Artwork by Lloyd Evangelista

To be a Young Filipino amid the Marcos Jr. Regime (Part 1: A Farcical Repeat of History)

Chanting “Never Again Never Forget” with a Marcos in power can be seen as history’s sick joke as it seems to have repeated itself. But history never repeats itself exactly, and the situation objectively pushes us to struggle.

First of two parts.

Wars for public control in a worsening crisis

The situation of this country right now is heading in a bleak direction, and requires a major shift in policy in order to be effectively solved. We have soaring prices, decreasing real wages inherited from the previous administration, ineffective meddling with the agricultural sector, import dependence, several austerity measures to social services like education, environmental degradation, renewal of unequal military treaties with foreign powers, and dangerous forecasts on the foreign economies the Philippine state has been dependent on for the past years.

Despite President Marcos Jr’s first SONA, we see in the proposed National Expenditure Program for FY 2023 that the regime’s priorities lie with paying-off debt, increased funds for the militarization of the state and counter-insurgency, and the same big projects which like Duterte, is a return to infrastructure projects which do not address the core problems of industrialization and agricultural development for national self-sufficiency. The proposed budget and the prioritized bills run contradictory to Marcos Jr’s promises for a better Philippines.

With all indicators pointing towards more of the same policies amid worse conditions, the question is no longer how will Marcos Jr. solve the crisis. The question is how will they try to get away with it in the face of the public? From the recent speeches and pronouncements, we can outline three general strategies: disinformation, silence, and populist demagoguery.

Illustration by Luigi Almuena in a PCIJ article on BBM’s first SONA

Strategies for Public Control

It is beyond indisputable that the Marcos-Duterte tandem have used disinformation against their political enemies, critics, and the people. With the Marcoses, it is noteworthy that they have consciously used this strategy to get back into power; using an array of troll farms, coordinated attacks on social media, etc. (We recall Imelda Marcos’ statement “perception is real, truth is not”). In an era where media literacy education is still in its infancy, disinformation is a dangerous weapon to pervert the democratic processes of the country, especially in the hands of the mega-rich and powerful like the Marcoses.

On the other hand, the tactical silence being put out now is not surprising, coming from how Marcos Jr. handled his campaign, but is definitely concerning. A bit different from his predecessor, Marcos Jr. has been silent on the damning cases of he and his family, as well as actual social concerns such as graft and corruption, human rights violations, and resolving armed conflict. By giving less statements for the news to talk about, their mega-faction manipulates public consciousness to simply forget and move on from the atrocities that they have committed, all the while arrests, killings, and militarization of civil society is being railroaded in state operations and legislature.

Coupled with these two, the Marcos-Duterte regime employs populist demagoguery, like the previous administration, to give the public some sense of respite without actually addressing the key problems of the nation. In recent administrations, we have seen a growing tendency of the state to remove the bare minimum of “public inconveniences” which are only the surface of a nationally poisonous weed. These token welfare policies are classic reactionary realpolitik dating from centuries ago. Hitler and Bismarck were known to have used similar strategies in order to gain public support amid their crack down on mass organizations and unions.

We can even see the last ditch effort to raise minimum wage and the mini-rollbacks on gas as symptomatic of this, as the rates have not actually adjusted to just how decreased the people’s purchasing power is. Couple this with how the moves to increase the taxable of the ordinary folk, vis a vis corporations and the rich; and we are seeing how all signs point to increase in poverty for the country.

Grumbling stomachs and empty wallets do not lie; but make no mistake, when the people are saturated with smoke screen pronouncements and political mental gymnastics, we lose the ability to clearly find the root of our suffering in concrete factors.

Photo from Mark Demayo for ABS-CBN

History does not exactly repeat itself, and we have no room for complacency

We are told that “ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan”, but there are historical periods where the youth find themselves in a melting pot of circumstances in which their choices have great impact on history. Whether this be the fall of empires, or movements to push scientific knowledge against mysticism, or to fight just and unjust wars, the youth have been crucial catalysts and literal bodies in the line of fire. And with everything that’s going on, things are shaping up such that our generation is being pushed to this situation.

The current generation of Filipino youth and young professionals can no longer cede their political agency to this exclusive subset of the ruling class. We should not be content with expressing our distrust or disapproval with anti-people state actions while deferring action or succumbing to a by-stander effect. We have seen throughout history, how political defeatism works in tandem with the repression and exploitation caused of by the ruling elite. We have found a way out of dictatorship before. It is our generation’s turn to find the spider’s thread, and through multiple forms of resistance, carry the Filipino people out of a sinking socio-economic situation.

To put it simply: we must not forfeit another 20 years to the Marcoses and their allies. Even if we assume no extension of presidential power beyond the legal term limits, the years 2022–2028 will be significant not only here and in a global scale where conflict brews, but also on the individual level for those of us who will graduate, seek employment, struggle to eke out a living, make life-changing decisions, and try to find themselves amid all the chaos. Throughout this period, we can be certain of one thing: with all of the Marcoses’ violations of national sovereignty and human rights, as well as state negligence–this elite dynasty will do everything they can to never lose power again. They will fight for it, so we must fight harder.

There are only two choices for us all: try to survive on our own, or to dare struggle together.

Submitted by: Dylan Magto

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Institute for Nationalist Studies

Institute for Nationalist Studies

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The Institute advances ideas and information campaigns on social issues to ferment a nationalist consciousness for the interest of the people’s welfare