Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has denied receiving any “offer” from Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to run as the latter’s vice-presidential candidate in 2016. But Marcos did tell the media that any team that has a Marcos and a Duterte in it would be strong; “It’s just that simple.” (Lahat ng team basta may Duterte malakas. Lahat ng team basta may Marcos malakas. Ganun lang kasimple yan.) He also declared that his options are open, and he’s willing to run for “any post, whether it’s for barangay captain, mayor, or governor.”
Of course Marcos didn’t really mean that; what he seems to be interested in is the Vice-Presidency, and if he seems to be angling for that spot in a Duterte campaign for the Presidency, he is — although Duterte himself has not categorically declared that he will run in 2016. Mostly he’s been unwontedly coy about his intentions, and has explained away his recent “tour” of the country as a campaign, not for the Presidency, but for federalism.
Duterte and Marcos should stop all this hemming and hawing, and should go ahead and run together — although not for the reasons that some Filipinos who want such a tandem have advanced, among them the alleged need for national discipline and a strong hand in governance, which Duterte will supposedly provide by replicating his success in turning Davao City into one of the most peaceful cities in the country and the world through, among other devices, talking tough and doing tough.
Others seem to favor putting another Marcos in Malacañang — or at least another Marcos who would be only a heartbeat away from occupying that residence — because they think the Marcos period (1965-1986), particularly its authoritarian years (1972-1986) to have been the best rather than the worst of times.
These assumptions (some of them false) aside, a Duterte-Marcos run in 2016 would be an opportunity to test whether, among the many myths that have persisted in this country, the electorate would elect as President a mayor accused of multiple human rights violations, and whose capacity to replicate what he’s done for his city nationally is at least doubtful. What’s more, how a team with a Marcos in it would do in the polls would be an indication of whether the Marcos name still resonates enough in this country — despite martial law, despite the murder of Ninoy Aquino, despite the human rights violations, despite the country’s slide into bankruptcy — for another Marcos to once again come that close, and possibly attain, the Presidency. (It’s almost certain that, should become Vice-President in 2016, Marcos, Jr. would go for the Presidency by 2022.)
Davao City has been widely acclaimed for the safety of its streets, the efficiency of its police force, and its relatively low level of public sector corruption. But on the assumption that these indeed constitute parts of the reality of living in that city, can a President Duterte do a Davao throughout the entire country? Or, to put it another way, is Duterte still to reach his highest level of competence, or has he already reached it in the city of which he has been mayor for so long?
Governing a city isn’t the same as governing a country, which is why, despite the political system’s obvious flaws, the unwritten rule as far as presumptive Presidents are concerned is that they should at least have run for another national office such as the Senate first, or at least have held a national post before attempting residency in Malacañang. Corazon Aquino was an exception, but that was because the circumstances then were exceptional.
It does make “micro-” sense, despite the “macro-” madness of the political system, for anyone who would be President to be tested first — although, as our sad experience with certain occupants of that office has shown, it’s no guarantee of competence, honesty, or even sanity. Jejomar Binay has also been claiming that he can do for the Philippines what he claims to have done for Makati — which in the context of the vast corruption he’s being accused of sounds more and more like a threat rather than a promise.
Then there’s that little matter of the Davao Death Squad, which at one point Duterte practically admitted having at least encouraged — although, in another rare moment of indecision, he quickly denied any link when the Secretary of Justice threatened to file charges against him, and the Chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) reminded him that no one, not even government officials, can just kill people on mere suspicion. The mayor could have argued that despite the CHR, government officials and their retinues of military, police, and just plain thugs do kill — or have people killed — on even lesser grounds, and that, in fact, extrajudicial killings are continuing, with most of the perpetrators getting away with it. But of course he wouldn’t — he couldn’t — say that, if he’s running, in the first place, on a law and order platform, because the irony would (or should) be too much even for this country to bear.
As for Marcos, Jr., alias Bongbong, whose main distinction in recent times has been his unremitting campaign against the Bangsamoro Basic Law (which resonates with more than irony given his father’s provoking the Moro wars of the 1970s during his unlamented term), what’s really at issue is what exactly he’s done in the public service other than to protect his and his family’s interests, and what qualifies him for any post other than name recall. Has he defended the country’s sovereignty, fought for human rights, or even said anything that can be remotely interpreted as in furtherance of public interest? It’s not a matter of the sins of the father’s being visited upon the son, but a matter of how exactly the son has performed in office as an indication of what he can do once he’s in another post.
What would a Duterte-Marcos win in 2016 mean, should such a team indeed materialize? It would say volumes about the electorate’s current knowledge, memory of things past, and state of mind. But it would also indicate a serious disaffection with the present, implying at one and the same time that the voters agree with the partisans of Duterte that what the country needs is strong-arm leadership, and never mind if it should include the physical elimination, without the benefit of a trial, of presumed criminals.
As for a Marcos win, its implication would be simple enough: much of the electorate either does not remember, or have never known, much less understood, what the Marcos period was — and it couldn’t care less if Marcos, Jr. has ever done anything at all in the Senate other than to pander to what he thinks is public sentiment by inveighing against the BBL.
If Filipinos vote for Duterte out of sheer desperation, they would do so for Marcos out of pure indifference. That would make a Duterte-Marcos team a match made, not in heaven, but somewhere else.
Luis V. Teodoro is on Facebook and Twitter (@luisteodoro). The views expressed in Vantage Point are his own and do not represent the views of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.
Published in Business World
June 18, 2015