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Monday June 27, 2022

Philippines elections

May 16, 2022

Marcos Bongbong Marcos Jr was elected president of the Philippines in the presidential election held on May 09. According to unofficial results, Marcos Jr won a landslide with more than 31 million votes. His main rival, Maria Leni Robredo, bagged around 15 million votes. The famous former boxing champion, senator Manny Pacquiao, finished at a distant third spot with 3.4 million votes.

Dysfunctional voting machines created a lot of problems for voters in different parts of the country. At some polling stations voters waited for hours to cast their ballots. There were reports of election violence and broken voting machines at different places.

Bongbong obtained over 58 percent of the vote share, and received more than double the votes cast for Leni Robredo. Bongbong’s vice-presidential running mate, Sara Duterte-Carpio, who is current president Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter, similarly trounced her opponents, with 61 percent of the vote. She got more votes than Marcos Jr.

Young voters and poorer sections of society overwhelmingly supported Marcos Jr; 71 percent of young voters aged 18 to 24 years voted for him and he also got the majority votes from poor and working class areas.

There was no real choice for the working class as both main candidates were representing the same ruling elite. The real contest was between two rightwing capitalist candidates. This has become the pattern in most countries.

Political analyst Parson Young brilliantly sums up the situation in the Philippines: “The choice was limited. One has styled himself as the continuity candidate of Duterte’s demagogic Keynesianism, while the other lays claim to discredited liberalism. It is already understood by most of the masses that, no matter who wins, they won’t actually be represented, so they might as well endorse the candidate whose predecessor yielded some small improvements.

“In actuality, Bongbong Marcos’ successful presidential run is nothing but a rehash of the very same conditions that the current president Rodrigo Duterte took advantage of: the collapse of the masses’ trust in the ‘liberal’ political establishment that emerged after the EDSA revolution. The post-EDSA era was an abortion of a bourgeois democracy, with regional and political dynasties taking turn in plundering the country, while the masses faced an endless cycle of poverty, toil, disease, natural disasters, and crime.”

This result is not surprising at all as Marcos Jr maintained a commanding lead in different opinion polls throughout the election campaign. His main rival Leni Robredo trailed from the beginning and never really threatened Bongbong in this race. Marcos won on a pro-China rightwing platform supported by current President Duterte and former president Josef Estrada – even though his father Marcos Sr was a close US ally and actively supported by American imperialism against so-called “communist threat”.

The new president will continue the pro-China policy of the current government. President Duterte was the favoured candidate of the dominant section of Philippine’s ruling class who sought to preserve their interests by pivoting away from the US and towards China. Duterte succeeded in making some improvements in the economy after aligning with China. He succeeded in reducing unemployment from six per cent to four per cent in five years. The GDP growth rate was higher compared to previous governments. He increased social spending and universal health insurance coverage was established.

The agenda that Duterte represented seemed to for a time produce some results. The Philippines received more foreign investment largely from China. Duterte was popular and did attempt to amend the constitution to allow for a second term in office, but failed to do so ahead of this election. He thus yielded to a compromise in effectively supporting the next candidate from the camp he is aligned with: Bongbong, who consented to having Duterte’s daughter run as the vice presidential running mate of Marcos. It is likely that Bongbong’s presidency will follow Duterte’s policies as a right-wing populist government.

Bongbong Marcos Jr is the son of former disgraced dictator Marcos Sr who was internationally recognized as a brutal right-wing dictator and one of the most corrupt rulers in the world. He plundered billions of dollars during his ruthless dictatorial rule and was ousted in 1986 by the EDSA Revolution. His ouster from power restored democracy in the country.

Some people are raising concerns that under Marcos Jr presidency, the Philippines might become a brutal dictatorship like the one established by his father in the 1970s. But they are ignoring the fact that conditions are different now compared to 1972. When Marcos Sr imposed martial law, the country was facing a mass revolt from working masses and an armed insurgency led by the Communist Party.

The ruling class was frightened and wanted to brutally crush the mass movement and armed insurgency. The situation is different now. There is no mass movement at the moment threatening the ruling class. There is no doubt that mass anger and discontent does exist in society but this anger and discontent is not yet expressed through a popular movement.

The ruling classes in the Philippines feel no need to impose a naked dictatorship to protect their economic, social and political interests at the moment. The existing repressive system disguised under democratic rule is serving the interests of the capitalist ruling class.

The fears of another dictatorship under Marcos Jr are exaggerated. It is not on the cards yet. But when the situation demands such a regime, the ruling elite in the Philippines will not hesitate.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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