Malaya Business Insight : Explaining Marcos

11 April 2022

By Jose Bayani Baylon | Malaya Business Insight

MY Yellow/Kakampink friends are close to apoplectic every time a public opinion survey shows former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ahead of Vice President Leni Robredo. With less than 30 days to go, even less for campaign purposes due to the coming Easter holiday, they now grasp at every little ray of hope that could rationally show that the fight is not over and that it is still anyone’s ballgame.

I know how they feel, and in part they have reason to feel hopeful. I was once team governor of a PBA team that barely clinched the eighth and last slot for the quarterfinals and was faced with a twice-to-beat task against the top seeded team. We beat them the first game and won a reprieve, but in the second, knockout, win-or-go-home match we found ourselves down by 16 points with six minutes to go and the fans at the Araneta Coliseum just waiting for the last buzzer to put the last nail on our coffin.

That didn’t happen. Instead, the Powerade Tigers clawed back on the heels of a barrage of three-point shots from Gary David (good luck sa campaign Gary!) and after forcing overtime, finally ended the title hopes of the BMeg Llamados team. In the process, Powerade became only one of a handful of last-placed qualifiers to eliminate the top seed – and in fact go all the way to the finals of the All-Filipino.

We did it, yes? Surely, the VP can be likened to a team 16 points down with six minutes to go. The only caveat is that in basketball there are only two teams in court fighting for the loose ball. In our elections, there are at least five.

At the same time, my Yellow/Kakampink friends share tales of increasing anxiety in the business community, with, I am told, foreign fund managers expressing apprehension, even fear, coupled with warnings that a Marcos victory will mean a drying up of foreign investments. I personally think this is an over-dramatization of things given that businessmen always sniff out opportunities wherever they may lie. And think about it: even a Putin finds support in China, India, and many other big economic players outside of the US-Western orbit; if that’s the case for a Putin then it is clear that any leader far, far less “notorious” than a Putin need not worry.

Investors will find a way.

And now there’s a “unity” push, to push everyone else but Leni out of the picture in the hope of consolidating all non-Marcos votes behind her. Will it work this time when a similar push failed in 2016?

Why, indeed, does the Philippines seem poised to return a Marcos to Malacanang nearly 40 years after ousting one?

My simple explanation: because the Filipino people were not convinced that the post-Marcos regimes have been any different when it came to delivering better governance.

They’ve seen no significant change in the level of corruption, inefficiency, and the inability to establish a government that brings sustainable benefits to everyone, not just to the business, political and even intellectual elite. Some would even say that if it was bad before, it is worse now – EDSA, it is joked, democratized even corruption!

But my more complicated explanation is this: EDSA 1986 was a short cut, an artificial solution to an issue with deep roots in our psyche as a people. By plucking Ferdinand Marcos and his family out of Malacanang and airlifting them to Hawaii, we (with US help) superficially took out the individual who to a segment of our political class was the problem, believing that by removing Marcos we would solve things. Well, what it solved was the gridlock in the system of succession to positions of leadership where others could now “take from the well.” What it did not accomplish was that it did not seal up or poison the well because everyone else after Marcos wanted to take from it.

We were once told that a new administration would live by the slogan “Walang kaibigan, Walang kumpare, Walang Kama-anak.” Which turned out to be the exact opposite of what happened. We were also told that “Kung Walang corrupt, Walang mahirap,” but the mahirap never disappeared, which means corruption was never ended. When a president was being pilloried in Metro Manila, a senate big shot told her she could always run to his province of Iloilo where she would always be welcome; later on, when election returns were being questioned for allegations of cheating another senator would only say “Noted” in the systematic railroading of the canvassing.

And wasn’t it a Catholic bishop who said: “Everybody cheats anyway?”
Remember them?

When Filipinos see the post-Marcos/EDSA years in this light, it is not surprising that nearly four decades later a big segment of them seem to be opting for a reboot. In their eyes, nothing much has changed anyway.