Tuesday May 10, 2022

Filipinos elect heir of the past as president

Filipinos elect heir of the past as president

Ferdinand Marcos Jr

Victory of Ferdinand Marcos Jr in the Filipino presidential election marks a troubling factor. Ninety-eight per cent of the vote has been counted and he has got the double of the votes than his main rival, Leni Robredo.

The followers of Robredo are angry and they have protested outside the office of the Election Commission. But the commission said that the elections were fair. Marcos’ father, Ferdinand Marcos had ruled the Philippines as a dictator, imposing the martial law from 1972 to 1981.

He put his political opponents in prison, or they went into exile. When one of his main opponents, Benigno Aquino returned from exile to the Philippines in 1986, he was shot dead on the tarmac. In the democratic revolution that followed, Marcos had to leave the country, and Benigno Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino won the election and restored democracy. The United States supported the dictatorship of Marcos, but later supported democracy in the country. Marcos’ wife, Imelda, became infamous for her thousand pair of shoes. But the Marcos’ stubbornly denied that they did anything wrong.

Marcos died in exile in Honolulu. The return of his son to the presidency raises many a question. Will the son respect the democracy that his father suppressed, and which was restored after the removal of Marcos from power? The suspicions and apprehensions become stronger because he defends the legacy of his father, and his supporters have been lying without any regret that Marcos’s rule was a glorious one. It is the unabashed and blatant repetition of lies that makes the return of a Marcos as president an ominous phenomenon.

The outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte, a man who took pride in not following the rule of law and due process in dealing with drug addicts in the country, had been contemptuous of democratic norms and he revelled in the fact that he ruled with a rod. His daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio is the vice-presidential candidate, and she has won with a big majority, three times that of her rival, and it is believed that she has broadened the base of Marcos Jr. The Philippines then will be facing the rule of democratically elected authoritarian rulers.

The Philippines and other democracies are facing the challenge posed by authoritarian populism, like in the United States during the presidency of Donald Trump. Constitutional norms take a back seat under the so-called strong rulers.

The human rights organization in the Philippines, Karapatan, appealed to the Filipinos to reject the presidency of Marcos Jr because his campaign was built on disinformation and lies “to deodorize the detestable image”. But it will be difficult to counter an overwhelming victory. The people are the masters in a democracy.

They can give the mandate to any leader and withdraw it as well as they have done in Sri Lanka. We can only hope that president-elect Marcos Jr will not misuse his electoral victory and that he will protect democracy in the Philippines. It is indeed one of the risks of democracy that wrong leaders who can do immense harm to the policy do get elected. The remedy lies in the next round of elections. And that is the hope expressed by Robredo who lost the election to Marcos Jr. She told her supporters to fight for truth till the next elections.

She said, “It took time to build the structures of lies. We have time and opportunity to fight and dismantle these.” That is the democratic way, to wait for the next round of elections. It is necessary that people value freedoms that only a democracy guarantees, and as the adage goes, ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’.

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