There’s so much that’s been happening in the world this year- the war in Ukraine, Roe v Wade, the economic crisis in Sri Lanka, and Boris Johnson signing off from the role of Prime Minister of the UK. However, amongst all this, is the political situation in the Philippines that I haven’t seen many media outlets cover. To be frank, I wasn’t aware of it either, till I logged onto Twitter and saw the same thing over and over- Filipinos panicking over the elections set to take place in 2022.
There was a lot of anxiety surrounding the country’s new presidency. And while they were divided about their votes, a recurring theme was that they did not want Ferdinand Marcos Jr., or Bongbong Marcos (BBM), to win the presidential elections. As I searched for articles that explained their panic, I was quite surprised to find I couldn’t find any reliable sources. All I found out was that Bongbong Marcos was the son of a war hero, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., in the Philippines. Marcos Sr. imposed a nationwide Martial Law on September 23, 1972- which disciplined Filipinos and helped their country a substantial amount. Confused, I nearly gave up researching until I came across this video. It explained what happened during Martial Law, from the point of view of people who had no idea- like me.
It is heartbreaking to hear mere fractions of the victims’ stories. But we must remember that these are only the survivors- countless lives may have suffered a fate much more horrific and are now forgotten about. Yet, knowing the consequences of going against the government, many brave souls resisted and drove Ferdinand out of the country; it is now known as the EDSA Revolution. The Marcos family fled to Hawaii, taking away with them around US$5-$10 billion from the Central Bank of the Philippines. Even after all this, no one knows the reality of the 14 years of Martial Law, meaning that their suffering and sacrifices would have been in vain.
The question is, why is there a false idea amongst today’s youth about the reality of their past?
It all comes down to how, even though the Marcos fled to another country, they were still able to influence the Filipino public. They tricked them into believing that Martial Law was a glorious time. Ferdinand’s massive spendings, the silenced media outlets, and the extreme violence against ordinary people- there were barely any records of these available. Based on the video above, it is evident that even schools did not teach historical facts.
All of this explains two things: why a lot of Filipinos voted for Bongbong Marcos (BBM), and why a lot of them did not.
One of BBM’s opposition was Leni Robredo. She contributed a lot to her country after she was elected as Vice President in the 2016 elections. Her anti-poverty program, Angat Buhay, focused on the areas of public education, rural development, food security and nutrition, women empowerment, universal healthcare, and housing and resettlement. It was a success, having helped over 500,000 families. The Office of the Vice President under her leadership also provided facilities such as swab tests, telehealth services, and PPEs, and raised funds for relief operations as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, BBM managed to secure a larger number of votes over her. People were understandably distressed- why would he win an election over a charitable woman? Some were suspicious of the elections and believed the votes to be rigged. Others even came up with proof that the votes were rigged.
Consequently, he was elected as the President of the Philippines on 9th May 2022. That day, on Twitter, it was all Filipinos could talk about. They’d left whatever they were doing to inform people about the Philippines’ actual history.
The next day, there was nothing. Not a single mention of the elections, like they didn’t happen. Some of them even deleted their accounts.
The Philippines already had a history of red tagging, meaning that individuals or organizations that are critical or not fully supportive of the government are blacklisted. These people have sometimes even ended up dead. So, just a day after BBM was elected, Filipinos couldn’t turn to social media to express their anxiety.
It did not end there. Adarna House is a popular children’s book publisher in the Philippines. They published illustrated books such as Si Jhun Jhun, to gently explain to children about the true horror of Martial Law. Adarna House posted on Instagram on 11th May 2022 about their new book bundle, #NeverAgain, which contained five such illustrated books, to keep people informed about it.
The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Director General Alex Paul Monteagudo accused the publishing house of “radicalizing” children against the government- ultimately red-tagging them. Augie Rivera, the author of Si Jhun Jhun, explained that he wrote the book in 2001, to depict significant lessons and events. He also strongly denied the allegations Alex Paul Monteagudo made, and further stated that he had no connection to the Communist Party, New People’s Army, or National Democratic Front. Something else I would like to highlight here is that Adarna House was red-tagged on May 12th, 2022- a mere three days since BBM’s presidency.
Currently, from an outsider’s point of view, there is barely any knowledge about what’s going on or even ways they could help. While there is nothing we can physically do, it is still critical to stay informed about situations like these- which is why I wanted to bring light to the Philippines, a seemingly normal country.