By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
“Bongbong Marcos winning the presidential elections gives many of us pause,” said Maria Batayola of the Filipino American Political Action Group of Washington.
The namesake son of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos appeared to have been elected Philippine president by a landslide in an astonishing reversal of the 1986 “People Power” pro-democracy revolt that ousted his father.
Batayola said, “No matter how Marcos denies the cruel corrupt dictatorship of his father through martial law, many Filipinos and the world remember. In the 1980s, many of us Filipinos and our allies protested the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. This does not bode well for our people.”
Marcos Jr. had more than 30.8 million votes in the unofficial results with more than 97% of the votes tabulated as of May 10. His nearest challenger, Vice President Leni Robredo, a champion of human rights, had 14.7 million votes, and boxing great Manny Pacquiao appeared to have the third highest total with 3.5 million votes.
Rick Polintan, a member of the Union of Democratic Filipinos, said the news was discouraging.
“Marcos looted the coffers of the Philippines and left the economy in shambles. He led the martial rule by jailing political opponents and assassinated thousands of people, including two Union activists here in Seattle—Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo.”
“As the sister of Silme Domingo…the outcome of the Philippine elections has been a most traumatizing event for my large extended family,” said social advocate Cindy Domingo. “The election of Bong Bong Marcos and Sarah Duterte…is a major setback for democracy and economic development in the country.”
“Hopefully, Bong Bong Marcos learned the lessons of his father’s policies and behaviors that led to his downfall,” said Tony Ogilvie, former president of the Filipino Chamber Commerce of the Pacific Northwest. “Perhaps he will promote democracy and continued economic development so that more Filipinos will be able to get good paying jobs and escape the pervasive poverty that so many Fillipinos are still experiencing. We will see.”
Dolores Sibonga was the first Filipino Seattle City Council member.
She told the Northwest Asian Weekly, “I am sad about the election but it appears that the majority vote stands. My hope is that the new generation will serve in the best interests of the nation by following the rule of law.”
Marcos Jr.’s running mate, Sara Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing president and mayor of southern Davao city, had a formidable lead in the separate vice presidential race.
The alliance of the scions of two authoritarian leaders combined the voting power of their families’ political strongholds in the north and south, but compounded worries of human rights activists.
Dozens of anti-Marcos protesters rallied at the Commission on Elections, blaming the agency for the breakdown of vote-counting machines and other issues that prevented people from casting their votes. Election officials said the impact of the malfunctioning machines was
A group of activists who suffered under the dictatorship said they were enraged by Marcos’s apparent victory and would oppose it.
“A possible win based on a campaign built on blatant lies, historical distortions, and mass deception is tantamount to cheating your way to victory,” said the group Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law. “This is not acceptable.”
David Della, former Seattle City Councilmember, said, “It seems that there was political amnesia and forgetting what happened under [Ferdinand Marcos’] oppressive, anti-democratic rule. The Filipino people deserve better, to take the country forward, not backward with this election. I only hope that the forces of democracy and decency will not allow the country to go backward but to stand up and organize again.”
Ador Pereda Yano, president of the Filipino American Political Action Group of Washington grew up in Manila and left with his family due to the oppressiveness of Marcos’s martial law.
“I am saddened for many Filipinos who were hoping for a government that cared for improving the lives of many Filipinos long afflicted by poverty, limited opportunities, human rights abuses, and widespread corruption.”
Local Filipino civil rights activist Frank Irigon said of Marcos Jr.’s apparent victory, “Frankly, I was disappointed, but let’s pray that history doesn’t repeat itself. That it’s not a case of like father like son, but the opposite!”
Marcos Jr., a 64-year-old former provincial governor, congressman, and senator, has defended the legacy of his father and steadfastly refused to acknowledge and apologize for the massive human rights violations and plunder under his father’s strongman rule.
After his ouster by the largely peaceful 1986 uprising, the elder Marcos died in 1989 while in exile in Hawaii without admitting any wrongdoing, including accusations that he, his family, and cronies amassed an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion while he was in power. A Hawaii court later found him liable for human rights violations and awarded $2 billion from his estate to compensate more than 9,000 Filipinos who filed a lawsuit against him for torture, incarceration, extrajudicial killings, and disappearances.
Robredo has not conceded defeat, but acknowledged the massive Marcos Jr. lead in the unofficial count. She told her supporters the fight for reforms and democracy won’t end with the elections.
“The voice of the people is getting clearer and clearer,” she said. “In the name of the Philippines, which I know you also love so dearly, we should hear this voice because in the end, we only have this one nation to share.”
Domingo said Robredo’s courage and love of country ushered forth a massive pro-democracy movement.
“I too will not be silenced, and I will continue to build solidarity with the Filipino people in their fight for truth, justice, and democracy.”
Batayola stressed, “The best thing we can do is to stay vigilant, be vocal, be supportive, and pass the U.S. House Resolution (HR) 3884 that is intended to suspend the provision of security assistance to the Philippines until the Government of the Philippines has made certain reforms to the military and police forces.”
“The Philippines is at a major crossroads—historically, economically, and politically,” said Polintan. “We are witnessing and experiencing a spontaneous outpouring of massive people, the Pink Movement, supporting Robredo… She represents political reform and addresses the economic plight of the poor and underrepresented.”
He added, “We can look forward to this Pink Movement to push for reforms and accountability after this election. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos have been awakened to fight for and look forward to a brighter future.”
Ruth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.