There is a raging “Stop Marcos” move led by victims of martial rule and they have vowed to carry this out to its logical end, which is to stop Senator Marcos from becoming the country’s vice president. As a victim myself (that Marcos Senior robbed us of our youth is painfully true), my e-mail has been receiving schedules of anti-Marcos protests with the plea to join. A journalist-friend who was also a witness to the brutality of the martial law years, has coined the phrase We Are Back, meaning the victims of Marcos are back to haunt the leadership ambitions of his son and namesake.
I will not vote for the young Marcos even with a gun leveled at my head. But neither will I join the organized protests to derail Marcos Jr.’s vice presidential quest. You know why? The rise of the young Marcos to political respectability has Mr. Aquino, yes, the president himself, as abettor and co-conspirator. Mr. Marcos is expunging the ghosts of the martial law years with assistance from the most unlikely source — Mr. Aquino
What is my basis for this seemingly out-of-this-word claim? I will elaborate.
The young Marcos did not decide on his vice presidential candidacy whimsically — he sought a favorable environment for the run. While not as bright as his dictator-father, he has a pragmatic, on-the-ground sense on what is political feasible or not. He canvassed — though we don’t know the modalities he used — the current sentiment and the demographics of the electorate. What he found out pleased him no end: the current environment will make him competitive in a vice-presidential race. While it is not yet (take note of “not yet”) the time to go for the biggest political prize, a vice presidential quest, he found out, was well within reach.
What is the principal feature of the environment that young Marcos found favorable? The deep alienation of so many Filipinos from the government and governing policies of Mr. Aquino. The deep disenchantment of so many Filipinos with Mr. Aquino himself. Those two sectors plus many more that have been put off by Mr. Aquino’s moralizing and attacks on the Marcoses and the Arroyos, all designed to paper over his many omissions as father of the nation.
The deep alienation and disenchantment has naturally worked well to obscure, if not deodorize, the brutality of the martial law years.
Exhibit A is the sector to which I belong, the small farmers.
Before 2010, there was no palpable nostalgia among small farmers for the Marcos years. Life went on without much talk on politics, without discussions on the political leadership and the leaders’ impact on our lives. Then came Mr. Aquino.
As Mr. Aquino’s brutal policies toward small farmers unraveled, the small farming sector slowly but steadily evolved politically. Its current form is what I call the “Period of Great Hankering.” Within the ranks of small farmers, there is now a deep nostalgia for the “genuine CLOAS, ” the agricultural extension workers in Enduro bikes, the Samahang Nayons and their access to farm loans, the golden years of the Masagana 99 and other government-supervised farm and food production programs. The Marcos time was also the last time that farmer-leaders often went to the Palace for consultations.
The years when irrigation water came on time for the planting season and came very cheap is a major part of this “Great Hankering.”
The nostalgia is deeper now with Mr. Aquino’s go-signal to eviscerate the original Land Bank (a bank for farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries) in favor of a megabank that Mr. Aquino can be proud of.
The Philippine economy is a “two-stop shop.” First, and the largest contributor, is the OFW sector. The second is the BPO sector. Both the major players and the workers (the de facto middle class) cannot identify themselves with Mr. Aquino. What they know of Mr. Aquino is not even positive, a plus for BBM and to rewrite history and usher in an age of national amnesia.
The OFW sector was institutionalized during the time of Ka Blas as labor minister. The groundwork for the BPO was laid by Mr. Ramos and enhanced by Mrs. Arroyo. In these two most important sectors, there is no memory of Mr. Aquino as a dynamic and aggressive interventionist and leader.
What the BPO workers are fully aware of is the endless and killing traffic gridlocks, the three-hour trip from Caloocan City to Makati City. The same with the OFW families – the endless nightmare of sending off departing OFW workers to the NAIA terminals.
To ordinary lives with just the barest of expectation from government and leaders, Mr. Aquino has been an abject and miserable failure. A six-year streak of GDP growth, a string of credit upgrades, the puff pieces by economic journalists on the supposed “wonkery” and “ reformist bent” of Mr. Aquino have no bearing on their lives.
This alienation from the leadership benchmarks Mr. Aquino cherishes and is proud of was perfectly captured by Mr. Marcos, who is well on his way to the vice presidency.
Next stop for BBM if the rage from the people of my generation is found inadequate is predictable – another Malacañang tenure for the Marcoses and a stinging rebuke of Mr. Aquino’s government for, by and of the 1 percent.