Bongbong Marcos and the Bicolanos
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr., 58, carries what still is the most venerable political name in recent Philippine history—that of Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, the country’s longest-serving president (20 years, from December 1965 to February 1986) and by many reckoning, the most brilliant and best president ever.
The elder Marcos died a lonely man, on Sept. 28, 1989 at 72, from complications from heart, lung and kidney disease. He had been in exile since 1986 in Hawaii.
FM’s remains are entombed at a family mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte, denied his right to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Marcos was the country’s most bemedalled hero, with at least 27 medals, more than the medals of Audie Murphy, America’s most be-medalled combat soldier.
As president, Marcos saved the Philippines from falling into the hands of the communists, prevented its dismemberment by Muslim separatists, rescued it from the worst energy crisis ever in the early 1970s (when crude price rose 44-fold, from $2 per barrel to $88 in 10 years), achieved rice self-sufficiency, expanded democracy with barangay elections, had a bold foreign policy by recognizing China and the USSR ahead of the US, and gave his countrymen a sense of purpose and vision. “This country can be great again,” he declared.
The Marcos son is running for vice president to fulfill “an obligation to our people to help change the course of our nation’s history by banishing the politics of personality which, to me, is one of the primary causes why our country today has become a soft state where the rich become richer, the poor become poorer, graft and corruption is endemic, the drug menace pervades, injustice is the norm and government incompetence is accepted.”
There is another reason for the young Marcos’ search for higher public service —to seek vindication for a once revered political family that has been grossly demonized by the Yellow Forces of Corazon Cojuangco Aquino and her son, Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, the incumbent president.
The Yellow Forces parlayed necropolitics to grab two presidencies—Cory’s from February 1986 to June 30, 1992, and BS Aquino’s, from June 30, 2010 to June 30, 2016.
Cory was propelled to the presidency because her husband, the hugely popular opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr., was assassinated at the Manila airport while descending from a plane on Aug. 21, 1983. Cory blamed the elder Marcos for the murder. Still, the Cojuangco-Aquino family even after two presidencies with combined length of 12 years, never was able to come up with proof that Marcos was the murder mastermind.
Could it be that FM was innocent as he insisted to me when I interviewed him three days after the assassination?
President BS Aquino III is again exhuming necropolitics from its ignominious graveyard to push the vice presidential candidacy of Congressman Maria Leonor “Leni” Gerona Robredo. Noynoy has likened Leni to his late mother, Cory. Both became widows; Ninoy Aquino because of an assassination in August 1983, Jesse Robredo because of a plane crash, in August 2012.
Actually, the Marcoses cannot be blamed for Jesse’s untimely death in a plane crash. The crash was caused by negligence plain and simple. Or bad weather.
President BS Aquino wants to make Leni’s battle royale with Bongbong Marcos a fight between dictatorship and democracy.
Actually, the vice presidential tussle is one between Ilocano bagnet and Bicol chili.
Bongbong’s five vice presidential opponents claim Bicol as their regional constituency—Robredo of Camarines Sur, Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero of Sorsogon and Gregorio Honasan of Sorsogon, and Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano, both of Albay. Alan’s wife is from Albay.
Can crispy bagnet win over spicy Bicol Express?
Per Pulse Asia, the Bicolano vote is about 6 percent of some 55 million voters or 3.3 million votes. On the other hand, the Ilocano vote is 7 percent of 55 million or 3.85 million. But then a third of Mindanao is probably Ilocano because many of the island’s families were migrants from Ilocandia. Like the Pimentels which produced two senators Aquilino Jr. and his son, incumbent Koko Pimentel III.
Bicol votes 98 percent for a Bicolano candidate. In 2013, four of 12 elected senators were Bicolanos—3rd placer Alan Cayetano with 17.58 million or 43.79 percent of total senatorial votes; 4th Escudero 17.5 million or 43.60 percent; 9th Trillanes 14.1 million or 35 percent; and 12th Honasan 13.2 million votes or 32 percent.
During FM’s time, the Solid North went about 90 percent for him every time.
Divide Bicol’s 3.3 million by five, and you get less than 660,000 for each of the five Bicol Express VP bets. If the 2013 senatorial elections were an indication—Alan, Chiz and Robredo would probably get no more than one million votes each in Bicol, with the balance split by Trillanes and Honasan.
Congressman Robredo brings to public service a housewife’s warmth and caring for her dependents, a widow’s sense of purpose and gutsiness, and a lawyer’s advocacy and sense of justice in fighting for the rights of the poor, dispossessed and marginalized.
Divide 90 percent of 3.85 million Ilocano votes by one and you get more than 3.47 million votes. Statistically, thus, Bongbong Marcos has the upper hand in the VP derby. The Ilocanos have been hungry for a leader they can rally behind to since 1986. That leader is Bongbong.
FM Jr.’s strengthens if Duterte throws his hat into the presidential ring. You combine then the Solid North of Marcos and the Solid South of Duterte.
Cebuano is the largest voting bloc, 26 percent or 14.3 million out of 55 million voters. In central Philippines, the Visayas, Bongbong could get half of the votes because of the influence of his mother, Imelda, who is from Leyte. The Warays are 5 percent of the vote, equivalent to 2.75 million votes.
If Duterte gets 29 percent of 14.3 million, a conservative ratio, he garners 4.15 million votes. Combine that with Bongbong’s 6.55 million (Ilocano and Waray) votes and you already have over 10 million votes, a formidable start. In the 2010 presidential elections, former President Joseph Estrada placed second with 9.8 million votes.
Duterte is also strong in Metro Manila, with 21 percent of the vote—almost the same as Jojo Binay’s 22 percent, per Pulse Asia poll of September 2015.
In Bongbong’s case, Metro Manila is the bailiwick of her mother, the first lady who was governor of the national capital region for 11 years. Metro Manila has 14 percent of the national vote, or 7.7 million votes (7 is the lucky number of Marcos). In 1992, when she ran for president, Imelda won in Tondo, Manila. She has built Metro Manila’s famous hospitals—Heart Center, Lung Center, Kidney Center, Children’s Hospital, in addition to the Cultural Center, Folk Arts Theater, and the Philippine International Convention Center.