The Manila Times : The Marcoses never left

29 October 2021

By Van Ybiernas | The Manila Times

Last of 3 parts

TWO years after Ferdinand Marcos (FM) died in exile in Hawaii in 1989, former first lady Imelda Marcos was allowed by the Corazon Aquino government to return to the Philippines and face a multitude of charges against her. Mrs. Marcos was quoted by the Washington Times as saying in reaction to the news, "If this will be another painful step in the fulfillment of my…sacred responsibility of bringing home the remains of my late husband Ferdinand back to our country, then, with God's blessings, I accept once more to face trial, this time before President Corazon Aquino's government."

In allowing the Marcoses to return, the Aquino government expected closure for a disgraced regime and political clan. The results of the national elections of 1992 and 1995 seemed to support that belief. Mrs. Marcos ran for president in 1992 and could only muster 10 percent of the votes. Son Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. (BBM) ran for the Senate in 1995 and finished outside of the winning circle.

Yet, observers should have noticed that in 1992, the same year that Mrs. Marcos lost in her presidential run, BBM won as representative of Ilocos Norte's second district. In 1995, when BBM failed in his senatorial run, Mrs. Marcos was elected representative of Leyte's first district. BBM was elected governor of Ilocos Norte in 1998 and sister Imee won her brother's old seat as representative of Ilocos Norte's second district.

In short, the only time the Marcoses were out of office was during their period of exile after FM was ousted in 1986. In the first elections after they came back to the country, the Ilocanos elected BBM to Congress. It would seem that the anti-Marcos forces underestimated the fact that the Marcoses were never discredited in the eyes of their fellow Ilocanos.

On the eve of the 2022 national elections, the Marcos dominance of Ilocos Norte is clear as day: Matthew Manotoc (FM grandson) is the provincial governor; Cecilia Marcos (widow of FM's nephew) is the vice governor; Angelo Barba (FM nephew) is the representative of Ilocos Norte's first legislative district; Michael Keon (FM nephew) is the mayor of the provincial capital of Laoag City. In 2022, Sandro Marcos (FM grandson) will run in the second congressional district to complete the Marcos dominance of the province.

The anti-Marcos forces probably did not expect the Marcos comeback at the national level, especially after Mrs. Marcos's and BBM's defeat in 1992 and 1995, respectively. They underestimated the value of Ilocos as the Marcoses' "ilihan," or community refuge in times of war in ancient times.

The ilihan, as mentioned in last week's column, is a place of refuge for Filipinos in times of war. For coastal or downstream communities, the ilihan is situated in the interior or upstream region where nature provided ample protection and sustenance as the community weathered the ravages of war and gathered strength to mount a comeback. We saw this in so many historical cases when communities abandoned their lowland dwellings in times of war or rebellion to the refuge of the ilihan. Among the examples are the "Moro Wars" between Sultan Kudarat and the Spaniards, the rebellion of Francisco Dagohoy, Diego Silang, Apolinario de la Cruz, etc.; the Revolution of 1896; the Filipino-American War (i.e., the forest camps of Macario Sakay, etc.); the guerrilla movement in World War 2; the communist insurgency; even the encampments of the Muslim secessionists in the south followed the same patterns.

In the case of the Marcoses, the principle is the same: the ilihan is a place of refuge. The Marcoses were kept safe in Ilocos Norte while their fortunes in national politics suffered from successive losses. Ilocos Norte gave the Marcoses the breathing space they needed to regain their strength and mount a comeback in the national arena. With the support of the Ilocanos, the Marcoses had the luxury of regaining the trust and confidence of the rest of the country little by little.

Anti-Marcos forces blame historical amnesia or even disinformation about the dark Marcos regime for the comeback. However, anti-Marcos forces have been in power since 1986 and have actually institutionalized powerful reminders of the past like Ninoy Aquino Day celebrated every August 21, EDSA People Power Revolution anniversary every February 25, as well as institutional reminders like the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and even the 500-peso paper currency.

Anti-Marcos forces dominate mainstream media and have spoon-fed the public with ample content to stigmatize the Marcoses. The pro-Marcos content in YouTube and social media are countered by anti-Marcos material tit for tat.

Historical amnesia and/or disinformation are a lame excuse for the Marcos comeback. Anti-Marcos forces simply refuse to acknowledge the real reason behind the comeback that could be culminated by victory in 2022.