Sui Generis

Marcos vs. Robredo

Marites Dañguilan Vitug
Marcos vs. Robredo
Night and day

Today, our votes will determine our country’s future, how it will turn out in the next six years. Nothing less than democracy is at stake. Will we see a continuation of the decline of democracy? Or will we see a revitalization of our freedoms and say goodbye to autocracy?

The presidential race has narrowed down to two candidates – Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Leni Robredo – who couldn’t be more different from each other. Like night and day. Darkness and light.

Marcos Jr. lived a life of privilege and entitlement. He did not complete his undergraduate and post-graduate studies and has never worked in the private sector nor with NGOs during his 14 years outside of public office as vice governor, governor, congressman and senator. Moreover, he has been leading legal efforts to hide his family’s ill-gotten wealth.

Robredo comes from a middle-class family and worked for many years as a lawyer for the disenfranchised – including abused women and farmers who fought for their ancestral land – before entering politics. As vice president, she initiated livelihood programs for the marginalized sectors of society, helped poor children gain access to schools, provided homes to those whose shelters were devastated by typhoons.

On the campaign trail, Marcos Jr. is the least open among the presidential candidates, snubbing debates and forums and evading interviews from mainstream media. Our reporter, Lian Buan, was blocked by security aides while trying to approach Marcos Jr. for an ambush interview after a rally. A media staff physically hurt Lian when she grabbed Lian’s hand, held it tightly while putting down her smartphone camera.

In a rare press conference of Marcos Jr., only select members of the press were invited and questions were sent in advance, part of a screening process.

In contrast, Robredo grants ambush interviews to reporters who cover her campaign as long as her punishing schedule allows. She has participated in a number of debates and forums with her rival candidates and given interviews to various media outlets.

Marcos and Robredo differ in other countless ways: Marcos comes from an entrenched political dynasty while Robredo does not. Their work ethic, discipline, track record in public service, and personal values are eons apart.

Lies on steroids 

The use of social media is another big difference between the two candidates.

Marcos Jr. has cleverly used social media to launder his family’s image. A recent study by UP professor Yvonne Chua shows that Marcos Jr. has benefited most from disinformation campaigns on social media while Robredo was the most victimized.

In a separate study by Cheryll Ruth Soriano, a professor at De La Salle University, hundreds of videos on YouTube were found to have spread the following lies:

  • The Philippines was a great nation during the regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos;
  • Under Marcos’ leadership, the country was an economic superpower;
  • Marcos had available personal wealth for the benefit of national progress; and
  • All of these can only be achieved again if another Marcos would be reinstalled into power.

If Marcos Jr. wins, expect disinformation to continue, this time, sponsored by the state. Lies on steroids. 

Like President Duterte, he will undermine independent media, cast doubt on our work to enable his false narratives – via his coterie of vloggers and friendly, partisan media – to dominate our national conversation. Painfully, we will see the further erosion of our democracy.

Popular struggle for change

Never since the 1986 snap presidential contest have I felt so personally and emotionally invested in an election. Never have the choices been so clear and the consequences so stark.

I look back to my younger years in journalism which gave me a lifetime of education on the value of our freedoms and made me aspire for honest leaders. It was in 1983 when I started out as a political reporter soon after opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr. was assassinated. The three years that followed, until the Marcoses were deposed in 1986, exposed me to the popular struggle for change, from the underground Left to the opposition political parties to citizens awakened by the rampant abuse of power in Malacañang. Many found their voice, fueled by anger and despair, united in the choice to elect a new president.

We’re at a fork in the road and the path we choose today will lead us to either dark, threatening clouds or bright, promising skies. 

Marites Dañguilan Vitug

Marites is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished journalists and authors. For close to a decade, Vitug – a Nieman fellow – edited 'Newsbreak' magazine, a trailblazer in Philippine investigative journalism. Her recent book, 'Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won Its Maritime Case Against China,' has become a bestseller.