2022 Philippine Elections

Solid North still a rock for Bongbong Marcos, but some students speaking up

Lian Buan
Solid North still a rock for Bongbong Marcos, but some students speaking up
Professor Ian Torres of Baguio's St Louis University says 'awakened' young Ilocano voters, especially students, 'would make the difference somehow' in shrinking the Solid North vote for the dictator's son

In the 2016 vice presidential elections, the so-called “Solid North” came through for Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, with him winning the entire Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region and Cagayan Valley, except Batanes.

In his bid for the presidency, the Marcos camp will again rely on the Solid North and will campaign to get what they call “the United Visayans and the Solid South,” according to spokesperson Vic Rodriguez.

Is the Solid North solid?

They may have to keep an eye on the “awakened” young who oppose the abuses during the dictatorship of Bongbong’s father, the late ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, according to Ian Torres, a professor of political science at the premiere university of the north, St. Louis University in Baguio.

“I would like to think that the students I encountered would make the difference somehow, they’re also Ilocanos, and they are patient enough to engage despite the fact that loyalists actively defend the Marcoses on social media,” Torres said in Filipino in an interview with Rappler on Friday, November 5. 

Regionalism

But those young anti-Marcos have a steep hill to climb, and that ascent is within their backyard. In the North, every family, or even every workplace is bound to have one or more staunch Marcos loyalists.

For example, Torres said a co-professor who “posts the truth about Marcos” on Facebook is always trolled by a colleague who’s pro-Marcos. But the professor cannot block the troll because he is the union president.

“They have the patience to engage. Whether or not those they engage listen to them, at least they can dish out facts. Even if insults are hurled at them, the engagement is there and hopefully the pro-Marcoses accept the facts eventually,” said Torres.

Regionalism is strong. One of the reasons why Ilocanos vote for Bongbong is because his father is Ilocano, despite the fact that he doesn’t even speak Ilocano but he is being considered Ilocano.

Ian Torres, professor at St. Louis University in Baguio

It’s a way to navigate a massive network of propaganda over the years that has helped rehabilitate the image of the Marcoses, from the family kicked out by a people power revolution, to a family inching close to returning to Malacañang.

For many of Marcos’ Ilocano supporters, however, there’s no need for social media propaganda. It’s enough that they like the deposed dictator, and that the disgraced strongman is Ilocano, said Torres.

“Regionalism is strong. One of the reasons why Ilocanos vote for Bongbong is because his father is Ilocano, despite the fact that he doesn’t even speak Ilocano but he is being considered Ilocano. Some would reason out simply, ‘let’s vote the Ilocano because we’re Ilocano,'” said Torres.

Parochial culture is also still very strong, said Torres, “and not everyone in the region finished their studies. So for me, loyalists are more sentimental – Marcos was our president, so his son is our president. They wouldn’t ask, did they steal? Even to the extent of saying ‘even if they stole, he was still able to achieve something.”

“They may not be able to convince their parents, or grandparents, but they might be able to influence their peers,” said Torres.

The myth

“Let us not play along the propaganda line of the yellows and being pushed hard by the yellow wannabe political assassins,” said Marcos’ spokesperson Vic Rodriguez on Friday, after more groups from the political opposition announced the filing of petitions to try to block Bongbong’s candidacy on the basis of a tax conviction during martial law time.

To dismiss all of the martial law atrocities as yellow propaganda would be to help keep the “myth” alive, on the way to a potential complete rehabilitation.

“The Marcoses can never, ever admit wrongdoing. This is the reason they have been spending 30 years to regain a mandate..It’s part of the whole Marcos identity and myth, they can never admit to anything they are accused of, and in fact, they must seek to triumph in the end against everyone who has accused them of this,” said historian Manuel “Manolo” Quezon III  in a Rappler Talk interview Thursday, November 4.

 Quezon called it a “cargo cult,” where people trust that their belief system can result in gains.

“It’s a belief where one day an airplane will come and bring big boxes of goodies from the West and we will live happily ever after,” said Quezon, a former Palace official under the late former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

“The thousands that you would see going to Los Baños a few years ago and a lot of voters that reporters encounter are doing so because they believe that they are going to get a part of the money of the Marcos from Yamashita’s gold or whatever,” Quezon said.

Torres said he has encountered a student whose father sincerely believes in the myth of the Tallano gold. 

‘Slowly but surely’

Would rehashing Bongbong’s tax conviction break this myth?

“‘Yung mga tao na nga ang sumasagot para kay Bongbong Marcos at sila na nagsasabi na tigilan niyo na ang pang-aapi niyo kay Bongbong Marcos,” said Rodriguez.

(The people themselves are answering for Bongbong Marcos, and they are saying to leave Bongbong Marcos alone and to stop bullying him.)

Quezon said “what the Marcoses didn’t realize was that it’s a basic rule in life that for every action there’s a corresponding reaction.”

“When people finally, belatedly, realized that Youtube was full of videos praising the Marcoses, that there was this rehabilitation ongoing, all of a sudden all these grey-haired people who didn’t want to talk about their trauma from martial law started talking about it,” said Quezon.

For Torres, a sustained effort to counter myths and denials with facts can “slowly but surely” work to break the Solid North.

“Unti unti, siguro tamang edukasyon lang, mawawala din ang pagiging loyal,” said Torres.

(Inch by inch, with the right education, the loyalty will vanish.) – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.