Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — Issue #36 Peak Marcos?

Manuel L. Quezon III
10 min readSep 29, 2021


This week’s column was inspired by a discussion on ANC on the Marcoses, where I argued that the context often missed out when it comes to the Marcos bid for rehabilitation and restoration, and their marshaling the aura of inevitability punctured by defeat in 2016, is that our post-EDSA democracy is a contest of minority-organizing and not majority-building. In and of itself it reveals the Marcoses are a long way from their peak; but formidable in the resilience and coherence of their constituency. What has not happened, however, is somehow a reversal of their overall standing, in the sense that an overwhelming majority continue not to support them; but they have electorally gamed the system to not only remain engaged, but competitive.

This week’s Long View

Peak Marcos? | Inquirer

By: Manuel L. Quezon III@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:04 AM September 29, 2021

The last snapshots of public opinion date to June, as far as the President’s standing is concerned. SWS only commented as far as pointing out this was only the fourth time in the presidency that the President’s ratings fell by double digits. As I said in a recent column, the viability of a Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (BBM) candidacy, originally weakened by his 2016 loss which handicapped the Marcos myth of invincibility (or to be more precise, inevitability) will increase in proportion to the President’s weakening.

By way of a review, before 1992, all presidential races except one, produced a majority president. That exception was in 1957, when Carlos P. Garcia won the presidency with 41.28 percent of the vote. First term majority results, in percentage terms from highest to lowest, would be as follows: in 1953, Magsaysay: 68.90 percent; 1935, Quezon: 67.99 percent; 1961, Macapagal: 55.05 percent; 1946, Roxas: 53.93 percent; 1965, Marcos: 51.94 percent;1949, Quirino: 50.93 percent. Under the 1935 Constitution as amended, presidents could run for re-election, and while Roxas and Magsaysay were widely expected to win a second term, they died beforehand; Quirino, Garcia, and Macapagal, lost their re-election bids, which meant only two presidents were ever reelected: in 1941, Quezon: 81.78 percent; and in 1969, Marcos: 62.24 percent.

In terms of the elections of FM, these include his two legitimate ones before martial law, and the rigged elections of 1981 and 1986. The 1969 election at the very least provides an estimate of the maximum Marcos constituency, expressed in a percentage since the number of voters will always change as the population constantly increases. The maximum Marcos inflated number in 1981 (where he claimed 88.02 percent) couldn’t even be attempted in 1986; and so let us take the 1986 results as a range, from the Comelec official claim as a maximum, to the unfinished Namfrel numbers as a minimum (Comelec: 53.62 percent, Namfrel partial: 47.37 percent).

Six years after Edsa, both the old anti-Marcos, and Marcos loyalist, constituencies can be said to have fractured, with fewer fractures in the Marcos constituency: yet enough to prevent their victory had they remained united. Imelda Marcos (KBL: 10.32 percent); Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. (NPC: 18.17 percent). Winner: Fidel V. Ramos (Lakas-NUCD: 23.58 percent). Marcos-Cojuangco combined would have won (41.75 percent). What is interesting is that in percentage terms, the combined Marcos numbers adhere closely to the 1986 Marcos numbers. The “Marcos constituency” after six years, could be estimated at -6 percent to -12 percent of its 1986 level. This, then, can be said to be the peak Loyalist vote.

The results of BBM’s entry into the fray, as heir of FM, points to a durable constituency not enough to get him elected in 1995, but enough to do so, in 2010. Again what matters here is the constituency as expressed in percentages of the overall votes, as population constantly increases. The gains of BBM can be said to be enough to replace losses in attrition to the old Loyalist vote bank, while maintaining an interestingly consistent overall percentage of the popular vote.

Consider BBM’s senatorial results. In 1995, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. placed 16th: with 31.7 percent of the votes, Between Arturo Tolentino (30.0 percent) and Aquilino Pimentel Jr. (33.1 percent). His showing could be compared to other “legacy candidates” in the same election: Ramon Magsaysay Jr., third place (with 46.1 percent) and Sergio Osmeña III, seventh place (with 36.5 percent).

In 2010, BBM placed seventh (with 34.52 percent), placing between Ralph Recto (32.60 percent) and Pia Cayetano (35.86 percent). The topnotcher was Bong Revilla (with 51.15 percent). The Marcos constituency was remarkably from 31 percent to 34 percent.

In the 2016 vice presidential election, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (with 34.47 percent), got a result, percentage-wise, practically unchanged from his 2010 senatorial results, suggesting a kind of electoral ceiling. Enough for the Senate. But for the presidency? Since 1992, three presidents needed 39 percent to win: Estrada, Arroyo, Duterte (Aquino got 42 percent). An FVR scenario, where he won with 23.58 percent, is possible not least because the pandemic is expected to lower voter turnout, perhaps to a remarkable degree.

In terms of geography, the historical Marcos bailiwicks are of course Ilocos and Samar-Leyte. But in 2016 BBM demonstrated the ability to carry all of Metro Manila except Makati, plus five Mindanao provinces (his mother had carried only Agusan del Sur in 1992). Metro Manila might have then been being contrarian and, thus, oppositionist. Now, there are candidates who may siphon votes from BBM in the most vote-rich places (Luzon) and deny him inroads in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Email:; Twitter: @mlq3

Marcos, by numbers

A reader, reacting to my column on the Inquirer website, put it this way:

BBM got 13.8M votes in his VP bid. Imee got 15.8M votes to earn a Senate seat. Votes gained amidst the loudness of the anti-Marcos campaigners. What does these numbers indicate? It indicates the Marcoses have a voting base. Conservatively, it can be set 13M….

Do the math. Projected registered voters is 61M. Voter turnout the past 3 presidential election is 77%. If the winning candidate just got on average 39% , and the Marcoses already have locked in votes of 13M, how much additional votes they need to campaign for?

I cannot vouch for the slide below but it is circulating and for lack of any other information, will suffice for discussion purposes.


It suggests, if true, that the Marcos constituency is already mobilized, but not enough. Below are some of the numbers I referred to in my column as well as others that are of interest.

BBM in 1995:

№16. Bongbong Marcos NPC KBL 8,168,768 or 31.7%

BBM in 2010:

In surveys, 32% (SWS) and 31% (Pulse) in December, 2009; a high of 39% (SWS, Jan. 2010) a low of 28% (twice, Pulse, Fe.b, and SWS, April, 2010) and 27%, Pulse, April 2010.

Final result: №7.Bongbong Marcos Nacionalista 13,169,634 or 34.52%

At present, opinion polling for BBM: 14% , Nov 23–Dec 2, 2020; 13% in Feb 22–Mar 3, 2021 and Jun 7–16, 2021. Numbers prior to official declaration of candidacy: as a rule, candidates enjoy a bump up in the polls when they formalize their candidacies.

The results of Imee Marcos are also interesting: 2018: Mar 23–28 (Pulse) 32.2% Jun 15–21 (Pulse) 29.9% Sep 1–7 (Pulse) 32.6% Sep 15–23 (SWS) 22% Sep 15–23 (SWS) 24% Dec 14–21 (Pulse) 36.7%; 2019: Feb 24–28 (Pulse) 36.0% Apr 10–14 (Pulse) 29.6% May 3–6 (Pulse) 34.1%

Final result: №8.Imee Marcos HNP Nacionalista15,882,628 or 33.58%

Marcos expressed in geography

The old truism of geographic balance was taken to its most logical extreme in the marriage of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, who united two bailiwicks, north and south.

Philippine Electoral Almanac

The 1965 and 1969 Marcos results of course also includes two other factors: the traditional geographic bailiwicks of the Nacionalista Party (such as Batangas) and that of the Lopezes in the Visayas, allied with the Marcoses.

Philippine Electoral Almanac

1986, whether from a low (Namfrel) to a high (Comelec) can be viewed as representing the core Marcos geographic constituency: Ilocs Norte and Sur; Pangasinan, La Union, Benget, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Abra, Kalinga-Apayao, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Metro Manila in Luzon. Leyte and Southern Leyte, Samar, Eastern and Northern Samar in the Visayas; and, back then, none of Mindanao.

Philippine Electoral Almanac

In 1992 Imelda Marcos won Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, Apayao, Cagayan and Baguio City in Luzon; Biliran and Leyte in the Visayas; Agusan del Sur in Mindanao. To a certain extent, the areas in which Eduardo Cojangco Jr. won, (except Tarlac, which perhaps represented his own family dynamics more) should also be considered reflections of the old Marcos geographic base: so, including Abra, La Union, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Aurora and Occidental Mindoro in Luzon.

Philippine Electoral Almanac

The extent of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s provincial wins in 2016: Luzon except for Tarlac, Batangas, and Quezon; Metro Manila except Makati; Biliran, Leyte, Dinagat Islands in the Visayas; Sulu, Zambaonga del Sur, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sarangani, in Mindanao.

Official Gazette GOV.PH

The anti-Marcos areas, as derived from the era of Peak Marcos. In 1969, at the height of his popularity, Marcos still lost in Pampanga, Antique, and in Trece Martires City, and Lipa in Luzon; in Roxas City, Bago City, San Carlos, Bais City, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City in the Visayas, and Gingoog City, Iligan City, Tangub City, Basilan City in Mindanao.

In 1978, when public opposition began to manifest itself again, the provinces that even then had to be conceded to the opposition were Cebu, Negros Oriental, and Bohol.

By 1984, the pockets of the opposition ranged from Pampanga and Bulacan, to Rizal, Batangas, and Quezon; a foothold in Mindoro, the Bicol region, Basilan, Zamboanga City, South Cotabato, pockets in Davao del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur.

The President’s numbers

By way of a benchmark, the 2016 exit polls remain relevant. See the summary of results by Mahar Mangahas. Reuters, September 24:

Three-quarters of Filipinos were satisfied with President Rodrigo Duterte’s performance in June but his popularity rating was 21 percent below a record high reached in November 2020, according to a survey published on Friday.

Curiously, because so belatedly, SWS has taken to pointing out survey results from June, so long ago, politically-speaking, as to be antique. But remarkable nonetheless because the first measurable double-digit drop in ratings for a long time.


A more recent survey question provides a snapshot of public opinion on the question of the President running for vice-president.


Takeaway? Most reports focused on the large majority against the potential run. But none focused on what it also reveals. This is enough to win; put another way it’s the same percentage (39%) that gained him the presidency. One reading could be, he may be down, but he is back to his winning 2016 constituency, which itself is remarkable.

Relevant reading would be The Dark Side of Electoralism: Opinion Polls and Voting in the 2016 Philippine Presidential Election, by Ronald Holmes. As a placeholder for future discussion, some slides for reference:

Contrast the above with survey items on martial law in my 2015 entry, The Presidency and the Crisis of Modernity.

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Manuel L. Quezon III

Columnist, Philippine Daily Inquirer. Editor-at-large Views strictly mine. I have a newsletter, blog, podcast, and Patreon.