Give Marcos Jr A Chance To Succeed, And A Strong Opposition Is Also Needed To Keep Him On The Right Track
Whichever side of the political fence you stand with regard to Philippine politics, what’s undeniable is the victory of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr’s presidential campaign was certainly effective, even masterful. It’s arguable that his crushing win over his opponents is more a marketing/branding triumph than an actual political one.
Some analysts say with millions of dollars (we don’t know how much he spent because the Philippines do not have strict campaign spending laws) it’s easy to pull off a victory of this magnitude. This is partially true. But we also see that money alone doesn’t win races. The examples are endless. But an obvious case in point is former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s $1 billion dollar flop attempt at the U.S. presidency.
The problem in Bloomberg’s case is that he spent a mere 100-days in his presidential run. It was sudden, swift, and amounted to an astonishing (the most ever spent in any US election) waste of money.
So in Marcos Jr’s case (again we don’t know how much he spent) it’s highly likely that money alone did not win it for him. The argument could be made that the Philippines isn’t the US and that money in the former has more capital. That’s valid.
But perhaps what’s more significant is how Marcos spent that money modernizing (some could say weaponizing) the elections process using social media. But that too, on its own, doesn’t tell the entire narrative of his victory.
People should know that what Marcos Jr achieved in this election is statistically rare not just in the Philippines but internationally. To nearly double up on his closest opponent in a multi-candidates race is already statistically unheard of in a head-to-head general race like how it’s done in the US and most democratic elections.
To hit a near 60% mark as Marcos Jr did beyond a head-to-head (multiple candidates) contest is almost as rare as lightning striking twice in the same spot.
So, we know, it took money. We know it took social media weaponizing. And the third part is where again Bloomberg failed – time.
After Marcos lost to Leni Robredo in the race for vice presidency. That was perhaps the start of his 2022 presidential victory. Other analysts already have acknowledged that disinformation on the Marcoses were already circulating years ago.
But even further, the time factor preparing to be President of the Philippines most likely begun when Marcos Jr was a child. He was primed to be president. By 23 he was already vice governor of Ilocos Norte; then a few years later governor.
It is this last part where politics and power come into play beyond “social-genius” marketing mentioned above. Any child can have dreams of becoming president, right, and have that dream not materialize.
But what Marcos had is the weight of family dynasty that propelled him to the top. And this is where the opposition and his critics had every right to go after Marcos Jr and link him to his families ill-gotten wealth. It was that ill-gotten wealth, power and privilege that propelled him to the seats of governor, then congressman, then senator, and now president.
Whether Marcos Jr came up with his marketing campaign on his own or that he was guided by advisors, we don’t have the answer to that.
It’s also worth noting that his refusal to dig deep and not get lost in the weeds talking specifics on policy is also a reinvention of modern elections landing on the shores of the Philippines. This strategy – not saying much of anything in substance — is actually very Trumpian (another marketer vs policy type politician) and very appealing to a populist demographic who love simplicity.
Inversely, we see even locally in Hawaii politics that candidates who are brilliant but will go too deeply into explaining policy on the campaign trail could actually turnoff a large segment of the population. Colleen Hanabusa was one example and known for that.
The elections process is changing and Marcos Jr was keen enough to read the old hieroglyphics template and present a modern matrix version, one built on obscurity, deception, evasion. And he had the money, the time and dynastic clout to make it all come together to accomplish what really is a statistically rare beatdown.
Some could say how Marcos Jr won the presidency at this point is an academic review and a useless exercise just to reveal what already had been done. But analyzing how he won serves two purposes: 1) as a warning what to look out for future elections; and 2) a warning of how Marcos Jr has been underestimated for far longer than people think. He cannot just be that mediocre senator that just got to high places from privilege alone. He’s clearly a strategist, and a good one at that.
And if he can apply that type of maneuvering to do great things for the Philippines (trying to be positive here) that would be a tremendous benefit for Filipinos.
This editorial could have been a typical one that everyone has already been reading – one that criticizes what’s already known about the Marcoses, his tax evasion, and so on, all of them very credible points to raise.
But ultimately all of those points didn’t stop him from getting elected. And this idea that the populist was so ignorant to not see all that’s been written about the Marcoses is high-brow and a misunderstanding of a large sector of Filipino society.
What now? There should be a strong opposition to guard democracy, human rights and areas that represent the interests of the powerless. This is valiant and necessary. So Robredo and her supporters should be encouraged and backed up financially in her new NGO. There is too much concentration of power on one side in the current Philippine political structure and there needs to be more balance.
But it’s also fair, given the overwhelming support Marcos received, that he be given a chance. This is not to say that he shouldn’t be pressured on pending investigations on him or his family. Or that the past is forgiven and forgotten. But he should be given a chance to work with the established political left to find workable solutions on critical issues from economic stimulation to social safety nets for as many Filipinos possible to benefit from. And if the political left wants to remain relevant in Philippine politics, they should learn from this experience of utter defeat. Start planning for the midterms and the next presidential election now, which is precisely what it appears like, Robredo will be doing.
We respect the democratic process. We wish much success to the presumptive president Ferdinand Marcos Jr. And we also support a robust opposition to keep Marcos honest and on track.