Tim Louis: Philippines election disappoints progressives

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      The May 9, 2022 Philippines presidential election results are in and for progressives around the world, it is very, very disappointing.

      Ferdinand Marcos Jr, son of the late former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, won by a landslide. He achieved a substantial margin of victory, winning approximately 59 percent of the vote—more than twice that of his main competitor, Vice President Leni Robredo, who won approximately 28 percent of the total.

      To understand the deep disappointment of progressives around the world, we must go back in time to 1965 when Ferdinand Marcos was elected president. Seven years later, after significantly expanding the size of the Philippine military, he placed the Philippines under martial law.

      During his entire 21-year reign, he ruled this impoverished country with an iron fist.

      His regime became known for its poor economic performance, due in no small part to the rise of crony capitalism. He always put the interest of the handful of families that owned the majority of the land ahead of the interests of the millions of labourers who toiled on that land.

      He enriched himself and his family in the process, including reportedly stealing US$5 billion to US$10 billion from the Central Bank of the Philippines. His wife, Imelda, was said to have accumulated 3,000 pairs of shoes.

      His human rights record was atrocious. Although the full numbers are impossible to know, Amnesty International has reported that 70,000 were imprisoned, 34,000 tortured, and 3,240 documented as killed. Many more simply disappeared.

      Washington backed Marcos all the way.

      It was no surprise that this extreme poverty gave birth to the New People's Army. These heroic guerillas have been fighting for social justice to this day.

      Filmmaker Steven De Castro has documented this struggle in the award-winning film Revolution Selfie: The Red Battalion. Taking his cellphone deep into New People's Army territory, he interviewed the altruistic women and men who are devoting their lives to bringing about a just Philippines.

      I am reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s very famous quote “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

      Finally in 1986, a mass uprising known as the People Power Revolution forced Ferdinand Marcos from office.

      What followed was a succession of sham elections in which the candidates supported by Washington and the Philippine media won every time.

      In 2016, Rodrigo Duterte came to power and the repression became even worse. He bragged about the fact that he would ride a motorcycle late at night into the poor barrios and summarily execute individuals who were suspected of drug dealing. It is not a surprise that, without a trial, many innocent people fell victim to his brutality.

      One of Duterte’s most prominent critics has been Philippines journalist Maria Ressa. During a career that has included reporting for CNN and the Wall Street Journal, and teaching journalism at the University of the Philippines, Ressa has remained devoted to exposing fake news and human rights abuses, particularly under the Duterte regime.

      She is best known as a cofounder of the online news site Rappler, one of the first multimedia news websites in the Philippines. For her continued support of press freedom, the Duterte government has continually harassed Ressa and has laid numerous changes against her, including tax evasion and “cyberlibel”, for which she was recently convicted. She now faces six months to six years in jail.

      In recognition of her outstanding work in promoting freedom of expression, Maria Ressa, along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, was awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.

      With the Duterte term finally coming to an end, two main contenders emerged to succeed him. One of the two, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., claimed that the news reporting about the terrible atrocities committed by his father was fake news. He quickly confirmed that he was in the mould of his father and Duterte.

      The other main contender, Leni Robredo, ran on a platform of wealth redistribution, gender equality, and a bold proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Just a few days prior to the election, she held a rally in the capital of Manila which was attended by over 80,000 supporters.

      Sadly, with the same old support by Washington and the Philippine media, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. won by a landslide.

      If there is to be any hope for economic justice in the Philippines, it will come about as a result of the heroic efforts of the New People's Army.

      Daily atmospheric CO2[Courtesy of CO2.Earth]

      Latest daily total (May 12, 2022): 421.87ppm

      One year ago (May 11, 2021): 418.51 pm

      Tim Louis is a Vancouver lawyer and former city councillor and park commissioner. This article first appeared on his blogThe Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.