charter change

The exorcism of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.?

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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The exorcism of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.?
‘Opposing’ political camps – including Rodrigo Duterte, who called God stupid – are set to hold prayer rallies to drive away the same evil spirits

Ah, political crisis. You know it when politicians attend or hold their own, mm-hmm, prayer rallies.

The plot gets thicker when one considers the timing: the 38th anniversary of People Power, the 1986 revolt that unseated the President’s father and namesake, dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. 

But it gets weird – and complicated – when one factors in the “opposing” political camps holding these prayer rallies. 

We say “opposing,” in quotation marks, because while they come from different poles of the political spectrum, they now find themselves seeking to drive away the same evil spirits.

At least two political camps are mounting prayer rallies on February 23 and 25 to seek the enlightenment of President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. – and to resist attempts to change the Constitution, which had been linked to the chief executives cousin, House Speaker Martin Romualdez.

On February 23, forces loyal to the Liberal Party, or the Aquinos, or the Yellows, or “the opposition” (depending on how you view them) are holding a National Day of Prayer and Action for EDSA

February 23, 1986, was the first day of the three-day revolution, which erupted after Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin called on Filipinos to protect rebel soldiers against pro-Marcos troops. Those who heeded his call flocked to Metro Manila’s main highway, EDSA.

The revolution ended on February 25, 1986, a date that presidents have declared a holiday for many years. 

Opposition forces represented by Kiko Aquino Dee, grandson of democracy icons Benigno Aquino Jr. and Corazon Aquino, are frustrated after Marcos did not declare it a nonworking holiday this year. (It is worth noting, however, that not all presidents, not even Benigno Aquino III, declared this a nonworking holiday.) They, too, are aghast at moves to change the Constitution, which the nation ratified on February 2, 1987, and is considered a legacy of the 1986 uprising.

Another prayer rally for Duterte

This was to be expected of the so-called Yellow forces that have always been against Marcos. 

But what about the pro-Duterte?

Even if he ran on an anti-Aquino platform in the 2016 presidential election and later approved a hero’s burial for the late dictator Marcos, former president Rodrigo Duterte is riding the EDSA wave. Duterte reportedly confirmed he will join a prayer rally at Plaza sa Katawhan in front of the Cebu City Hall on February 25.

In this prayer rally, pro-Duterte forces aim to fight moves to change the Constitution through people’s initiative, The Freeman reported.

Few media outlets, among them The Freeman and Daily Tribune, have reported about this Cebu prayer rally as of Friday afternoon, February 16, but pro-Duterte personalities such as Jay Sonza and Vivian Velez have been actively promoting the event on social media.

Three weeks ago, Duterte also led a prayer rally against charter change. The rally took place in his turf, Davao City, where he said Marcos was on the drug watch list of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. 

The former president said on this day of prayer, January 29, a Sunday: “May drug addict tayo na presidente! Putang inang ‘yan!” (We have a drug addict for a president! That son of a whore!)

The exorcism of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.?

What litanies can we expect from Duterte this time around?

Why religion is used in politics

We know the question on your mind right now: Why is Duterte – who once cursed Pope Francis and called God stupid – now leading prayer rallies, of all things?

Well, throughout history, religion has been used either to legitimize political power or to challenge the powers that be. 

The People Power Revolution is a perfect example – when Filipinos clutching rosaries or holding images of the Virgin Mary faced soldiers and tanks in a brave act of protest against the Marcos dictatorship. 

Remember, too, how Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo joined prayer rallies or had her photos taken with religious leaders at the height of her unpopularity? And how prayer rallies, too, became a tool for her critics (only that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines was lukewarm toward calls for her resignation)?

As the German feminist theologian Dorothy Solle wrote in 1984, religion plays a double function: “as apology and legitimation of the status quo and its culture of injustice on the one hand, and as a means of protest, change, and liberation on the other hand.”

In his 1964 book, The Sacred Canopy, sociologist Peter Berger said that religion “appears in history both as a world-maintaining force and as a world-shaking force.”

We can talk more about this in a future in-depth article, but for now, allow us to end with the words of the President’s manang, his eldest sister Senator Imee Marcos.

For Senator Marcos, praying means one thing in the context of today’s politics: keeping “demons” away.

At an event of the Christian church Jesus Is Lord (led by a congressman, Eddie Villanueva, whose son Joel is a senator – ah, another religious angle), Senator Marcos made an impassioned plea to the Lord.

Haplusin nawa ninyo ang puso ng aking kapatid, ang Pangulo ng Pilipinas. Buksan ‘nyo ang kanyang mga mata at bigyan ‘nyo siya ng kaliwanagan ng pag-iisip. Gisingin ‘nyo po siya at ilayo sa mga demonyong nakapaligid,” Senator Marcos said.

(Touch the heart of my brother, the President of the Philippines. Open his eyes and give him clarity of mind. Wake him up and keep him away from the demons around him.)

Okay then.

May the best angels win! –

1 comment

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  1. ET

    I agree with Paterno Esmaquel II: “Well, throughout history, religion has been used either to legitimize political power or to challenge the powers that be. ” How about the present situation? Are our politicians, especially former President Digong Duterte, using religion to legitimize their Greed for Power and Money?

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email