See More on Facebook


The Marcos family’s last gasp

With President Duterte in power, the Marcos family is ascendant in Philippine national politics again.

Written by

Updated: October 8, 2018

The remains of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos have been buried at the national heroes’ cemetery; his only son and namesake has a live election protest against the incumbent vice president; his eldest daughter Imee, the governor of his home province of Ilocos Norte, is polling well among likely candidates for the Senate; and his wife Imelda, at 89, is on her third term as representative of the Marcos’ old congressional bailiwick.

But despite the obvious support of a still-popular president and a slick, long-running, well-funded social media operation promoting the Marcos worldview, the Duterte era may turn out to be the Marcos family’s last gasp. These years may be their last opportunity to win back the presidency and everything that goes with it.

It will certainly not be for lack of trying, or the help of friends in high places.

Duterte has been vocal about his gratitude to Imee, one of the few provincial governors to support his presidential campaign from the start. In fact, he wears his debt of gratitude so proudly it has even embarrassed her; in one of those occasional but characteristic moments in his stream-of-consciousness speeches when he makes what lawyers call admissions against self-interest, he said that Imee had donated money to his campaign. (He even told a tale of how Imee had to take out a loan to make the donation.) But in his official accounting of campaign contributions and election expenses (a legal requirement, upon pain of legal sanctions), Duterte did not list Imee Marcos as a donor. (She had to issue a denial.)

Duterte, at 73 the oldest Philippine president to serve in office, has also been vocal about the demands of the presidency and his desire to resign—if, that is, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. were vice president. As it is, Ferdinand Jr’s election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo remains pending, with the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Election Tribunal conducting a manual recount of the three “pilot areas” alleged by the Marcos campaign to have suffered election fraud. Every now and then, Duterte has asked, in public, about the status of the election protest. Marcos Jr., who won his first (and only) national election in 2010, when he ran for the Senate, lost the vice-presidential race by only a quarter of a million votes.

His sister Imee is poised to become the third Marcos to enter the Senate, after the two Ferdinands. The latest survey shows that she has a 94-percent national awareness rating, and ranks eighth out of some five dozen prospective candidates. Twelve Senate seats are at stake in the May 13, 2019 elections.

But underneath this veneer of inevitability, the Marcos family must only be too aware of its vulnerabilities.

If the trend holds, the Philippines will have another Senator Marcos in its political directory. But it is still early days. And the family’s track record in national elections since they were allowed to return to the Philippines has been checkered; Imelda lost in the 1992 presidential race, Ferdinand Jr. lost his first attempt at the Senate in 1995, he lost the vice-presidential vote in 2016. Their only win at the national level came in the 2010 Senate race.

Ferdinand Jr.’s election protest is also not the sure win his social media handlers are painting it to be. It isn’t a sure loss, either, but the odds are against him. Two of his three original causes of action have been rejected by the election tribunal. (The first one was an attempt to question the validity of the 2016 elections as a whole, including Duterte’s victory) In the ongoing manual recount, he has just lost his controversial bid to raise the “shading threshold” required to have the voter’s ballot considered valid. He has to prove election fraud in the three provinces he identified for his election protest to proceed; if he fails to prove it, however, that’s the end of the line for him.

Imelda’s third term as congresswoman ends next year; by law, she cannot run for reelection. As her latest appearances on TV also show, her cognitive faculties are no longer what they used to be. Imee and Ferdinand Jr. are only in their early 60s, so it is possible they both have more years in political office ahead of them. But no Marcos from the third generation is emerging as a political personality. Imee’s son MJ is a provincial board member on his first term; Ferdinand Jr.’s son Sandro has a sizeable following on social media. But they do not have the reputation, or the stomach, for Marcos-style politics.

The family’s erstwhile allies have also not stood still, waiting for the next generation to grow up. Perhaps most galling of all for the once all-powerful family, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would have been vice-president now if the so-called Solid North, the bloc of northern provinces famously loyal to old man Marcos, had held together for his son. Ferdinand Jr. won them overwhelmingly, but Robredo’s number of votes from the Solid North provinces was—wait for it—larger than Ferdinand Jr’s total losing margin.

None of this is to discount the Marcos family’s considerable advantages: great wealth; fame or infamy (no real difference to many); a revisionist campaign in full gear; President Duterte’s goodwill; not least, the ability to lie through the teeth about the Marcos dictatorship. But when Imelda retires, and if Ferdinand Jr. loses, not even a Senate seat for Imee can mask the distinct possibility: The Marcos family does not have a viable successor generation.

John Nery is the Associate Editor and Opinion Columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

ANN Members
About the Author: Asia News Network is a regional media alliance comprising 24 media entities.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here


Kidnapping of Meng due to US worries that it is in decline

An editorial in the China Daily argues that America’s insecurities are behind its arrest of a Huawei executive. Obviously, Washington intended to use Meng as a weight to gain an upper hand in the 90-day trade negotiations with China. Facing a rising China, the anxiety of Washington is understandable. Otherwise, it would not have risked everyone’s condemnation to ask Canada to hold Meng for ransom, a dirty trick. If the plot of Meng’s case becomes a conventional practice, large numbers of entrepreneurs around the world face the threat of losing their freedom because of unilateral long-arm law enforcement. The US is abusing its power. The country takes it for granted that all its illnesses can be cured by coercing others to take the medicines it prescribes. This trend has become increasingly evident since the presidential election in 2016. Beijing has made the sensible deci

By China Daily
December 14, 2018


Help Change the Narrative of Sexual Violence: Cindy Bishop

The host of Asia’s Next Top Model and feminist activist speaks about using video to spark important dialogues, and how social change starts with each of us. It’s funny, because I didn’t intend to spark a campaign. It all came from a moment of emotion. Back in March, ahead of the Songkran festival, I’d read a message from an official in a newspaper suggesting that women should dress conservatively to avoid sexual harassment. I was incensed. Sexual harassment, assault, and rape is never the woman’s fault. And yet it is the survivors who are scrutinized, not the perpetrators. Victim-blaming marginalizes the survivor and make it much more difficult to come forward and report the abuse. Not only do perpetrators of violence not get blamed, but they mostly go unpunished. 

By Asia News Network
November 26, 2018


Has the Khmer Rouge tribunal lived up to expectations

Quinn Libson examines whether the expensive and long lasting tribunal has been worth the money. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, also known as the Khmer Rouge tribunal, delivered a historic verdict on Friday. The court has found two former high-ranking Khmer Rouge cadres guilty of genocide against Cambodia’s Cham Muslim minority and ethnic Vietnamese. The two, Nuon Chea, 92, and Khieu Samphan, 87, are the last two surviving senior members of the brutal group that ruled Cambodia in the 1970s. Both men are already serving life sentences related to previous tribunal verdicts. When this case began, it initially included four Khmer Rouge senior officials. Two of the co-defendants died of old age before the trial could be completed. It is possible that this is the last case the tribunal will ever hear. It has thus far only convicted three individuals at a cost of more than US$300

By Quinn Libson
November 19, 2018


Sino-US ties are too important to neglect

Amity, not rivalry, good for Sino-US ties, argues Liu Ying. China and the United States are partners, not rivals, in trade, and the Sino-US relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. Cooperation between China and the US since the establishment of Sino-US diplomatic relations almost four decades ago has benefited the peoples of both countries, as well as the people in the rest of the world. Moreover, the US is China’s biggest trade partner while China is the US’ biggest creditor nation. The trade volume between the world’s first and second-largest economies reached $514 billion last year, and the two sides have great potential for deeper cooperation. True, China has a trade surplus with the US, but the US cannot resolve its trade deficit issue in the short term, because it is the long-term result of economic complementarity, industrial structure and

By China Daily
November 19, 2018


China slams outside meddling, provocation in South China Sea

China called upon states bordering the South China Sea to jointly work with Beijing to guard against external interference and disruption. Some countries outside the region constantly stir up trouble and brandish forces in the South China Sea, which goes against efforts made by China, the Philippines and other regional states to maintain peace and promote mutually beneficial cooperation, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a news conference with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr in the southern Philippine city of Davao. Regional countries should remain vigilant against such interference, and continue deepening solidarity and cooperation to build the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation, and not leave any opportunity for outside forces to exploit the situation, he said. Wang said China will discuss with the Philippines joint exploration of oil and

By China Daily
October 30, 2018


A word against regulation

Regulation of social media, like regulation of the press, should not be attempted less it offer another way for despots to control their population. When the printing press first began spreading throughout Europe in the 15thand 16thcenturies, it brought with it a revolution in and democratization of ideas. Scripture and scientific text were spread rapidly and was readily accessible to the masses for the first time. The church’s role as the gatekeepers and purveyors of information lessened with the advent of new technology. Upheaval was not far behind and the printing press played a central role in the reformation led by Martin Luther and the split of the Catholic Church. At this time, the leadership of the church tried to suppress the dissemination of these ideas and the technology which allowed them to flourish. But their attempts were in vain and the world entered a new epoch, one which eventually g

By Cod Satrusayang
October 29, 2018