MANILA, Philippines – “What am I to say sorry about?”
Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr's likely bid for higher office in 2016 will revive questions on his father's brutal dictatorship but the lawmaker sees nothing to apologize for.
In an interview with ANC's Headstart on Wednesday, August 26, Marcos responded to questions on whether he will apologize for corruption and human rights abuses during his father's regime if he runs for president or vice president.
“Will I say sorry for the thousands and thousands of kilometers [of roads] that were built? Will I say sorry for the agricultural policy that brought us to self-sufficiency in rice? Will I say sorry for the power generation? Will I say sorry for the highest literacy rate in Asia? What am I to say sorry about?”
Marcos said he always apologizes for his own transgressions but said his family's stand on his father's presidency is different.
“We have constantly said that if during the time of my father, kung may nasagasaan, o merong sinasabing hindi natulungan o (if there were those who were run over or those saying they were not helped or) they were victimized in some way or another, of course, we are sorry that happened. Nobody wants that to happen. These are instances that have fallen through the cracks.”
The senator has been defending his father's record ever since admitting that he is eyeing a higher post next year. In previous interviews, he said that being a Marcos is not a political liability but is even an advantage.
Marcos is the political heir and namesake of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines form 1965 to 1986. Under the Marcos dictatorship, the Marcos family and its cronies faced allegations of amassing ill-gotten wealth, suppressing civil rights, as well as detaining, torturing and killing activists and dissidents.
The historic 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution ousted Marcos and installed the widow of martyr Senator Benigno Aquino Jr into office, the late President Corazon Aquino. Their son, Benigno Aquino III, is now president.
The Marcos family was forced to live in exile in Hawaii, where the former dictator died in 1989. Three years later, his wife Imelda ran for president but lost. She tried the congressional route in 1995 and won as representative of Leyte, setting the stage for the Marcoses' political comeback.
Banking on the youth
The senator said a strong pro-Marcos sentiment especially among the youth inspired him to consider running for higher office even if he is lagging behind in surveys.
“It is surprising that young people who were not even alive at that time say that, 'Buti pa noong panahong iyon, alam namin, may ganito at may ganyan.' It was a bit of a surprise. I can understand people who were alive and experienced the administration of my father saying that but young people saying, 'We know what happened that time and we wish it would come back,' that's a new development we've never seen before,” he said.
The senator said “recent political history” looked favorably on his father's legacy.
He added that there was a “constant refrain” that goes: “Buti pa noong panahon ni Marcos, maginhawa ang buhay. Buti pa noong panahon ni Marcos, tinutulungan kami ng pamahalaan. Maraming programa, maraming proyekto. Mula noong pinalitan siya, wala na kaming nakitang ganoon. Sana mabalik iyon.” ('It was better during Marcos' time, life was more comfortable. It was better during Marcos' time, the government helped us. There were many programs and projects. Since he was replaced, we no longer experienced that. We hope that comes back.')
Marcos reiterated that he is still thinking over running for president or vice president. He has been in talks with opposition standard-bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to form a possible tandem.
The senator said he was open to running with Binay even if the former human rights lawyer opposed his father's regime, and was a staunch supporter of the late President Aquino.
Never say never
“I always say this is Philippine politics. You cannot discount the possibility of things you did not imagine would happen will happen. Never say never when it comes to politics. I always go back to the simple principle of keeping your options open,” Marcos said.
On Duterte, Marcos said they have met several times, and asked each other about their political plans and possible scenarios. “What do you think if this happens? What do you think if that happens?”
Like Marcos' father, Duterte faces human rights allegations over the so-called Davao Death Squad, a group of vigilantes reportedly behind the summary execution of drug dealers, and even petty criminals and street children.
Whatever he decides on, Marcos has no plans of leaving the Nacionalista Party (NP) of tycoon and former Senate President Manuel Villar Jr.
“I have never really been comfortable with this trend in Philippine politics where turncoatism, you leave your party. I think that has been a weakness of our system so I don't subscribe to that,” he said
Marcos added: “A national campaign needs a good party machinery. I think the time that I have been with the NP, I can say the party has been solid. We may not be the biggest party but we certainly are the most cohesive.”
'Solid Ilocano vote, not Solid North'
Beyond his party, Marcos is counting on the support of those hailing from his home region, Ilocos Norte. The senator was a governor and representative of the province.
His sister, Imee, is the current governor of Ilocos Norte. Senator Marcos said Imee is preparing for re-election but the option of running for senator is still open. (READ: Imee Marcos tied to secret offshore trust)
Instead of calling his family's support base “Marcos loyalists” or voters of the so-called Solid North, Marcos said there is a new term for his supporters.
“We can be confident that there is now an Ilocano vote again. After 1986, what they called the Solid North was gone but in 2010, we could see it was returning. The Ilocanos voted together. That's a new development. The Ilocanos are not just from the north but we are now all over the country. It's the Ilocano vote, no longer the 'Solid North,' it's the 'Solid Ilocano Vote.'”
The senator said the demographics of Marcos supporters is now shifting.
“The traditional term for [Marcos loyalists] is those who remain loyal to the Marcos administration after 1986, those still demonstrating, taking mass action. We have a new phenomenon: young people who say, 'Marcos kami, Marcos din kami.'” (We are also Marcos supporters.)
To critics of his family, he said: “There is nothing I can do that will change what my father did …. History will judge him properly, and we'll leave it at that.” – Rappler.com