Carve new image or get even? Historian cites challenges of new Marcos admin

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 25 2022 11:40 PM | Updated as of May 26 2022 01:41 AM

The family of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., led by his mother, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, attend his proclamation as winner of this year's presidential elections, at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City on May 25, 2022 . Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
The family of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., led by his mother, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, attend his proclamation as winner of this year's presidential elections, at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City on May 25, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News


MANILA — Hounded by his family's past, President-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. may head a government that will either paint a new image for them or seek revenge against their detractors, a historian said Wednesday.

"The most fundamental question that I think will hang over this administration is, 'Will it be focused on making a name for itself, or getting even?' And what balance of the two will there be because at the end of the day, every president is human?" Manuel ‘Manolo’ Quezon III told ANC when asked about other challenges that the new Marcos administration may face.

"Will they look to the better angels of their natures, or is this payback time? The fate of certain corporations will be looked at very closely for signs of this," he added.

"The question on what will happen to critics, not just within official circles but in the wider world, will also be looked at."

Marcos' father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., was in power from 1965 until 1986. The older Marcos imposed martial law from 1972 until 1981, a period marred by corruption and human rights abuses.

Three years after the assassination of Marcos' Sr.'s most vocal critic, former Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., the EDSA People Revolution ousted the Marcoses and were forced into exile in the United States.

Cases were filed against the family and some of their ill-gotten properties were recovered by government.

Marcos' presidential candidacy was also challenged based on tax issues during the time the family was still in power. The Comelec junked the petitions, but the Supreme Court has been asked to resolve the issue.

His rivals brought up as well their family's P203 billion estate tax liabilities during the campaign period.

Victims of his father's martial law, meanwhile, said they cannot accept Marcos as the country's next president.

“Mabigat ang pinagdaanan ng aming pamilya matapos ang 1986. Kung ano-anong kaso ang hinarap namin, kung ano-anong pangungutya at pang-aapi,” Sen. Imee Marcos, the president-elect's sister, told reporters on Wednesday.

(We went through so much post-1986. We faced so many charges and insults.)

With Bongbong's successful presidential bid, their family is “very, very grateful" for the “second chance”, Imee said.

Quezon said that even though history was "repurposed and made useful politically for the second Marcos administration, it also still weighs heavily on them."

While the victory of Marcos in this year's presidential election may be his family's vindication from controversies, new challenges arise.

"This is something that I had to remind people. This, in our political culture, election is absolution for someone who is facing a controversy. You can agree or disagree about it, but that is how it's often been perceived," said Quezon.

"In that sense, the Marcoses can claim vindication resulting in a restoration that brings itself its own set of problems among which is, together with your new allies, you have to please a lot of people who remained loyal to you through thick and thin over the years, and who maybe have also suffered with you and therefore feel this is the time to get something back."

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He may also need to find ways to "pacify" his allies and the allies of Vice President-elect Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte and his running mate in Halalan 2022.

"There's nothing in the way of the President-elect getting what he wants except his ability to... keep happy what is a big but independent-minded coalition because half of it is Marcos loyalists and the other half are Duterte loyalists, and they do not necessarily have the same interests especially on the long-term," said Quezon.

Even the consolidation of his would-be Cabinet may also be challenging for Marcos relative to his family's past because, according to Quezon, "the incoming president's biggest obstacle was getting over the reputation of his father for assembling competent" officials.

"In that sense, he has an uphill climb ahead of him."

After his proclamation by Congress, the 64-year-old incoming leader on Wednesday night asked for prayers and well-wishes, as he described his win as "humbling".

"I promise you that we may not be perfect but we will always strive to perfection," he told reporters. 

"So I ask you all, pray for me, wish me well. I want to do well because when a president does well, the country does well, and I want to do well for this country."

— with a report from Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News