Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — Issue #44 BBM Special
For the genesis of this week’s column, see my previous columns:
The Marcos Maneuver, June 23, 2021
Winter is Coming, September 15, 2021
Peak Marcos? September 29, 2021
A Soft-Boiled Start to 2022, October 10, 2021
This week’s The Long View
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:05 AM October 20, 2021
Winston Churchill, writing for a magazine about how he had an appendectomy on the eve of a major election, described its aftermath as follows: “In the twinkling of an eye, I found myself without an office, without a seat, without a party, and without an appendix.” Our Great Eagle Father is no Churchill, but on Oct. 8 he found himself without a coalition, without a full senate slate, without a tandem, and indeed, without an anointed successor. Such is our national Stockholm Syndrome — that phenomenon in which some hostage victims develop positive feelings toward their captor — that at first blush, the public still thought this was yet another sign of the great political gifts of the President, when what it actually was, as I said in a commentary for this paper, is a collection of politicians out of steam, out of ideas, out of touch with each other: yet hoping against hope for a Daughterte ex Machina to magically solve their being in a political dead end.
Sparing the President ending up with his own Otso Diretso (which would have sent the same message for his administration that it did for the then-opposition in 2019: a force incapable of even finding 12 to run), three more candidates trickled in to add to his ticket, so now he has 11, still one short of a full slate. Yet this is the ruling party: at one point even Pacquiao had a slate of eight to match the President’s; and the opposition, by contrast, seems in the pink of health when one considers public fighting has broken out over the question of who should be invited by Robredo to fill the 12th, and remaining slot, in its slate. The (positioning for itself, anyway) third force of Lacson has such a big tent it’s endorsed a slate of 14 to fill 12 slots.
Hope still springs eternal, and so three days ago Salvador Panelo took the opportunity to take credit for the movement to draft Daughterte for the presidency, claiming in his column he planted the seeds for her candidacy in a gathering with OFWs. But, he wrote, the clock is ticking. Indeed, it is: with seven months to go, the President’s political machine is less 800-pound gorilla and more dazed and confused circus orangutan.
Coalition partners-in-waiting have the infrastructure in place: Leoncio Evasco Jr., whom Daughterte likely trusts in contrast to her intense dislike for Bong Go, is in the People’s Reform Party, officially in alliance with Hugpong ng Pagbabago since 2019. Lakas-CMD has placeholder candidates ready for substitutions at a moment’s notice: a role Bato dela Rosa has gamely taken on for himself, too, in PDP-Laban. All these placeholders simply exist because if no Duterte runs, then the administration and all who lived it up during its term, will wholly depend for their long-term personal and political security, on Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
It’s said that behind every big lie is a kernel of truth, and if the current favorite lie of the Marcos Machine — well researched and dissected by Maria Ressa, who argues its online activities represents a clear and present danger to the electoral process — is that they are the victims of a generations-old blood feud between the Aquinos and the Marcoses, then much as it’s a lie (it was always the Filipino People vs. the Marcoses after 1972), it has as its core the truth that this is, indeed, how the Marcoses view it: always have, as the Crisologos remember, and always will, as the Fariñases are experiencing. By this realistic measure, all the more do the efforts of the Daughterte-boosters, including the Arroyo Lakas-CMD bloc, make political life-preserving sense.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr., lest we forget, is in a kind of placeholder position, too, having put on the vest of an obscure party without bothering to announce a running mate or a senate slot because obviously he is only half of the potential ruling coalition. In one respect the Marcoses have been left behind by time, and that’s by the number of big fortunes that are politically active: NP, NPC, NUP are essentially subsidiaries of corporate conglomerates, and any number of big donors can see and raise any Marcos seed money.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has lost two things since 2016: the aura of invincibility and having an inexhaustible wallet. But he retains the reputation of having the smartest online and advertising operation money can buy. The best the administration can manage is to pit Daughterte against Tito Sotto; absent that, it will have no choice but to bend the knee to the Marcoses who, as Imee likes to point out, remember.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @mlq3
The Young Ferdinand Jr.
Excerpts from the Marcos diaries on Ferdinand, Jr.
February 1, 1970: Marcos writes a manifesto to his children.
September 23, 1970:
Bongbong wrote me on my birthday sending greetings — “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”- “So now you can vote. Who is your candidate. Mine is Racuyal!” (Racuyal is the perennial candidate suspected of insanity). “Saw the cinema (How British can I get) The Battle of Britain.” “The dogfights were groovy.”
He speaks or writes effusively of the new British Harrier VTOL Vertical Take Off that does not need a runway and may revolutionize aircraft carriers and combat planes in general.
He sounds happy — “you can see I am enjoying missing you” and ends with “Cheerio Old Chap.” As Imee says, “he is too mech!”
Bongbong left by Qantas via Hongkong, New Delhi, Teheran, Athens and London.
I talked to him, and his sisters, Imelda and Kokoy about the possibility of his mother and two sisters joining him if there should be trouble here; that whether I am there beside them or not they (the children) should value education and get a doctorate degree because even if we should lose our fortune and position here in the Philippines, then they could work their own way in the world; that if for any reason we should be separated and I should not be able to guide them after normalcy returns to the world or the Philippines as the case may be, they should return to the Philippines where their roots are; that I would prefer them marrying Filipinos…
Bongbong arrived early this morning at about 3:40 AM from his date with the Veloso girls (he has been frank with me about what he does on his dates).
We slept with Irene at her room, putting the two beds in her room together, because she cannot sleep in our room.
Then brought Irene to the airport to take the KLM jumbo jet for Amsterdam and London at 5:00. Lucy accompanied her. Alberting and Cobadouga Romulo were in the same plane. Dits Adriano took the plane too, apparently to accompany her.
Bongbong’s Birthday. Right now they have converted Suite I into a nightclub complete with strobe lights and blow-up pictures of Bongbong.
And there are more girls than boys. In fact there are only a handful of boys and about five times of girls.
At the rate the tension and hysteria in Manila continues, I may have to declare martial law soon. Many people are not leaving their houses.
September 17, 1972: The departure of our children has made the palace a ghostly unbearable place.
September 23, 1972: Talk to Imee and Bongbong. London newspaper had it I arrested the opposition, no mention of communists.
November 1, 1972: Imee is in New York for the Thanksgiving holidays. She had Thanksgiving dinner with the Flannigans (He is a White House Economic adviser). And she visits Princeton, Wellesley and choosing which university she goes to next year.
Irene is in Rome shopping while Bongbong is with Philip and Miguelito in London.
Entry into responsibility
Marcos’ failing health, coupled with the looming threat from the anti-capitalist left, led to widespread concern for a stable succession among the country’s economic elite — the main beneficiaries of Martial Law’s crony capitalism. The plebiscite held on April 7, 1981, ratified the constitutional amendment creating the Executive Committee, composed of at most 14 members, at least half of which were Assemblymen. The Committee was meant to be “a stepping stone for future leadership in the country . . . a high-level training ground for future Prime Ministers and Presidents.” It was deemed necessary at that time because no one member of the administration’s Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) was deemed capable of taking over for President Marcos in the event of his death, resignation, or incapacitation; it was implied that the Committee member who performed the best would be Marcos’ successor. Contenders for the presidency started positioning themselves to gain the upper hand. For instance, there were attempts to discredit Prime Minister Cesar Virata and the programs associated with economic technocrats, while Imelda Marcos’ strove to repair her tarnished image (especially in the provinces) while pushing her son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. further into the public eye.
From “ Is Ferdinand Marcos a Political Genius?” By Ross Marley, Pilipinas, A Journal of Philippine Studies, Issue №5, Fall, 1985:
Virtually all other members of the Marcos family have become prominent in Philippine politics. The President’s brother, Dr. Pacifico Marcos has served as a link between the presidential family and the medical profession. His sister, Eliabeth Marcos Keon Rocka has been Governor of Ilocos Norte, but was succeeded in that post by the President’s son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. The minimum age for a local official was lowered from 23 to 2l to accommodate Bongbong. Eldest daughter Imee, after returning from her study abroad, became head of Marcos’ Kabataang Barangay, a half-hearted pro-government national youth group.
In summary, Marcos’ insight into Philippine familism has enabled him to further consolidate his political grip on certain regions and sectors. His excessive employment of Marcoses and Romualdezes in government and diplomacy may reap scorn from sophisticated Manilenos, but Marcos knows that to most Filipinos, it seems perfectly natural.
From a Marcos supporters; page:
2nd Lieutenant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr. Cl 21-A-1979, completed the Special Forces Training Course at age of 21, Trained as a Cadre in the jungle of Tanay bordering the Sierra Madre in Rizal.
Yet for all the RAM leaders’ confidence in their plan, they did not have the command experience to successfully carry out the complicated operation, after almost ten years of sitting in air-conditioned offices. And to make matters worse, Ver knew of the coup. On the Thursday before the planned coup, he summoned his senior officers and engineered a trap. He ordered a navy demolition team to plant bombs and mines along the palace riverfront. As the rebels made their way toward the palace on rafts, Ver would blind them with powerful spotlights. Marcos’ son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., would be brought out with a loud hailer, giving the rebels a final chance to surrender. If the rebels did not stand down, they would be blown sky high.
“Political Conjuncture and Scholarly Disjunctures Reflections on Studies of the Philippine State under Marcos” by Filomeno V. Aguilar, Philippine Studies Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints 67, NO. 1 (2019):
After Marcos died in Hawaii in 1989, we became even more complacent. Two years later members of his family began to return to the Philippines. In 1992 Imelda Marcos ran for the presidency and lost; however, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was elected representative of the second district of Ilocos Norte. In 1995 Marcos Jr. ran for the senate and lost, while Imelda was elected representative of her home province of Leyte. It seemed that the Marcoses were a spent force, certainly at the national level. Support for the Marcoses in their home provinces was dismissed as understandable and largely confined to those places. In 1993 Pres. Fidel Ramos lifted the ban on the return to the Philippines of the dictator’s remains; while objecting to a state burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Ramos allowed the remains to be flown to Ilocos Norte.
Fifteen years after the failure of his initial attempt to become senator, Bongbong Marcos was elected senator, having campaigned on a platform as a progressive politician with a track record as governor of Ilocos Norte since 1998, while denying his parents ever committed crimes during the dictatorship. Indeed, by 2010 — or twenty-four years after his downfall — the dictator’s survivors were again well placed in the country’s political system. In that year, Imee replaced Bongbong as Ilocos Norte governor, while Imelda was elected congresswoman of her husband’s province. When we look back, we discern a pattern of an apparently well-crafted long-range plan of the Marcoses (after their national-level failures in 1992–1995) to retake Malacañang through the traditional route of reentering politics at the local level in a stepwise progression to national politics.
While they planned, we looked the other way. We barely noticed that textbooks used in elementary schools had continued to glorify Marcos and his protracted presidency, extolling the merits of martial law and the New Society. Our peripheral vision did not perceive that there were many schoolteachers and even some of our university colleagues who genuinely looked back with nostalgia to the Marcos regime. We were caught unawares that Marcos had created and recreated a followership, until finally we were jolted about the very real possibility that a Marcos would return to Malacañang when the 2016 elections brought Bongbong within a stone’s throw of vice presidential power.
Footnote from Marcos Martial Law Never Again: A Brief History of Torture and Atrocity under the New Society:
As of late 2015, Marcos loyalists continued to claim on social media that the election of Marcos’ son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Jr. to the vice-presidency in 2016 would pave the way for the distribution of the assets held in trust for the Filipino people by the Marcos Foundation. Claims were also made that the accumulated wealth was enough to repay the national debt. An examination of Securities and Exchange Commission records showed that a “Ferdinand E. Marcos Foundation” continued to be listed with the SEC as of November 14, 2015. But the SEC site said the registration of this particular foundation had been “revoked”. It didn’t say why. Likewise, three other foundations named after Marcos’ late mother Doña Josefa Edralin Marcos have also had their registration “revoked”. During Martial Law, the Marcos couple actually set
up numerous his-and-hers shell foundations abroad to hide what the Swiss Federal Court described in its 2003 ruling as assets “of criminal origin”.
Fast forward to 2017 and a kind of Cargo Cult of our own, which grabbed our attention when, over the weekend, thousands appeared in UP Los Baños, seemingly out of nowhere. These people had paid thirty pesos each to ensure a monthly income of ten thousand pesos for four months, representing their share of the Marcos gold. This was promised by an organization calling itself One Social Family Credit Cooperative, which sold a pamphlet copyrighted 2016 by something called Bullion Buyers Limited, or BBL.
BBL is said to have been founded in 2011 by Emmanuel Destura and Felicisima Cantos. Destura claimed his father, a former Bicol mayor, had been entrusted by Ferdinand Marcos with gold in Switzerland. Charged with estafa, they went into hiding in 2013, only for Destura to reemerge in UPLB last weekend, speaking for One Social Family which was using the materials of the now-banned BBL.
We know all this because luckily for the public, Joel Ariate Jr., a university researcher at UP’s Third World Studies Center, has been on the trail of this group ever since his mother encountered one of its recruitment drives in Bicol in December, last year. It’s your standard networking, or pyramiding, scheme. You pay two thousand to recruit, in turn, other members who pay thirty pesos each, who then get that forty thousand pesos in four months promise. But as a leader, your two thousand pesos gets you a promise of one million pesos, to be followed thirty days later by one million dollars. Yes, dollars.
But here’s the rub, according to Ariate. The Marcos booklet singing the praises of the late dictator dates back only to 2016, and if you’ve been following the news, a month ago what hogged the headlines was the spectacular announcement that the Marcoses were willing to deal with the government to return gold the President claimed the Marcoses said they had hidden to protect it for future generations of Filipinos.
Cause and effect. Gold glitters in the news starting in August, and pyramiding gains a new lease on life in September — armed with a brochure as propaganda for the rehabilitation of the Marcoses. The pamphlet issued in 2016 originated in 2004 and part of its contents made it into Solicitor-General Jose Calida’s submission to the Supreme Court defending the burial of the late dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had to disassociate his clan from the scammers in UPLB, but the propaganda had been spread. Manna from Marcos had proven itself a powerful motivator of faith and greed.
Imelda Marcos of deuterium fame had known this all along. Gold as the foundation of their fortune was a tale told by Marcos even before martial law. It continues to be the bedrock of their claims to a legitimate fortune. There are two flavors to this story. The first is that the young Ferdinand as a humble lawyer started trading in gold.
The second, more exciting one, was chronicled by Sterling Seagrave who wrote “The Marcos Dynasty” among many other books. It’s a kind of Dan Brown conspiracy theory except it claimed to be non-fiction.
In Reader’s Digest condensed form, it’s basically this: General Tomoyuki Yamashita and friends hid the confiscated treasure of the Imperial Japanese Army all over the Philippines, because it could no longer be brought back to Japan. Ferdinand and friends found it, others like a man named Rogelio Roxas claimed Marcos took it from those who found it, and that’s how he got rich.
In Hawaiian exile, Marcos dazzled old friends with visions of gold deposit certificates, and used it as bait to try to get people to help him swing a deal to come back home.
So, Doy Laurel said Marcos was willing to give half back to come back; tycoon Enrique Zobel said the same thing, too, and said Marcos had shown him piles of gold certificates.
But, as Buddy Gomez, former executive assistant of Zobel who was in Hawaii at the time as our consul-general, recently recounted, Marcos was trying to get a 250-million-peso loan from Zobel, who declined. But he was nice enough to pass on Marcos’ message.
Today, the number tossed around is that the Marcos gold amounts to 7 thousand tons of gold. A financial analyst I recently talked to observed that amounts to close to fifteen trillion pesos or a year’s worth of GDP. Working backwards, in 1965–86 average values for gold, back then it would have been worth 74 billion dollars or twice the Philippines’ GDP in 1986. You cannot stockpile more than the entire country is worth. Nor keep it hidden since it’s almost twice what the US government keeps under guard in Fort Knox.
But without even touching the kooky topic of gold, enough has been researched to suggest a far more logical source for the Marcos billions. He made his fortune the old-fashioned way, he skimmed it.
As a congressman and then a senator, Marcos mastered the prime sources of graft in those days in the 40s, 50s, and 60s: import and dollar licenses, when the economy was heavily regulated by the government, and Chinese immigration quotas.
As The Guardian summarized, and we’ve mentioned this before, from his second term onwards, he went from skimming to plundering. It’s just that the numbers, by any measure, are staggering and the corporate raiding that took place was so intricate it fulfills Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law. Put it another way, any sufficiently advanced system of plunder is indistinguishable from magically manufacturing gold bars.