[EDITORIAL] From one dictator to another: Unearthing each other’s grave

It is a well-known fact that President Rodrigo Duterte has always been in an openly mutual relationship with the Marcos family. With the 2022 national elections looming over our heads, the Duterte-Marcos couple’s propaganda machine will run on full force, if not yet. 

Duterte’s fanaticism with the Marcoses is now dictating the tides of the country’s political climate which is now seeing similar strokes of corruption, human rights violations and economic downturn. 

Duterte’s fascism is taken off of Marcos’ playbook. Just like the late dictator, he, too, will fall.

Connection ‘never been more obvious’

In October 2016, Duterte boasted that his father Vicente was “one of the two who stood by Marcos in his darkest hours.” During Marcos’ first term as president, Vicente served as his General Services Secretary.

Contrary to the involvement of his father in the Marcos regime, Duterte’s mother Soledad was a known Yellow activist and an anti-Marcos civic leader in Mindanao during the Martial Law years.

In fact, Soledad was among those who formed the United Opposition of Region XI, an alliance of opposition groups in the region. Soledad’s alliance organized weekly “Yellow Friday” marches in Davao City which she frequented. 

Soledad’s role in the 1986 EDSA People Power that replaced Ferdinand Marcos for Corazon Aquino influenced the new president to appoint Soledad’s son as Davao City Vice Mayor that same year.

But things took a turn for the worse when Duterte ran for Davao City mayor in 1988, backed by Marcos’ political allies, including his mayoral predecessor Elias Lopez, former congressman Manuel Garcia and former Davao province governor Alejandro Almendras of Kilusang Bagong Lipunan. 

Looking back at his political journey in the 2016 national elections, Duterte’s connection to the Marcoses has never been more obvious. Antonio Floirendo Jr., one of Duterte’s biggest sponsors, admitted that he gave 75 million pesos to Duterte’s camp under the guise of his “brotherly love.” 

Floirendo is among the brains behind the Alyansa ng Mga Duterte at Bongbong (ALDUB), a group that campaigned for the Duterte-Bongbong Marcos tandem in the 2016 elections.

Not only has Duterte openly admired Marcos and his dictatorship but has also maintained an intimate fanaticism with the Marcos clan.

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Duterte’s spotlight

Even before he took his oath as president, Duterte had spoken well of the Marcos name.

In one of his campaign speeches, Duterte said that if he failed to suppress drugs and criminality within three to six months, he would let vice presidential nominee Bongbong Marcos take over as president. This is in spite of him having his own vice presidential party mate in Alan Peter Cayetano.

While he failed to end drugs and criminality in six months, in the same time period he successfully buried Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani in November 2016. Ignoring public outcry, he insisted that Marcos was still a former president and a war soldier despite his dictatorship.

READ: Thousands rise against Marcos secret burial

Duterte has persistently praised the former dictator, calling him the ‘best president if not for martial law,’ a ’hero for many Filipinos’ and the ‘brightest among past presidents.’ Even with Bongbong Marcos, Duterte had not run out of compliments.

Even after winning, Duterte remained non-committal about giving Vice President Leni Robredo a Cabinet position to “avoid hurting Bongbong’s feelings.” Eventually what hurt Bongbong’s feelings was a slim defeat to Robredo, evident by a series of electoral protests — all of which failed to reinstate his ill-famed name to executive dominion.

The case dragged on for years, only for the Supreme Court to unanimously dismiss Marcos’ petition last February 21.

Imee Marcos also ran and won as senator in the 2019 midterm elections under the PDP-Laban slate, a party led by Duterte since the 2016 elections.

In 2018, Sandiganbayan found then-first lady Imelda Marcos guilty beyond reasonable doubt of seven counts of graft. Despite the court’s arrest order, Imelda remains free today, three years after her conviction. In a decision last September 24, the anti-graft court ordered the turnover of Marcos loot to the government, amounting to around P1 billion. With Duterte’s chokehold on all branches of government, however, the kingmaker could very well be scot-free yet again.

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From explicitly saying that Marcos’ martial law was ‘very good’ to ‘absolving’ Bongbong and Imee from their family’s atrocities for being ‘young’ during their father’s rule, Duterte’s rhetoric towards the Marcoses has always been consistent.

Consistencies in Duterte’s words and actions allowed the Marcoses to further distort history as they continue to rebrand their way back into power.

Rebranding history

Reclaiming lost power will always be a hot pursuit for the Marcoses as long as they live. From persistent reelection bids to attempts to perfume their tarnished image, the infamous family is now desperately climbing back to the top in large, delinquent steps. 

Perhaps, even one step is too many.

To ramp up Bongbong’s vice-presidential bid in 2016, his camp took the golden opportunity to whitewash their family’s legacy and rewrite an indelible past with dire malevolence. The Marcos camp launched an extensive online matrix of political propaganda and calculated misinformation to polish the family’s dirty name in the eyes of the masses.

A network of online troll armies, similar to that of Duterte’s, sought to eclipse the information dissemination efforts of mainstream media by paying social media influencers, creating fake fan pages and launching supporter groups and forums that deliberately distribute misconstrued and deceptive materials on a wider scale.

Marcos also maximized the leverage of his personal YouTube channel to document his campaign activities and launched a children’s miniseries on a young child’s journey to the Malacañang Palace — a light-hearted mimicry of his own prospective road back.

Two years after the 2016 elections, renowned whistleblower Brittany Kaiser revealed in an interview with Rappler that Marcos sought Cambridge Analytica’s assistance to ‘rebrand’ his family’s image to appease the people’s disdain.

The now-defunct British political consulting firm played a decisive role in the 2016 United States presidential elections to favor business tycoon Donald Trump. 

Bongbong’s attempts to bolster historical distortion include glorifying his father’s alleged milestones, blatantly trivializing the atrocities of Martial Law and antagonizing the opposition’s socio-political narratives.

Not only did Duterte lick the Marcos name to shimmer again, but his actions built the podium in which the Marcos family will stand in the upcoming elections as Bongbong seeks his way to yet another national position.

Duterte’s complacency in the Marcos’ persistent attempts to revise the country’s dark history is an upfront to every victim of their tyrannical rule.

From one dictator to another, with their legacies continuing to align as history would tell, Duterte’s incessant actions in favor of the Marcoses greased an already well-oiled political machine of a family once-ousted from Malacañang now returning back to power.

Right from the grave, Marcos is rising unstopped. Who else took him out of his sepulcher than Duterte himself?

Allowing the Marcoses and Dutertes to comfortably embark on their ceaseless quests to obtain and retain national power in the upcoming elections will pave the way for their mission to hasten historical distortion and desensitize the Filipino people from the horrors of greed-driven and power-hungry governance.