Summing up the 2022 elections can be done using the following phrase: “to see if you were the right kind of terrible.”
This is a line from the all-time great series Game of Thrones, when Tyrion Lannister wanted to see if Daenerys Targaryen was the kind of ruler who would prevent her people from being worse off. This is a phrase that has never been more fitting than now.
Yes, Bongbong Marcos is the next President of the Philippines. The same democracy that was restored after his father’s dictatorship, recognized as the world’s worst plundering government, has been exploited for decades and ironically was set up for his now-pending dramatic return to Malacañang.
Expect major changes to happen, for worse more than better.
What to expect
Expect historical revisionism to continue under his rule. False narratives about the Marcoses have circulated around social media for years like gospel to lost souls. More lies and propaganda will now spread through textbooks or troll videos on YouTube, attempting to bury the corruption, human rights abuses, and other transgressions committed by his father’s dictatorship. It truly is baffling that seemingly anybody else in the world can recognize this as disinformation except for Filipinos themselves.
Yet this type of leadership is what many Filipinos really want. Despite controversies and justified criticisms on a near-daily basis, the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte has remained popular. This victory indicates an approval of the populist style of leadership that his predecessor has exhibited in the previous six years.
Also expect renewed pushes on measures that failed to gain traction under Duterte’s rule. This includes changes to the Constitution, such as a shift to federalism that would make the hold of political dynasties on the Philippines even stronger. Opening the economy to more fully foreign-owned enterprises could also be allowed, already eased by Duterte’s signing of a law allowing such control for telecommunications and some transport industries.
Linked to this is the country’s relationship with China, which has been viewed by many as unfavorable to the Philippines during Duterte’s term. With Marcos already publicly stating similar stances to his predecessor, a likely joint exploration of the disputed areas of the West Philippine Sea could take place, with implications on sovereignty, energy security, and climate action. With many foreign investments expected to withdraw from the Philippines with Marcos as President, anticipate an even heavier reliance on China-backed funds.
Part of Marcos’s appeal is the “comeback story” of a son reclaiming his father’s legacy, which many voters consider more as an entertaining soap opera storyline than a distorted spin on reality. With this in mind, we foresee some aspects of the dictator’s rule to emerge in his son’s term. These can range from even more blatant cronyism and heavier borrowing that leads to a spike in national debts, to reviving projects such as the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.
This is not to say the whole government would be like a fully rotten apple to the core; I can attest through my experiences in the past few years that there are many competent officials with good intentions. Unfortunately, their work is overshadowed by the actions of many higher-ups, which could likely continue under the new administration.
Is our country so morally bankrupt that politicians and voters alike are willing to openly trust their futures to a man who is proven to be of poor moral character, not to mention coming from a family filled with proven records of corruption? Based on the elections, the answer is a resounding yes.
Bongbong Marcos is the wrong kind of terrible because, given his track record, he likely would enable Filipinos to be in worse conditions. What is worse is that those Filipinos would still support him anyway and blame the so-called “establishment,” of which Marcos is now in control.
Truth be told, whoever won the presidency would unlikely be able to solve long-running problems in the next six years. Most of the Philippine Congress are members of political dynasties. Large portions of the economy will still be dominated by corporations, with leaders so out-of-touch they would recklessly claim that bicycle lanes are causing heavy traffic in major roads. These members of the political and economic elite should be held accountable for the poor state of our nation.
Yet it is fair to also blame the Filipinos who keep voting for these same old names with different faces. Many elections have gone by, and considering how few things have changed for the better over time, you’d think these voters would have learned by now to avoid making the same mistakes and expecting a different result.
Unfortunately, many of them seem to either prioritize familiarity in their choice of leaders or directly benefit from such type of politics, if only on a short-term basis or out of desperation. This is the part of the electorate that can easily be exploited, and has been exploited over and over again.
This is not a matter of playing the blame game for the sake of it. Failing to place the blame and holding these people accountable is precisely the problem. And that needs to change.
Let this be a lesson to all of us not to take our own bubbles as the actual reality. Netizens should stop taking their social media feeds as the absolute truth (that applies to all sides) or think that posting comments alone would make a difference. Political pundits need to find a way to communicate their insights better to the general public.
The bottom line is this: we have no one else to blame for this mess but ourselves, whether we voted for Marcos or not.
Yet it is what it is. We find ourselves in this situation, so now it’s time to get serious and genuinely work for the betterment of our nation, despite some of its leaders or their supporters. “Never forget, never again” still applies, but with a different purpose now. – Rappler.com
John Leo Algo is a climate and environment campaigner, researcher, and communicator. He has represented Philippine civil society and the youth sector in regional and global UN conferences on climate and the environment since 2017.