Opinion | The Man Who Could Ruin the Philippines Forever


In other ways, too, Mr. Duterte is responsible for normalizing authoritarianism, which may be yet another thing Mr. Marcos effortlessly inherits. One of Mr. Duterte’s first actions as president in 2016 was to transfer the elder Mr. Marcos’s preserved corpse from the family’s refrigerated mausoleum for burial in our national cemetery of heroes. And Mr. Duterte’s daughter, Sara, is now campaigning with the younger Mr. Marcos and is the leading candidate for vice president, who is separately elected from the president.

Despite the incumbent’s apparent disdain for Mr. Marcos — Mr. Duterte has implied that he is a weak leader and a drug user — their shared affinities are undeniable as the younger pair promises to continue Mr. Duterte’s grim legacy.

Their popularity indicates that our past fight for democratic freedom has been largely forgotten, with 56 percent of the Filipino voting population now between ages 18 and 41. A 2017 poll found that half of us Filipinos favor authoritarian governance, and an alarming number of us even approve of military rule. Yet the same poll showed that 82 percent of us say we believe in representative democracy. The contradiction seems to overlook what our history teaches about our giving leaders unchecked power.

No wonder we elected Mr. Duterte, who has bragged about being a killer. No wonder we’re poised to re-elect a family of thieves. And no wonder Mr. Marcos thrives as a mythmaker — varnishing himself and his family as harmless underdogs, victims of an untouchable who stole his vice presidency, his parents’ tenure over our country’s so-called golden age and his family’s right to control their own narrative against what he calls “propaganda” and “fake news.”

Yet even as Mr. Marcos casts himself as the heir to his family’s dynasty, he refuses to acknowledge its many proven crimes, much less be held complicit for his role in defending the dictatorship. He has also pledged to protect Mr. Duterte from the International Criminal Court and has formed a political cartel with the Dutertes and two past presidents, who were both jailed for corruption. Worst of all, he has relentlessly shrugged off the facts of our nation’s history, telling everyone to “move on” from its long struggle against the authoritarianism he and his family led.

But as the present hurtles forward on May 9, the truths of our past matter more than ever. From that history, a martyred writer and our national hero, Jose Rizal, reminds us: “There are no tyrants where there are no slaves.” Yet so many of us have been shackled before by so many of those we freely elected to entrust our future to — from Adolf Hitler to Vladimir Putin to another brazen liar also named Ferdinand Marcos.

Miguel Syjuco, a former contributing Opinion writer, is the author, most recently, of “I Was the President’s Mistress!!: A Novel.

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