Bongbong and 2016: A Referendum for the Marcoses?

Politics and sports have two things in common: First, both of them involve competition (to some degree). Second: In both cases, time is an enemy.

It’s easy enough to figure out why time is an enemy in sports

First, most sports are time limited. Thus, the closer you are to the end of the game, the more pressure there is and the less room for error. There is simply no room for error in the fourth quarter of a close basketball game. In addition, age is always  a factor in sports. The older you are, the less stamina you have and the higher the chance of injury. A Jordan or Kobe at age 25 cannot peform at age 50.

Time is also an enemy in politics (most of the time). You are more exposed to a major scandal the longer you are involved in politics. Your political capital will tend to dissipate over time- a landslide election in 2004 doesn’t matter in 2016.

Again, I said MOST of the time. It certainly does not apply to entrenched local politicians in the Philippines- like the old man Villafuerte of Camarines Sur (he’s been in power since forever).

In addition, time is not an enemy for a shrewd politician. The shrewd politician understands that the the news of today is the old news of tomorrow. Electorates change. Issues fade. A shrewd politician who understands that the best way to handle a major issue is to ride it out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

I can think of at least two powerful figures in the Philippine Senate who have used time to their advantage- Sen. Miriam Santiago and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. If you remember, both were voted out of office after the negative reactions they got from the 2001 impeachment of then President Estrada. They bounced back and have remained powerful figures since then. Sen. Miriam has rebranded herself to become the darling of social media. Sen. Enrile, although not as beloved, remains a major figure in the 2016 elections.

The perspective I wrote above is the same one that I use whenever I analyze the Vice Presidential Candidacy of Sen. Bongbong Marcos.

It really puzzles me why he chose to run for higher office. He was assured of reelection in the Senate. But instead, he chose to run for the Vice Presidency- an essentially powerless post. He is also one of two politicians who chose to be the running mate of a “presumed” presidential candidate (Davao City Mayor Duterte) who decided not to run.

No, Sen. Marcos’ candidacy doesn’t make sense from a conventional perspective. But it make sense when you consider his place in history.

As it should be known by now, Senator Marcos is the son of former President Marcos who was forced out of office after a decade in power. A controversial decade in power, i might add, full of human rights abuses and public money that has not fully been accounted for.

Ever since then, the Marcoses have been slowly pulling their way back into the political mainstream. It started with Imelda Marcos’ run in the 1992 Presidential elections where she garnered a mere 2 million votes. Then Sen. Marcos ran for the Senate for the first time in 1998 where he got 8 million votes- a 6 million increase in 3 years. They waited out the elections of 2001 and 2007, deciding instead to consolidate power in Ilocos, their political bailiwick. Meanwhile, they expanded their influence on social media- selling the story that the 1986 Revolution was just a power grab by the political elites. In 2010, Sen. Marcos ran (and won) in the Senate elections, placing 7th with 13 million votes.

Now, riding on his newly gained reputation as a supposed “statesman” due to his stewardship of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, Sen. Marcos is running for the Vice Presidency- a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

2016 is a crucial year for Sen. Marcos and his family. It is not just an election- it is a plebiscite for the Marcos legacy. It is the culmination of a decades-long rebranding of a political family.

The electorate of 2016 is not the electorate of 1986 and the electorate of 1992. It is a new electorate- one which the Marcoses have spent a lot of time and money on.

The Marcoses have expanded their influence beyond the Solid North and beyond the old Kilusang Bagong Lipunan network.

They have outlived their harshest critics- Ninoy and Cory are dead, and the Aquino name is not as brilliant as it was before. Their son, incumbent President Noynoy Aquino, is nowhere near the heroic figure he was in 2010. The old guard- Nene Pimentel, Rene Saguisag and Teddyboy Locsi- are all out of power. Joker Arroyo just passed away.

More importantly, they have changed their image among a cynical and disillusioned segment of social media- which probably also supports a “Iron Fist” candidate (Duterte! Probably why Marcos tried to partner with him) and will likely be a major part of the 2022 Presidential election.

But before 2022, the Marcos family- and Sen. Marcos- have one more hurdle to jump. It is 2016. 2016 will probably be the last year when the days of Martial Law will be an issue against the Marcos family. If they so succeed in gaining a mandate, they can simply say: “The Filipino have forgiven us and have accepted our return”.

In a way, none of this is new to the Marcos family. A person with a critical appeciation for history will understand that THE PLEBISCITE was Ferdinand Marcos’ greatest and most favorite tool.

It was a plebiscite that ratified the 1973 Constitution. It was a “plebiscite” (so to speak) of the Supreme Court in Javellana vs. Executive Secretary that legitimized martial law and the New Society. It was a series of “plebiscites” and elections that allowed Ferdinand Marcos to stay in power. And it was the plebiscite- in the form of a snap election, and later a ragtag, impromptu revolution among unlikely allies- that finally pushed Ferdinand Marcos out of power.

And it was a series of elections that have slowly brought the Marcoses back into power. Now we will have to see if the referendum of  2016 will give the Marcoses the affirmation they seek. It is Javellana all over again, political style: “This being the the decision of the electorate, there is no further obstacle to the return of the Marcos family”