2022: A Robredo-Marcos rematch?
As of this writing, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso is the only top contender to have officially confirmed his bid for the presidency next year. Isko’s greatest strength is that he is the least polarizing candidate, but his commitment to become a “healing president” risks alienating more passionate supporters on both sides of the political spectrum.
Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, another youthful contender for the presidency, is still undecided; he has expressed his openness to exploring other options, including joining a “united opposition” ticket. Meanwhile, the House of Duterte has squandered its initial advantage by trying to replicate the will-run-not-run theatrics it deployed to great effect prior to the 2016 elections.
The visibly exasperated Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte is clearly not pleased with the lack of clarity in terms of her father’s plans, thus her own mixed signaling on whether she would run for national office or stay put in her hometown. Quite understandably, President
Duterte seemingly prefers his long-time aide, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, to succeed him.
This leaves us with former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who has patiently and systematically built up the momentum for a historic bid to recapture Malacañang. In recent weeks, the sole son of the former strongman has gradually emerged as the top candidate for next year’s elections.
If this isn’t enough to convince Vice President Leni Robredo to throw her hat into the ring, I don’t know what is. Not only is seeking the presidency the next logical step for any incumbent vice president, but Robredo has, time and again, made it clear that her political raison d’être is to prevent the return of the Marcoses to the pinnacle of power.
Around the world, from Spain to Chile and Taiwan, progressive regimes have been actively rolling back historical revisionism and authoritarian nostalgia by taking decisive action. In Spain, the remains of former dictator Francisco Franco were moved from a gigantic mausoleum that glorified his decades-long authoritarian rule. In Chile, politicians from across the political spectrum decided to discard the constitutional legacy of the Pinochet regime in favor of a new, progressive one.
In South Korea, massive public protests brought down the corrupt and revisionist administration of Park Geun-hye, the daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee. Shortly after, South Koreans elected Moon Jae-in, a former human rights activist and lawyer, as their president, reflecting how far the Asian country has come in terms of democratic maturity.
In Taiwan, an even closer neighbor, a progressive administration is moving toward axing symbols of its authoritarian past, including an iconic, towering statue of former strongman Chiang Kai-shek.
The Philippines, meanwhile, has been moving in the opposite direction. How did we get here?
Since the early 1990s, the Marcoses have gradually built their way back to power after quickly consolidating their position in the “Solid North.” Multiple administrations chose political expediency over accountability, conveniently citing the need for “unity” and “forgiveness” to avoid the tough demands of justice against the heirs and estate of the former dictator.
Judicial institutions, fragile and corroded, failed to correct the wrongs of history, while our educational institutions largely glossed over martial law, that dark period in Philippine history. Saddled by Marcos-era debt, and overseeing a bankrupt and broken state, various reformist administrations struggled to turn the corner, thus further fueling skepticism with slow-moving democratic politics.
Meanwhile, vast networks of disinformation, exploiting our free-for-all information ecosystem, unleashed a torrent of historical revisionism. A coterie of well-funded “influencers” and self-serving pseudo-journalists shamelessly whitewashed the atrocities committed under the Marcos dictatorship while sensationalizing the shortcomings of democratic successors.
Ours is a country where even the past is unpredictable, since almost every administration tends to forward its own historical narrative to justify its own power. A country that has a wrong sense of the past will always struggle to elect the right leaders and build a better future.
So far, the Leni camp has left everyone guessing as to whether the VP does want to run for the highest office, or pursue instead a local government position in her home province. But the prospect of a full-fledged Marcos restoration means that the progressive-liberal opposition will have to field at least one credible candidate—or risk getting consigned to the dustbin of revisionist history.
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