When one talks of Marcos supporters, there is a yearning to tag them as misinformed — as they are often portrayed on international media and by the opposition. However, in my interactions with the pro-Marcos majority of Taiwan, one does not see trolls and unruly hordes receiving cash-outs, but a supportive and collaborative community that contains very much the same bayanihan spirit characteristic of their countrymen.
There exists within Taiwan’s pro-BBM populace groups that help out fellow overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) through skills and vocational trainings, fundraisers for those who have sick relatives, Zumba sessions and fun runs, and even rallies and campaigns for migrant workers’ rights. These organizations include FilCom, OFW Partylist Taiwan, and the OFW Global Movement for Empowerment, and they receive much support from Marcos-Duterte camps and party-lists to actively participate in labor sector initiatives by the Manila Economic and Cultural Office of Taiwan.
It is perhaps a puzzle to most outsiders how such compassionate and civically active overseas workers can support a candidate whose family has stolen hundreds of millions in pesos and dollars from the Filipino people, has not apologized for crimes committed under Martial Law, has actively perpetuated a disinformation campaign, and is bound to continue prevalent human rights violations in the Philippines. Another facet more perplexing is how even some BBM supporters here have actively rallied in migrant mobilizations for the right to change employers back in January, but seemingly do not mind crackdowns against workers’ movements committed by both the Duterte and Marcos regimes.
It is no secret, however, that Marcos’ camp heavily campaigned in Taiwan, too.
When interviewed as to why they supported Marcos, several respondents cited not only the typical rosy nostalgia about Marcos-era infrastructure and the “robust Philippine economy” which characterizes most pro-Marcos disinformation narratives back home, but also apparent narratives that Taiwan was “aided during the Marcos Sr. administration” (sources have yet to be cited); and that he established an agency for OFWs (the Department of Migrant Workers) and retained OFWs’ contracts when they expired to “supply the international labor overseas market.” All of this is heavily promoted on pro-BBM OFW Facebook groups in Taiwan.
Under the senior Marcos’ dictatorship, a “Development Diplomacy” was established in 1975 which saw the rise of Filipinos going to the Middle East, and the presumptive president now wishes to pursue and expand the same policy of exporting Filipino labor.
Additionally, Filipinos in Taiwan find the vast denouncement of Marcos on the streets and online as “paninira” or witch hunts, and thus are unfriendly towards various mainstream media or organizations that report fact checks or decry Marcos Jr.’s policies and actions.
“[He] doesn’t defame other compatriots and pretends to cry for things that shouldn’t be cried about just to be pitied and voted for by the citizenry – that’s why we love BBM more”, shared one OFW.
Others were also still dismayed by the outcome of the previous Aquino administration and the vast controversies that took place during that era. It may be noted that it was under Aquino’s administration that Taiwan-Philippine relations became strained, after a Philippine Coast Guard member shot dead Taiwanese fisherfolk fishing within Philippine waters in 2013, which led to sanctions against Filipino hires during that time.
OFWs that do not support BBM in Taiwan state that one inadmissible factor for his popularity is the amount of fake news and disinformation online, and that most of their fellow colleagues get their news and information from either Facebook, Tiktok, or other social media sites. Their colleagues even cite various conspiracy theories such as that Marcos was prophesied by Nostradamus. One overseas worker also lamented that most workers do not have time or energy to do individual research at the end of the day, and prefer to unwind with friends away from politics during days-off, relying instead on popular opinion about who to support for the 2022 national elections.
Thus, if the group one receives legal and financial aid from is pro-BBM, the TikTok enthusiast group one hangs out with also supports BBM, and the colleagues in one’s factory support the former dictator’s family, then surely one would be heavily inclined to support Marcos, too. Belonging and support from a community and enriched camaraderie from such groups could very much outweigh whatever fact check, voters’ education initiatives, or house to house campaigns are initiated by opposition forces.
Indeed, in Taiwan’s OFW community, and perhaps in other overseas Filipino communities too, bonds are thicker than water – thicker than whatever facts history books may provide. – Rappler.com
Girard Lopez is a community journalist for Altermidya and a 1st year undergraduate student at National Chengchi University. He is also a volunteer at various human rights organizations and causes in Taiwan and the Philippines.