When Filipinos ousted the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., after 21 years of dictatorship and 17 years of martial Law, the Filipino masses pledged to say no more to Ferdinand Marcos through the calls of “Never Again to Martial law!”. In recent times, the call, “Never Again to Martial law!” was yet again used when Filipinos began to see the parallelism of Marcos Sr. and Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency through their militarized responses, billions of debts and their same tactics of authoritarian rule.
As Filipinos approach the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio — the children of both dictators — are expected to commemorate the killings, abductions and corruption as they claim their “victory’” for the 2022 elections.
So what do the 2022 election results mean for Filipinos and the Philippines after having been impacted by both the Marcos and Duterte dictatorships and with a joint Marcos-Duterte dictatorship on the way? How does this impact the rest of the world and what does it demand of the rest of the world?
Accumulated power rigged the election
May 9, 2022, was election day and Marcos Jr claims to have won by a “landslide”, with 31 million votes. But this is smoke and mirrors.
In the months leading up to the election, Koalisyon Kontra Daya (Coalition Against Fraud) pointed out that Imee Marcos, Marcos Jr.’s sister, is on the current Philippine Senate Committee for Electoral Reforms, which poses a conflict of interest. Rey Bulay, a Duterte appointed commissioner, threatened to jail Filipinos and call up the Armed Forces against critics. Lastly, as overseas ballots were sent out, there were reports of pre-shaded ballots.
The election day itself was marred by many reports of fraud including rampant vote-buying, over 1800 vote-counting machines malfunctioning, and a heavy police and military presence — all of which are against the electoral rules. Yet, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) still declared it a clean election. These instances of widespread voter disenfranchisement and electoral fraud are made possible by the fraudulent conduct of the COMELEC.
The ability to run for office remains a democratic right, even in contexts like the Philippines. However, the fact that the children of two dictators – who specifically used their presidencies to steal from and imprison, torture, disappear and kill millions of Filipinos with impunity, which their families still benefit from – were permitted to also run for political office, raises questions about whether the elections were ever democratic to begin with. From all that was carved out months before and leading up to May 9, it is apparent that the elections and discrepancies that unfolded were just one of the products that were orchestrated to restore the Marcos and extend the Duterte dictatorships.
Far from claims that Filipinos have forgotten their history, these glaring discrepancies are what western, and other elitist perspectives have dangerously overlooked. The forgotten history in this context was the prominent cronyism and corruption of the Marcos’ tyrant regime, which continues to play an active role in the Philippines including the rigged 2022 elections.
A tale of two dictators: Marcos and Duterte
The reported discrepancies of the 2022 elections closely resemble what happened 36 years ago when Marcos Sr. committed electoral fraud. To prolong his term despite growing public disdain for his administration, Marcos called a snap election in 1986, a year before the regularly scheduled presidential election. While COMELEC reported Marcos’ win, a manual count by the National Movement for Free Elections — an election watchdog that COMELEC has since recognized as its “citizen arm” — revealed his defeat to his political rival, former president Corazon Aquino, whose husband, former senator Benigno Aquino, had been shot down and killed by the military upon returning from being exiled by the Marcos administration.
This was already well into Ferdinand Marcos’ authoritarian rule. Prior to the 1986 elections, the 1969 election was said to be the dirtiest election that involved ballot-snatching, vote-buying and terrorism. Then in 1972 Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081, which imposed Martial Law. Supposedly signed to counter “communist insurgency”, it was actually used to prolong Marcos’ presidency, and murder or abduct any opposition whether they may be politicians, student activists, Indigenous Peoples, journalists, farmers and many others who spoke against his administration.
Under the US-backed dictatorship of the Marcos regime, there were over 70,000 incarcerations, 3257 extrajudicial killings, 77 forced disappearances, and 35,000 tortures. To instil further fear, 2502 of the victims of extrajudicial killings were purposely placed in areas where they would be discovered and were found mutilated. The actual numbers are presumed to be much higher given the impunity that Marcos cultivated and was afforded by key supporters, including former U.S. president Richard Nixon.
Years after Filipinos deposed the dictator’s family (when the US allowed them to live in Hawaii), another indistinguishable strongman was elected yet again in 2016–funded by the Marcoses. Only three months into his term, Rodrigo Duterte granted the Marcoses’ longtime request to have their patriarch’s body buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani – a resting place for Philippine national heroes. Despite previous presidents denying this request and widespread outcry, Duterte permitted Marcos’ burial with full honours.
These are markers of long-standing ties between the Marcos and Duterte regimes, together with how they have directly enabled and benefited from one another. Duterte has continued ruling with an iron fist. His administration committed countless atrocities through his “war on drugs” and “Anti-Terror Law”, including links to the Davao Death Squad as a former mayor of Davao City. Immediately after being announced as president, Duterte likened himself to Adolf Hitler, promising to commit genocide against those suspected of substance use and/or trafficking. True to his word, Duterte’s regime claimed over 30,000 lives without due process. Human rights advocates, legal experts, and witnesses maintain that the actual death toll is much higher and largely consists of members of the urban poor, much like the deaths under Marcos’ administration.
Duterte had deepened the culture of impunity through the instituionalized nature of red-tagging through National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and enforcement of his Anti-Terror Law. Legal experts, human rights defenders, activists and many others (including Duterte’s own colleagues) have criticized the Anti-Terror Law for enhancing police power, risking more death and human rights abuses. The vicious and sustained attack against opposition and progressives became even more prominent through red-tagging and trumped-up charges.
In particular, it took away essential protections such as the need for police to obtain warrants before detaining anyone, and enabled more police brutality, state violence and extrajudicial killings. That the Anti-Terror Law was specifically passed after the police and military murders of four people suspected of being linked to an Islamic insurgency in the Philippines, also signals who is considered a “terrorist,” especially as “terrorism” is defined very broadly in the Anti-Terror Law and has been used to criminalize, kill and disappear those who have spoken against Duterte as well as historically marginalized communities such as Muslim Filipinos, Indigenous Peoples, fisherfolk, farmers and peasants supporting agrarian reform as well as their supporters.
Marcos-Duterte 2022: The People against the tandem of terror
Through the 2022 presidential elections, both Marcos and Duterte regimes were determined to obtain power. This time, they masked it under the tagline of Unity. In addition to using their ill-gotten health and continuous efforts to write history, they used growing online propaganda tools.
In the 2020s, a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower revealed that Marcoses reached out to the company through online data. During Duterte’s win, Pro-Duterte views on Facebook comments and usage of foul words and threats became typical for Filipinos scrolling on social media. Today, we are seeing increasing misinformation on social media, which became more massive when the campaigns started in February 2022. The accounts of troll farms or troll armies became apparent propaganda tools within Philippine politics.
Along with the corruption, human rights violations and deception against Filipinos, both Marcos and Duterte families continue to forsake and distance themselves from any blame in terms of human rights. The dangers of both families being in power and instilling their bloody legacy created the foundations to rehabilitate or repeat it. While Marcos Jr. has distanced himself from any blame, Sara Duterte has not only supported Duterte’s war on drugs and Anti-Terror Law but has vowed to continue and expand the war her father waged.
What the Marcos-Duterte tandem represents is not only the nepotism and hoarding of power in Philippine politics. They have demonstrated that they will continue their fathers’ death-making. The similarities between their political dynasties also show the co-constructive relationship between the Marcos and Duterte dictatorships or how they have benefited from and allowed each other to persist. As a result, a joint Marcos-Duterte administration could potentially result in violence exceeding their fathers’.
The current opposition of the Marcos-Duterte tandem, outgoing vice-president Leni Robredo and outgoing senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan were both pursuing pro-people policies. Both are lawyers and human rights advocates who have been critical of Duterte’s human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings and condemned the dark history of Martial law. As the 2016 Vice President, Robredo continued to speak out despite misogynistic remarks and jabs for being in the opposition; this eventually led to her being advised to stop attending cabinet meetings in 2016.
In 2021, despite Duterte’s claim that no funding was available for Typhoon Odette relief efforts due to the pandemic, as well as his administration’s active blockage and criminalization of mutual aid efforts, Robredo continued to support aid during natural disasters, especially during the start of the pandemic. Through these efforts, it is no wonder why she has garnered mass support among the Filipinos. Farmers, workers, community organizers, students, celebrities and progressive candidates continued to hail her and Pangilinan’s electoral campaign from the ground up.
You cannot simply vote liberation into office.
Despite the potential in Robredo’s presidency, there is no guarantee that she will be voted into office or that her time in office will not come with its flaws. After all, Marcos’ successor, former president Aquino was criticized for the Mendiola Massacre. The state killed several attendees at a farmer-led protest; and for agrarian reform more broadly, especially as she was part of a wealthy, land-owning family.
Whether the Philippines sees the future that Robredo promises, the 2022 elections are still a crucial moment. Robredo’s campaign, through which hundreds of Filipino youth volunteered their time in the hopes of securing a different future for themselves and those to come, speak to the critical role that the masses play in reshaping Philippine society. That is, part of Robredo’s (or any other political leader’s) popularity does not solely come from her political office, but the community members who have organized themselves and each other – in many cases, long before her time in office – to support her leadership. And so, even if Robredo wins, we have seen the cultivation of movements that can later serve the role of holding her accountable if needed.
While Robredo’s possible loss could not only result in devastation but a dictatorship, the mobilization that emerged during her campaign is a hopeful reminder of the power of the people. While we may not (yet) be seeing an exact replay of the EDSA Revolution, the Philippine people have already demonstrated that they will not stand idly by and have begun to lay the groundwork for pushing back if another dictator is elected.
The people’s movement in the Philippines has been imperative to both Philippine history and politics. The Filipino masses have organized to depose not one but two presidents for their rampant crimes and corruption, and also provided solutions of mutual aid that further highlight the strength of the masses. The Filipino masses are the key solutions to challenge the rising tandem of Marcos-Duterte.
Filipinos didn’t forget, the West did
During the campaign season, the Filipinos affirmed that no history was forgotten. While of course, it is undeniable that there are Marcos loyalists who still claim that Marcos Sr.’s era was the Golden Age. The claims for this narrative have been debunked by activists, economists and scholars, and the support for Robredo also confirms that Filipinos have never forgotten their history. Perhaps it is the West that has forgotten. Perhaps it has forgotten the driving force that the U.S. in particular, has played in creating, enabling and strengthening the Marcos and Duterte regimes, both of which it funded. And perhaps it has forgotten the continuing control that it still tries to assert over political, social, economic and cultural life in the Philippines for its own benefit – from accessing military bases in the Philippines that the U.S. secured through the U.S. Military Bases Agreement with Marcos in exchange for $500 million, to the $193.5 million in U.S. military aid to Duterte, part of which funded his war on drugs.
Perhaps the West has forgotten Nixon’s own war on drugs, which was used to target, surveil, criminalize, harm and kill urban poor, Black, Latinx and other marginalized communities; and functioned as a blueprint for the war on drugs elsewhere, including the Philippines. Perhaps the West has forgotten its own overreliance on police, prisons and punishment to neglect, harm and kill marginalized communities who they deem undeserving of care and life, and to silence people and groups who push back, especially those from marginalized communities.
According to Joy Sales, these examples are just some of the many ways that the “tools of authoritarians – anti-narcotics campaigns, martial law and the police – are products of U.S. imperialism.” From the torture methods that were directly borrowed from Spanish, American and Japanese forces to the parallels between Duterte’s and Nixon’s wars on drugs, we see how colonial and imperial forces imposed deadly forms of repression and punishment. This is not to say that punishment did not exist in the pre-colonial Philippines, but rather that systems of accountability were different from what colonialism and imperialism imposed.
As we witness President Biden congratulate Marcos on his supposed win and express his desires to strengthen the U.S.’s “alliance” with the Philippines, we see how an amnesia is also a tool of imperial authoritarians. Biden’s message conveniently forgets the colonial master/subject dynamic underlying the U.S.’s relationship with the Philippines and marks his refusal to support calls for global solidarity from Filipinos demanding the rejection of the Marcos-Duterte tandem. It was not just Bongbong Marcos trying to rewrite history to continue his father’s violence: the U.S. continues to rewrite its own colonial and imperial history in order to hide the ways it still enables and commits violence against Filipinos. Part of securing the free Philippines then requires recognizing how U.S. imperialism is woven into the dictatorships Filipinos have lived under and unweaving those threads.
The struggle for liberation is global
In talking about the overlap between migrant justice and Black and Indigenous struggles for decolonization and abolition, Sikh activist and writer based in unceded Coast Salish territories in so-called Vancouver, Harsha Walia tells us how different struggles are often thought of as separate or in isolation, but that in reality, they are not just interconnected or parallel but constituted through each other. The rigged 2022 Philippine Presidential Elections come at the same time as Israel’s assassination of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aqla; the BC government’s imprisonment of Indigenous land defender Will George of the Tseil-Waututh First Nation for protecting his peoples’ ancestral and unceded lands against the Transmountain pipeline; the US arrest of Kupuna or Hawaiian Elders for protecting Mauna Kea in Hawaii, where Marcos was exiled, before the eventual dismissal of their cases; and the recent racially motivated, anti-Black shooting in Buffalo.
We see how colonial, imperialistic, and capitalist systems and the living histories they come from, oppress Black, Brown and other marginalized communities together with the land and other beings everywhere. We see the interconnected ways that these systems and the people who benefit from them do so–from violently silencing those who threaten their legitimacy to actively harming the people, places, and things they consider undeserving of care. In recognizing these connections, we begin to also see direct ways these systems work together to oppress.
However, we are also then able to better understand how these systems work, how they can be dismantled, and how we can do that together. By the same token, however, because oppression and power are so contextual, it is important to also recognize that oppression impacts different people and groups differently. And when we learn about the specific ways that others are affected by oppressive systems, we can better understand how to show up for one another in appropriate, informed, respectful and ethical ways.
In order to identify our commonalities, honour our diversity, and live out solidarity, we need to create and sustain relationships with one another and build people power. Not relationships that are transactional or superficial, but ones in which we continue to un/learn about each others’ histories, experiences and interests with and directly from one another; support one another on our respective terms; and commit to caring for those relationships and the responsibilities within them. Solidarity and people power help ensure everyone and everything is cared for, not only because we are bound to one another, but because this creates worlds of collective liberation.
Many continue to take to the streets in the Philippines to demand a democratic vote, a global rejection of a Marcos-Duterte dictatorship, and for an established peoples’ democracy in honour of those who came before us, those here now, those to come, and in solidarity with all those fighting for their own and collective liberation. We need to show up for Filipinos in their struggle for democracy and liberation which specifically demands rejecting the Marcos-Duterte tandem, and supporting national sovereignty, human rights, socio-economic reforms and genuine development, and just and lasting peace in the Philippines, which is encompassed in Bayan Canada’s 20-Point Program.
We must also dismantle the ways we are implicated in their struggle, such as Canadian mining companies’ violence against Indigenous communities in the Philippines. To secure those worlds, we must also extend support to every oppressed people’s liberation struggles on their respective terms, from Palestine to here in so-called Canada and everywhere in between. Marcos was not ousted by any government, it was the people themselves. And as the people have done and/or continue to do at EDSA, Mauna Kea, Kanesatake, Land Back Lane; in South Africa, Haiti, Ferguson, Minneapolis, Sudan, Chile, Palestine, or the Yintah, and everywhere in between. The struggle for liberation is global, and we can abolish all oppressive systems and build or in many cases, rebuild worlds of collective liberation.
Did you like this article? Help us produce more like it by donating $1, $2, or $5. Donate