nonetheless owes the federal government. Marcos, 64, has dismissed the assaults as “faux information,” and refused to take part in almost all presidential debates.

As an alternative, Marcos has used social media to succeed in 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 “consider a lot in books.” After Marcos’ father was ousted, Alipao stated, “the Filipinos came upon how good he was; that’s after they realized that they need to have made him president for an extended time.”

Marcos has made comparable feedback: “I’m not going to vindicate my father’s identify as a result of his identify doesn’t want vindication,” he stated in 1995. “I’m so assured that historical past will decide him effectively.”

Within the 36 years for the reason that father was ousted, many Filipinos have turn into disillusioned with the nation’s democracy. Poverty is widespread, revenue inequality stays excessive and few individuals 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 vp as an alternative of president that Marcos gained his giant lead within the polls.

A yotuh exterior the location of a marketing campaign rally for Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the previous Filipino dictator, in Santa Rosa, Philippines on March 11, 2022. (Jes Aznar/The New York Occasions)

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 in opposition to the Marcos marketing campaign by releasing movies on the financial devastation and human rights violations of the Marcos years.

“It’s most likely too late,” he stated.

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, regardless that 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 federal government 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 beneath litigation, with varied teams tussling over them. Ought to Marcos win the presidency, many worry these proceedings, together with the $3.9 billion in property taxes, might be swept away, cementing the false concept that the Marcoses are harmless.

Amongst some younger voters, that view has already taken maintain. “If he’s 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 in opposition to Marcos’ household had been meant “to destroy his fame,” and that he had “by no means heard” of the Folks Energy protests.

Even these with intimate recollections 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 in opposition to 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. “No matter justice was achieved in these 36 years, I believe that’s already sufficient,” he stated. “Maybe now it’s about transferring ahead.”

Such attitudes may sign {that a} full rehabilitation of the Marcos identify could quickly be full. The household now features a governor, a senator, a mayor and a potential congressman. Marcos’ eldest son, Ferdinand Alexander, 28, is operating 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 monitor report is generally skinny.

Whereas in his six years within the Senate he helped cross legal guidelines on defending older individuals and increasing emergency aid to youngsters, 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 overview by The New York Occasions 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 training.

Although Marcos is seen because the front-runner within the Might 9 election, rallies for Robredo, the vp, 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 beneath enchantment, although consultants say they’re unlikely to succeed.

“The wrestle of man in opposition to energy is the wrestle of reminiscence in opposition to forgetting,” stated Ressa, the journalist, recalling a quote from the writer Milan Kundera. She described the election as a “microcosm of a world battle for information.”

“If information don’t win,” she stated, “we’ll have an entire new historical past.”

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