He is the son the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Although he claimed that he has a BA degree from Oxford University and an MA from Wharton School of business this was later proved to be false. His father was worried about his lazy and carefree attitude. He has no track record of good governance as governor of Ilocos. Being an absentee governor, he relied on his vice governor to fulfil his responsibility. Ilocos Norte remains a third class province. He proudly claimed the windmills of Bangui as his project although this was actually initiated and funded by a private company. As senator, he has no impressive record of legislation. He was one of those implicated in the pork barrel scam and asked by the Commission on Audit to return 10 million pesos.
As co-administrator of Marcos’ estate, Marcos Jr. blocked government efforts to recover the billions plundered by his father. The estate tax which was is now equivalent to 203 billion pesos remains unpaid. The Supreme Court had ruled the Bureau of Internal Revenue assessment as final and unappealable. His mother, Imelda Marcos who is the co-administrator of the Marcos estate, was convicted by the Sandiganbayan of seven counts of graft which is on appeal at the Supreme Court. She posted bail while facing 42 years in prison.
Even before the 2016 elections, Marcos Jr allegedly hired the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to assist him. This includes rebranding the Marcos image. Through lies, deceit and disinformation using social media and trolls and funded by ill-gotten wealth he is trying to make people believe that: a) the Marcos dictatorial rule was the golden era of the country; b) the Philippines deteriorated after the ouster of his father; and c) he will bring back the golden era with his victory. At the same time, his trolls continue to spread lies about his principal rival Leni Robredo.
Marcos Jr was able to convince Sara Duterte to run for vice president which brought many of Duterte’s supporters to his side. So far, he has not received Duterte’s endorsement. Duterte has publicly stated that he would not endorse Marcos Jr. He considers him a spoiled brat and a weak leader who relies on his father’s achievement. He even insinuated that Marcos Jr is a cocaine addict.
Marcos Jr is backed by a coalition of political parties and traditional politicians most of whom had been charged and imprisoned for plunder: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Estrada, Revilla, Enrile, et al.. In spite being convicted for failure to file income tax returns, Marcos Jr. has been favored by the Comelec in the disqualification case. The case will eventually reach the Supreme Court for a final ruling.
Aside from a promise of another golden era for the Philippines, Marcos Jr has not presented a clear vision and concrete program of government should he win. His constant message: unity is the answer to all our problems. He avoids debates believing that he can protect his big lead based on the surveys. His supporters believe that the country will prosper when he brings back the hidden wealth (Tallano gold, Yamashita treasures), pay the country’s debts, and distribute the gold to the people.
In spite being considered the frontrunner, he has difficulty drawing large crowds in his rallies and campaigns. He has to rely on “hakot” and giving 250-500 pesos. His campaign is focused on the poor (D and E classes) many of whom he believes can be bought, and those who are gullible and easily duped by lies and disinformation. Thus far, his reliance on social media and ground campaign by barangay leaders have bore fruit with his high survey results. However, he lacks volunteers who can carry out the ground campaign in the last months of the election.
In the most recent survey conducted by Pulse Asia, Marcos Jr remains at the top although there is a decline in his numbers. This downward trend is causing alarm to his campaign strategists and has resulted in more intense negative campaign and dirty tactics against his closest rival. A lead in surveys months before the elections does not guarantee victory as previous elections have shown. In 2016, Marcos Jr. was the frontrunner in the vice presidential election surveys but lost to Leni Robredo. It remains to be seen if he can keep the lead this time.
(To be continued tomorrow)
Father Amado Picardal is a Redemptorist priest and human rights and peace advocate. He was executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Committee on Basic Ecclesial Communities. He also served as co-executive secretary of the Commission of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation of the Union of Superiors General in Rome.