Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, will run for president in 2022 – in a move that aims to complete the family’s return to power 35 years after they were ousted by a civilian-backed military revolt and forced to flee the country.
“I am today announcing my intention to run for the presidency of the Philippines in the upcoming May 2022 elections. I will bring that form of unifying leadership back to our country,” Marcos said in a short, pre-recorded video on Tuesday, October 5, from his new headquarters in Mandaluyong, and streamed on his Facebook page shortly past 3 pm.
Marcos premised his speech on the COVID-19 pandemic, saying “we must face the challenge as one, as one country, as one people.”
“I know that it’s this manner of unifying leadership that can lead us through this crisis, get our people safely back to work for all of us to begin to live our lives once again.”
He asked Filipinos to join him in his bid. “Sama-sama tayong babangon muli (We will recover as one.)”
Marcos did not say who his running mate is.
The announcement ended months of speculations on Marcos’ plan, which included teaming up with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte. He earlier said he had been in “many, many talks” with different quarters to “make alliances” and “find a consensus.”
The 64-year-old politician ranked second in the last Pulse Asia survey from September that gauged the preference of Filipinos for possible presidential bets. He scored 15% behind Sara Duterte, with 20%. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno was at third with 13% and boxing icon Senator Manny Pacquiao at fourth with 12%.
Marcos worked in government for at least 26 years, starting in 1981 when he became vice governor of Ilocos Norte at age 24 and his father was president under Martial Law. He won as governor and representative of Ilocos Norte before serving as senator for one term from 2010 to 2016. (Editor’s note: We earlier said he started in 1980 at the age of 23. Our apologies.)
He almost won the vice presidency in 2016, losing to Vice President Leni Robredo – a victory that he disputed before the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision in February this year, the High Tribunal junked his election protest.
Among his rivals for the presidency, one is associated with the Marcos regime: Senator Panfilo Lacson who, as constabulary officer, served in the defunct Philippine Constabulary that jailed activists and implemented Martial Law.
Marcos’ presidential bid angers various sectors in the Philippines, such as the generation that suffered under his father’s rule, as well as the opposition.
“Not only does it add salt into the wounds, but it’s also an outright attempt to absolve and erase all the sins made by the late President Marcos and his family during the Martial Law years as if nothing happened,” said Neri Colmenares, chairperson of Bayan Muna, and one of the thousands of political prisoners under the late dictator.
But Marcos would not acknowledge these, and continues to dismiss the atrocities committed under his father’s strongman rule as “lies,” as he told celebrity Toni Gonzaga in an interview where the only faint reference to the dark era of dictatorship was the interviewer saying, “to some people, he was the worst president.”
According to data by Amnesty International, 70,000 people were detained, 34,000 were tortured, and 3,240 disappeared and were presumed to be dead from the time Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972 to 1981.
The Philippine government has compensated 11,103 Filipinos who were victims of human rights abuses during Martial Law.
In 1986, the Supreme Court also found that the dictator Marcos “misused the overwhelming resources of the government and his authoritarian powers to corrupt and make a mockery of the judicial process” in the murder case of former senator Ninoy Aquino.
An investigation by Rappler in November 2019 showed a massive disinformation network – aided by social media influencers – as part of a systematic campaign to rebrand the Marcos name and help propel them to Malacañang.
Brittany Kaiser, former employee turned whistleblower of the controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica, told Rappler in July 2020 that Bongbong had indeed asked them to rebrand the Marcos name. Marcos has denied this.
In his interview with Gonzaga, Marcos revered his father as “an actual leader.”
“I think the problem we have now is lack of leadership. You cannot be a president following surveys, which is the tendency we have not only here but in other countries as well. He really had a vision,” said Marcos.
From 1977 to 1982, the country’s total external debt under the dictator Marcos grew from $8.2 billion in 1977 to $24.4 billion, according to data from the World Bank. In 1985, two in every five Filipinos were poor, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
But “haters gonna hate,” Marcos insisted.
The Marcos family, after all, remains very popular, having regained control of Ilocos Norte with his son Sandro running for representative of the first district in 2022. Ria Fari˜ñas of the arch rival family and current holder of the seat Sandro is gunning for told a local radio this showed the family’s greed.
In the interview with Gonzaga, Marcos described the people power revolution in 1986 as “enemies coming for us.” Marcos described his father during the revolt as a “mission-oriented commander,” referring to the dictator’s alleged military experience.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) recently reposted their 2016 study which found that “Marcos’ military record is fraught with myths, factual inconsistencies, and lies.”
Stand on China
In one of his latest news conferences before his announcement, Marcos backed Duterte’s soft policy toward China, saying it wouldn’t be wise to go to war with the superpower. Experts have said this was a misleading context because defending territory, they said, does not necessarily mean going to war.
Mistaking the Hague arbitral tribunal, where Philippines won its case vs China in 2016, for the International Criminal Court (ICC), Marcos said: “Iyong policy of engagement na ginagawa ng Duterte government, although it is criticized, this is the right way to go.”
(The policy of engagement being done by the Duterte government, although it is criticized, this is the right way to go.)
“‘Yung bilateral consensus, ‘yun ang pinaka-importante. Dahil ang pagsolusyon sa mga territorial conflict, naaayos lang ‘yan sa ICC, pero kailangang sumang-ayon ang parehong bansa.“
(The bilateral consensus is the most important. Because territorial conflict can only be solved in the ICC, but both parties should agree.)
An ally of the Marcoses, the President earlier floated striking a compromise agreement with the family to return their ill-gotten wealth, in exchange for dropping civil suits pending before the anti-graft court. This has not materialized, especially after the plan to put the Presidential Commission on Good Government under Marcos loyalist Jose Calida failed in Congress.
The PCGG has so far recovered P174 billion of Marcos ill-gotten wealth, and continues to run after P125 billion more. The PCGG earlier won a new case, which awarded them P1 billion in bank certificates that the Marcoses took with them to Hawaii.