The Manila Times : Why Bongbong Marcos appears to be 'winnable'

6 November 2021

By Antonio Contreras | The Manila Times

I HAVE differences with former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on fundamental policy issues. I see Marcos as merely continuing most of the policies of the Duterte administration, and I would have wanted him to define more his differences from a regime I have learned to dislike over the years, after briefly supporting it at the beginning.

I also honestly believe that he should apologize for the things that happened during his father's term. I have a problem with his seeming inability to admit a mistake, even the obvious ones. Speaking through his chief of staff, he is doubling down by stating that he has always been "forthright on his conferment of a special diploma in social studies by the distinguished university and has never misrepresented his Oxford education."

"Never" is such a strong denial, when he posted that he got a BA in philosophy, political science and economics in his Senate profile. The fact that he later changed it to a special diploma in social studies is a tacit recognition of the misrepresentation. I also have problems with his failure to file his income tax returns, for which he was convicted.

And yet, he leads in most surveys, whether those conducted using randomly selected samples, or those using convenience sampling which include online and street surveys. Many who live in comfortable AB bubbles cannot live with this fact, considering that what they see in social media pages is an explosion of pink matched by a constant barrage of anti-Marcos posts ranging from historical gripes about the transgressions of his parents, to his complicity, and now on his misrepresentation of his degree and his tax conviction for which a petition to cancel his CoC was filed. No one bothers to think that in the algorithm-driven world of social media, you only get to read the narratives that are consistent with what you believe and share.

Actually, it is obvious that the issue of his special diploma is now amounting to beating a dead horse that is not even visible to and appreciated by ordinary Filipinos. And it is even also obvious that while Marcos is being accused of misrepresenting himself, those who do so are also woefully misrepresenting the facts as they immerse in unbridled prejudice and bias against him. It is clear that the main issue is when he falsely claimed that he had a bachelor's degree in philosophy, political science and economics. But there are many, unfortunately including those in media, who seem to go beyond the misrepresentation of his degree, to even allege that he did not complete any program of study at all.

Without absolving him of the earlier misrepresentation on his actual degree, it is clear that being awarded a Special Diploma in Social Studies, and with Oxford University certifying such, that he obtained a special degree. After all, diplomas are not given out by universities, including one with a stature like Oxford, to people who have not completed a program of study. Many are grossly misrepresenting the statement from Oxford obtained by GMA-7 that the Special Diploma in Social Studies is not equivalent to a "full graduate diploma." And it is here that those unfamiliar with the jargon of awarding degrees can be confused and wrongly assume that this establishes that Marcos did not obtain a credential. Had Oxford declared that such special diploma is not equivalent to a "full degree," then the interpretation that Marcos did not obtain a special degree would have been valid.

However, people should be informed that there are many kinds of degrees that a university offers. It is in this context that the phrase "full graduate diploma" should be interpreted in the context of the UK system where it is used to refer to Level 6 or bachelor's degree programs, and not in the context of the fact that its recipient is graduating with a degree. Thus, the special diploma awarded to Marcos not being equivalent to a full graduate diploma should be interpreted as a validation of the fact that it is not equivalent to a Level 6 or bachelor's degree but is still an academic certification that he completed something.

After all, Oxford will not shoot its foot by awarding diplomas even to people who did not complete any program of study. And it is here that some people are claiming that perhaps Oxford was bribed to issue a special diploma even if Marcos did not complete an academic program. This is a serious accusation because it would tarnish not only Marcos, but also Oxford.

But all of this confusion and misrepresentation, both from Marcos and from those who claim that he misrepresented himself, are totally irrelevant from the perspective of the greater masses of people who live outside the AB social media bubbles. And there is a vast world out there of people who think differently, who may have moved on from martial law, or have even fond memories of it, and do not even care about Oxford, or have no idea what or where it is.

These are people who see Marcos in a different light. And this is where he draws his strength and why he appears to be winning. There are two powerful forces that propel the Marcos narrative into a strong chance of victory in 2022. These are the twin forces of redemption and revenge. While those in the elite bubbles see him as a child of a dictator who victimized people, those living outside it see him as a victim of election fraud, and furthermore, one being bullied by the elites who likewise also bullies them.

While stories of widows succeeding their husbands, and of poor people climbing up the ladder still resonate, the narrative of a rich man bullied by his enemies who treated his family unjustly, returning to redeem his name and seeking revenge on those who did his family wrong, is as compelling. Even Jose Rizal breathed life into this narrative in his novels.