News / Asia

    30 Years After Marcos’ Fall, His Son Aims for No. 2 Job

    Vice presidential candidate Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. talks to the media during his campaign sortie in Muntinlupa city, southeast of Manila, Philippines, Feb. 22, 2016.
    Vice presidential candidate Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. talks to the media during his campaign sortie in Muntinlupa city, southeast of Manila, Philippines, Feb. 22, 2016.
    Associated Press

    Three decades after a “people power” revolt ousted his dictator father, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was wooing voters on the campaign trail this week in his bid to become the Philippines' next vice president.

    He has a decent shot at fulfilling that ambition - polls show he is in second place among six rivals. If he wins, that would put him one step away from the presidency his father and namesake lost in the army-backed public uprising in February 1986 amid allegations of plunder and widespread human rights violations.

    Thirty years ago Thursday, Ferdinand Sr. and Imelda Marcos and their family fled the country after four days of massive street protests that saw rosary-clutching nuns and ordinary citizens kneeling before tanks and protesters sticking yellow flowers into the muzzles of assault rifles of pro-government troops.

    At a ceremony attended by President Benigno Aquino III, protest leaders and others re-enacted events from that historic revolt near a monument commemorating it.

    The younger Marcos made no mention of that uprising when he addressed listeners Monday in a poor village near Manila where supporters of his father live.

    Instead, he talked about how people have suffered under leaders since his father's departure, tapping into disillusionment over persistent poverty and corruption that plague the country, as well as an ongoing Islamic insurgency in the south. He did not utter the name of Aquino, a scion of a political clan whose longstanding rivalry with the Marcoses has shaped the country's political scene for decades.

    “Our leaders, instead of nurturing and helping us, sowed infighting and divided us into groups,” Marcos told the crowd of a few hundred villagers, many of whom chanted his nickname, Bongbong, and wore red, the color associated with his family.

    “I'm fighting to start a movement to unite the Filipino people,” he said on a sparse stage where he stood with a handful of local town officials, a far cry from the scenes of his family's heyday.

    Marcos, 58, appears to have a strong following among younger people who did not witness abuses during the 1972-81 period of martial law under his father or the popular revolt that overthrew him. When asked if he would eventually seek the presidency, he refuses to answer categorically.

    Filipino voters cast separate ballots for president and vice president, so often candidates from different parties are elected. The vote is May 9.

    “I am perplexed by the viability of Bongbong's candidacy for vice president,” said Gerard Finin of the East-West Center in Hawaii. “The longing for a stronger and more effective Philippine state has not faded.”

    Still, sidestepping the past is daunting in a country that still celebrates the Marcoses' downfall each year as a national reminder of how Filipinos once stood up to a dictatorship.

    In 1986, years before the era of Facebook, Twitter and cellphones, unarmed Filipinos rapidly massed along a highway in Manila by word of mouth and anti-government radio broadcasts to protect the defense minister, the military deputy chief of staff and their forces who defected from an ailing Marcos.

    The Marcoses lived in exile in Hawaii for several years and Ferdinand Sr. died there in 1989.

    Imelda Marcos returned to the Philippines in 1991. Her husband's remains were brought home later to his northern hometown of Batac, where his glass coffin has become a tourist attraction.

    Imelda, now 86, went to a popular Roman Catholic church in suburban Baclaran district of Manila in a wheelchair Wednesday to hear Mass with her aides, apparently unaware that a group of Marcos-era human rights victims were inside holding a program and recalling how they were tortured and abused by troops. Imelda Marcos, who appeared stoic, quietly left after the communion, according to witnesses.

    Despite her reputation for extravagance, best exemplified by the 1,220 pairs of shoes she left behind in the presidential palace after her husband's downfall, she and her children enjoy a degree of popularity, particularly in her late husband's northern political stronghold of Ilocos Norte province.

    She has faced some 900 civil and criminal cases in Philippine courts since 1991 but has never served prison time. Many of the cases have been dismissed for lack of evidence and a few convictions were overturned on appeal.

    Nearly 10,000 Filipinos won a U.S. class-action suit in 1995 against the Marcos estate for torture, summary executions and disappearances with jurors awarding US$1.9 billion to the victims. More than 7,000 have been compensated after years of waiting.

    Imelda Marcos twice ran unsuccessfully for president but won seats in the House of Representatives, where she is running for re-election to a third and final term in May 9 elections while a daughter is running unopposed as Ilocos Norte governor.

    Left-wing activists, including those detained during the period of martial law, gathered at a university Monday to launch a coalition against Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s vice presidential run, dubbed the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacanang, or CARMMA. Malacanang is the presidential palace in Manila.

    Coalition leader Bonifacio Ilagan, who was imprisoned and tortured during martial law, warned that if the young Marcos was elected, he would be tantalizingly close to capturing the presidency, which would give him a chance to redeem his family's name by rewriting history.

    “He's the number one defender of his father's regime,” Ilagan said. “If he wins as vice president, it's almost a complete reversal of what was won in 1986.”

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora