Marcos mystique sharply divides overseas Filipinos ahead of 2022 poll

Published November 22, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Jun Concepcion

OFW Forum
Though ex-President Ferdinand Marcos died way back in 1989, his intriguing mystique apparently remains alive and is now unwittingly aiding in significant ways the presidential bid in May 2022 of his only son, Ferdinand Junior.

Bedeviled in two fronts by disqualification petitions and intensifying open attacks by President Rodrigo Duterte, “Bongbong” or “BBM” as he is called fondly called by supporters, remains widely regarded by analysts and observers as the man to beat in the presidential race in an anticipated fresh fight with stiffest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo.

Since Ilocanos are estimated to comprise up to 40 percent of the 300,000-odd Filipino community in Hong Kong, social media posts by Marcos fans understandably proliferate, clearly reflecting continuing support for the late strongman’s son. Gauging from their Facebook posts, Marcos supporters appear oblivious to his legal problems and even Duterte’s increasingly strident tirades. This apparent nonchalance and dismissive stance presumably stems from their inability to grasp the gravity of attempts to boot him out of the presidential race, as well as the extent to which Duterte’s attacks can imperil Marcos’ presidential ambition.  

Weighed by five petitions with the Commission on Elections to disqualify him from the 2022 presidential derby, Marcos is now doggedly fighting for his political survival. Petitioners have a common goal: kick out Marcos from the presidential race after his conviction by a Quezon city court over non-payment of taxes, estimated by ex-Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio to have spiked to over P200 billion including penalties. They cited perpetual disbarment from holding public office as penalty for his violation of the country’s tax laws.  

In spite of the formidable challenges that Marcos faces, his  legion of supporters in Hong Kong – and presumably, in other overseas jurisdictions – appear unfazed. “Accusations against BBM are nothing but lies,” “the yellow forces are simply sowing intrigues,” “we will vote for BBM no matter what” sum up most comments posted on online forums by Marcos fans, clearly reflecting their unwavering support for the former senator.  

Understandably, their devotion to Marcos has elicited an energetic pushback from his critics, mostly supporters of Robredo, who roundly defeated the former even after several vote recounts sought by the Ilocano icon.

Myles Enelym Silva, a domestic helper in Hong Kong, has scoffed at Marcos supporters in this city. “He has broken the country’s tax laws and he has been convicted by a court. He deserves punishment according to the law. Why can’t his supporters see this? Why should he get special treatment just because he bears the name of Marcos?”

Jericho Cruz, a long-time Filipino resident in Hong Kong, echoed Silva’s view. “When Marcos filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for president, which is a public document, he stated clearly that he was never convicted.”

“But this was a big fat lie because a court has convicted him for non-payment of taxes. How can he  deny this conviction? How can Marcos supporters be so dumb and blind not to see that he has violated the law? Can’t they see and understand that lawbreakers have no business at all occupying a very senior government post, especially that of the president? Marcos is shameless and those who will vote for him are shameful,” said Cruz.

Marcos’ critics have been reinforced by President Duterte who surprised many with his controversial remarks about the former senator in two separate public functions last week. The outgoing president has accused an unknown presidential candidate of using cocaine. And in a thinly-veiled attack on Marcos, Duterte has characterized one of the presidential candidates as someone who has “accomplished nothing,” a “very weak leader” and “without any credentials whatsoever except for being the son of his father.”

But Edison Triguero, an adviser of the Samal Bataan Group in Hong Kong, explained that despite Duterte’s tirades on Marcos, Ilocanos are unlikely to be deterred from voting for the ex-president’s son.

“Ilocanos are very regionalistic that’s why they’ve supported Marcos in every election that he has participated in. Duterte’s attacks on BBM are regarded as no more than intrigues and are far from credible. They will therefore have minimal impact on Ilocanos who will remain loyal to BBM, especially since many never got to know about the negative side of the Marcos martial law years,” he said.

As the 2022 national election approaches, the sharp division in Hong Kong’s Filipino community – and in other jurisdictions with sizable Ilocano contingents – is likely to intensify further. Among supporters of different presidential aspirants, those rooting for Robredo have been most active in mass actions, notably meet-ups and caravans, and they are likely to intensify further their activities. As Marcos fights for political survival and for his family to get back to Malacanang, his supporters should gear up for the intensifying momentum of mass actions across the world of those rooting for Robredo.

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