Camba: There are a few reasons. First, the foundations of democracy have eroded in the Philippines. Since 1986—post–Ferdinand Marcos—governments have chronically failed to deliver on public goods. Instead, political elites have focused on competing among themselves and monopolizing positions of power.
There’s a material reason, too. The Philippines is one of the most dynamic, fastest-growing economies in the world. While people’s incomes generally increased, there’s been a surge in income inequality. The economic elites are billionaires. People see this glaring inequality, and they see the ineffectiveness of government—and because of that, there’s a lack of trust in government and democratic institutions.
The quality of education in the country is bad. People point out that a lot of college graduates voted for Marcos, but that doesn’t account for the quality of college education in the Philippines. The poor quality of education in the country as a whole, largely due to government negligence, has led to a situation in which people pervasively can’t distinguish historical research from the kinds of disinformation and fake news that proliferate on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. And in this context, there’s been a massive disinformation campaign by the Marcos’s and their circle over the past 10 years to change the historical narrative of the Marcos family.
Bluhm: Many people all over the world still remember Marcos’s parents—they remember the popular uprising that ousted his father in 1986 for corruption and authoritarian misrule, and his mother’s collection of thousands of pairs of shoes made global headlines. Yet during the presidential campaign, Bongbong Marcos embraced his family history—how was he able to turn a legacy like that into an electoral advantage?
Camba: The symbolism of the Marcos name has changed since the early 1990s. The link between the name and corruption and dictatorship has weakened because people are frustrated with so many other things in their society.
In this environment, the Marcos family has been able to capture the narrative and tell the entire story of the last five decades from their perspective. From their point of view, it’s not even about contesting public knowledge about their corruption or trying to prove it false; it’s about cultivating an alternative narrative altogether.