, April 22, 2024

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Marcos Jr. Can Thank Duterte and EDSA’s Failed Promises for Family’s Restoration


  •   4 min reads
Marcos Jr. Can Thank Duterte and EDSA’s Failed Promises for Family’s Restoration
Lakbay ng Lakan
By Joey Salgado

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has survived policy missteps, weathered a sharp erosion in public approval over his handling of inflation, and appears impervious to withering attacks from his predecessor, former president Rodrigo Duterte.

And two years after his election, majority of Filipinos - 64 per cent according to a December 2023 OCTA survey - believe that the country is headed in the right direction under his presidency.

It’s almost inconceivable that 38 years ago, millions of Filipinos occupied a nondescript stretch of highway known as EDSA and ousted the President’s father and namesake from power.

But to ascribe the Marcos restoration to the family’s cunning only reinforces the myth, foisted at the height of martial law, that the Marcoses were destined to rule our land.

For while it is true that sustained, below-the-radar efforts were undertaken to rehabilitate the family name, the Marcoses were the main beneficiaries of frustration by attrition, the build-up of public resentment over the failure of post-EDSA administrations to live up to the ideals and promises of the 1986 Revolution.

The frustration erupted in 2016 with the election of Duterte, a self-styled populist outsider and, ironically, a political beneficiary of EDSA. Waylaid were the political parties, personalities, and families who wrapped themselves for decades in EDSA yellow and whose political fortunes rose after the revolution.

For six year, Duterte exploited the public’s resentment to suppress critics. He showed contempt for an independent press by mobilizing a captive House to revoke the franchise of ABS-CBN and attempting to shut down Rappler. He deployed the powers of the presidency to demonize and quash political enemies. He wielded his high approval ratings as a mandate to pursue his illiberal agenda.

Those who fought the Marcos dictatorship and lived through the nightmare that was martial law could only shake their heads at this cruel twist of fate. A people who had toppled a dictatorship were now rooting for another tyrant. And this tyrant, swept to power by the freedoms restored by the EDSA Revolution, employed the tools of democracy to undermine democracy while the old political elite and most of the new ones who rode on the revolution’s coattails either stood silently or egged him on.

But there was logic to this madness. Duterte appeared to be paving the way for his chosen successor, his daughter Sara Duterte. She could cruise through the presidential elections and rule unchallenged for another six years. Like Marcos the father, Duterte also saw the presidency as the family’s birthright, and the country a kingdom to rule.

But fate and politics played a cruel joke on Duterte.

If President Marcos Jr. sees a nation embracing his family’s return to power, he owes a lot to the failed promises of EDSA, a pliant political and economic elite, and Duterte.

Narratives

The significance of EDSA has already faded by the time Duterte came to power. The historic event, once observed with prayers and street parties, is now treated as an ordinary holiday, an opportunity to cool off in one of the malls located on what was once hallowed ground.

The revolution’s significance has also been rewritten: from triumph to tragedy, from one of liberation to oppression, from a people’s struggle to the dominance of the elite. In these false narratives, the restoration is not the result of political maneuvering but karmic reckoning, cosmic payback for the injustice and suffering borne by the Marcoses.

But these narratives were not intended to rectify historical errors. They were meant to exonerate those who plundered the nation and denied the people their freedoms.

How deeply held are these narratives? If we consider President Marcos Jr.’s victory as a referendum on EDSA, these narratives have already gained a foothold, especially for the generations born after 1986.

In a survey conducted by Pulse Asia in April 2022, a month before the elections, Marcos Jr. garnered majority of the votes in nearly all age groups. The only exception were voters aged 65 and above, where he secured 47 per cent.

For the generations born after 1986, his preference ranged from 58 per cent (25-34 age group) and 72 per cent (18-24 age group).

History’s Arc

For the youth leaders who have taken on the mantle as torchbearers of EDSA’s legacy, the challenge of remolding minds and overcoming biases against the revolution would require more than rallies and Tiktok dance contests. It demands rebuilding a movement and reigniting passions.

But movements cannot be rebuilt or passions reignited with rancor or arrogance. Claims of moral ascendance hides hypocrisy. A movement cannot be genuine when it is underpinned by contempt for the people, casually dismissed as bobotantes each time they vote for candidates other than the ones of our choosing. This has been the biggest weakness of the kakampink movement, and it persists until now.

Most EDSA veterans and their acolytes continue to cling to the stubborn belief that history’s arc bends backwards and only in the direction of the self-righteous. The political conditions that lit the flame of EDSA have changed. But social inequality and poverty remain. Such a movement must seek to address these long-festering concerns. A retelling must embody the hope for a better future, not a yearning for a once glorious past.

Lastly, the EDSA story must be retold plainly, without embellishment and the near religious reverence accorded to personalities. After all, EDSA is the story of a people. It is their story and it must be told from their perspective. They must tell their own stories and in the process, reclaim the narrative.


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