How did Marcos Jr. win?
Simple—President Marcos Jr. won more votes than his rivals. Beyond the mathematical count of ballots, however, the question inquires into the motivations driving voter decisions. Hence, the subject continues to generate light and heat, to which two recent events added fuel.
At a Social Weather Stations public forum, Dr. Marco Garrido presented tentative findings from nearly 200 interviews, running between one to three hours, conducted with informants from the lower- to the upper-middle class income sectors. “The Reconciliation Dinner,” a 90-minute, Dulaang UP one-act play by Floy Quintos, dramatized the plight of the pro-Duterte/Marcos Medinas and the Aquino/Robredo Valderramas, upper-middle class families, formerly bosom friends, distanced and then divided by their political choices, but still struggling to find common ground. Neither provided definitive answers to the question; both offered illuminating insights.
Garrido reviewed the answers given by anti-Marcos Jr. forces—vote-buying; intimidation; disinformation campaigns waged in the social media space by bots or hired hands; cheating, allegedly through the manipulation of the electronic voting process—and found them unconvincing. No obvious “smoking gun” has surfaced to prove that any of these claims could have produced the Marcos victory. While conceding their cumulative contribution to the outcome, Garrido considered other explanations.
With the Marcos millions, the campaign could deploy additional costly, not flagrantly illegal, and effective stratagems: reenergizing traditional regional/ethnic/linguistic bases; early and heavy investment in historical revisionism to rehabilitate the Marcos brand, including support for Duterte’s presidential campaign to secure the Libingan ng mga Bayani burial of Marcos Sr.; alliances with the established and emergent political dynasties, notably the Macapagal-Arroyo, Villar, and Duterte dynasties; the cultivation of support from established and emergent business “oligarchs”; the selection of Sara Duterte as running mate to ensure the backing of the administration in power.
The Marcos Jr. team contrived a clever campaign, carefully avoiding head-to-head competition with the other contenders, combining the traditional public relations/marketing election propaganda with big data and social media analyses. Garrido’s research surfaced campaign themes that resonated with pro-Duterte/Marcos respondents: the disappointment and discontent of those who had supported Edsa I and had not benefited from the restoration of democracy; despair over the country’s dysfunctional political system that promoted inequality; resignation to the view that politicians were equally opportunistic and corrupt; resentment against the elite stoked by the populist narrative; the appeal, seen worldwide, of the strong leader.
“Reconciliation” added heft and weight, tone and timbre to the detached count and summary of interview responses. Quintos gave the Valderramas and Medinas ample time to argue their positions. Both families had flaws and blind spots, and might have served as Garrido informants. Discerning the merits of their arguments was a task for the audience. Garrido’s goal was to understand the voters, not to judge their choices. Differences in the life situations, for instance, of informal settlers and gated subdivision residents would condition their responses to political options. But the “Reconciliation” families, though coming from the same social class, pursued different priorities.
Sociology and drama underline the psychological and philosophical truth: Human beings are rational animals. They have logical reasons for what they do. They are also able to rationalize actions conflicting with their instincts, but serving self-interest. The animal element in our nature prioritizes the biological imperative of self-preservation for the individual and the family. Occasionally, however, the gift and the burden of rationality compels reflection on the rightness of our decisions. Human beings, despite artificial intelligence algorithms, at least for now, still exercise agency and choice.
Hence, questions about the Marcos Jr. election will persist. Understanding and appreciating the logic of his supporters cannot mean indifference to the issues of right and wrong, especially not for those with some concern for the education of future generations. It is not true that all politicians are corrupt, or that the martial law years represented a “golden age” for Filipinos. But how to persuade people that the black they see through their lenses is, objectively, really white?
Fact-checking will not be enough. “Reconciliation” dinners may be necessary to find common ground for consensus-building. Starting, perhaps, by probing the question “Reconciliation” posed: are we happy with what our elected leaders are doing to our country?
Edilberto C. de Jesus is professor emeritus at the Asian Institute of Management.
Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club ([email protected]).
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