The culmination of the 2016 elections has been breathtaking to watch. Many of us were in awe of Rodrigo Duterte’s landslide victory — one so great that the combined votes of his proceeding opponents, Mar Roxas and Grace Poe, would have been barely enough to beat him. We were amused at the tie during the mayoral race in Bocaue, Bulacan, which ended in a coin toss. (The loser got to keep the coin, hopefully.)
But more than anything, our collective consciousness was fixed on one particular race — the one between vice presidential candidates Leni Robredo and Bongbong Marcos. Perhaps what is so extraordinary about this particular battle in the elections is not because the numbers were so close, but because it broke open an integral discussion on our national memory. Once again, a woman is beating a Marcos in a fair fight, and calls of cheating — ironically, from Bongbong this time — came to light. With so many people rallying behind Bongbong (both young and old), it made many of us question if the Philippines has truly emancipated itself from decades of oppression.
Many of us may not have personal stories from martial law. Our experiences are from those who have lived it and those who have died from it. We learned about it in the same way: in the classroom, from books, by the kitchen table as our grandparents made dinner. The martial law narrative is clearly delineated between those who were ignorant of its horrors and saw it as a golden age for economy and culture, and those who are aware of the systematic abuse committed against an entire nation.
But no matter who tells the story, it can’t be denied that martial law happened. Theft was committed. People died. People suffered. People went outside to play basketball and never came home. These are not opinions; these are actual accounts of a sordid history, and it is horrifying to see that so many people are aware of what it has done to the Philippines, but choose to be ignorant of its effects. Effects, by the way, that we continue to suffer from. For example, our taxes will continue to pay for the Marcos administration’s debt of billions (in US dollars) until 2025.
This is not to be taken lightly. But instead of appropriate rage at what Marcos and his ilk have done, people glorify those who are responsible for a nation’s suffering. Among young people, this manifests in the way they have turned Sandro Marcos, Bongbong Marcos’ son, into some kind of sex symbol. “Anakan mo ako, Sandro!” they say on Twitter. Even Bongbong once joined in on the banter. When someone tweeted him, “Kapag po ba nanalo kayong vice president, mabibigyang solusyon niyo po ba yung feelings ko para sa anak niyong si Sandro?” Bongbong replied, “Desisyon na ni [Sandro] yan. Matters of the heart should be fair to all.”
Without any context, this would have been a cute exchange between a proud dad and his son’s admirers. And these admirers pile up to the thousands, every one of them promising the moon to a man whose family would have stolen it if they could. They pledge their allegiance to Bongbong’s son by saying that his dad was cheated. Worst of all, so many of them have chosen to whitewash history to the point of saying things like, “Mababait ang mga Marcos, some people don’t just see it because they focus on the martial law thingy.”
A thingy. That is what they call it. Sure, they can be mabait — lots of sociopaths also seem mabait — but to reduce years of suffering into a thingy is undoubtedly the height of disrespect. These are people who are wasting hard-earned money on tuition fees and allowances, because instead of the truth, instead of a vice presidential candidate and his family that refuses to apologize for what they have done, they see someone worthy of running our country again. They see someone who has been cheated on. They see someone like Sandro whose UK education, DJ career, and good looks are traits to be admired. Yes, these are traits to be admired, because isn’t it cool how he gets to do and be all these things? They do say that the best time to spend is when it’s on someone else’s dime. And, boy, doesn’t the Philippines seem like such a nice sugar daddy?
Young STAR contributing editor Erwin Romulo has said, “Sandro Marcos is not the problem. Sandro Marcos in 20 years is.” Like many of us, Sandro did not live through martial law, but he certainly has done nothing to help repair the damage done. His insistence that the election was rigged, his misplaced rage that the counts of president and VP votes are uneven (unaware, perhaps, of the concept of undervoting), promotes unhealthy behavior. When Sandro implied that the other camp cheated the elections with a tweet that ended with #DayaangMatuwid, it emboldened his supporters, and led some of them to say that his dad’s opponent should have died instead of her husband. Instead of healing, he has chosen to be divisive. He perpetuates the idea that victory can only be achieved through underhanded means, and that anyone who is not on his side is most certainly a crook. (The irony of hearing that from a Marcos is not lost on us.)
It is not Sandro Marcos’ fault that he was born into this family. But years after martial law, we are still a nation that cannot heal, because Sandro and his family refuse to apologize. This is a man who can’t even own up to an irresponsible tweet, and claimed that he didn’t delete it… it just kind of disappeared? History, once again revised perfectly. So how then can we expect him to own up to — or let alone, acknowledge — the sins of martial law? Instead of apologizing, they have people apologizing on their behalf, from presidential candidate Miriam Defensor-Santiago legitimizing Bongbong’s veep bid by choosing him as her running mate, to a fashion website like Stylebible romanticizing people’s problematic behavior towards Sandro. That is the most alarming thing about the 2016 elections: on and on, we keep making a joke out of ourselves. This is why “minamaliit lang [ang Pilipinas],” according to another Marcos apologist on Twitter. Why are we even surprised? If we’ve become the butt of all jokes, it’s because we insist on electing people who keep treating us like dirt. And more than the elections, I suppose that was really breathtaking and heartbreaking to watch.