How was Palace steel safe opened? Who took missing bags of cash Marcoses brought to Hawaii?

Photo by Joe Galvez

In my column last Monday on the last 24 hours of the Marcoses in Malacañang on Feb. 25, 1986, I shared the narration of the late colonel Arturo C. Aruiza, aide-de-camp of the late president Ferdinand Marcos Sr., in his book “From Malacañang to Makiki” about their problem when the heavily medicated chief executive could not remember the combination of the steel safe in his bedroom where important documents and valuables were stored. They had to leave the safe unopened.

Aruiza said despite Marcos’ seemingly disoriented state, he picked up a brown Samsonite attaché case, gave it to a valet and told him, under pain of his displeasure, not to open it or part with it.

What happened to the steel safe left in Malacañang?

There were two versions, as related by Aruiza in his book, based on the testimonies in the trial of former first lady Imelda Marcos in New York for acts under Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO).

The first version was that a US Embassy security officer was able to open the steel safe.

Aruiza said: “In a Federal court in Lower Manhattan, New York City, Dr. Angelita T. Reyes would testify for the prosecution in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) case against Mrs. Marcos and there the doctor would offer startling facts:

-Dr. Reyes was a classmate of Mrs. Aquino and was among the very first to enter the bedroom of President Marcos on the evening of February 25, 1986. She went to the Palace to find out whether or not there were dialysis machines.

-Her interest turned to the documents, papers and books in the Study Room and the bedroom of Marcos. She collected these items and put them in several valises, numbering 30, and brought them to her home.

-She identified an American, a Jim Burke, a security officer at the US Embassy in Manila, as being with her in the Palace. She said Burke was there to look for bombs but she admitted that Burke discovered the hidden safe and opened it with special instruments.

“As significant as the questions of who now wears the president’s expensive watches and who now keeps the diamonds that were in the safe is the other question unasked till now: What was an American agent doing in the Palace at that time?”

Another version was that the safe’s code was pasted on the side and an assistant of the late Corazon Aquino’s executive secretary, Joker Arroyo, was able to open it.

Aruiza wrote: “Potenciano A. Roque, an assistant of Joker Arroyo, the first executive secretary of Cory Aquino, was another witness for the prosecution, and in his testimony, he gave the following equally astonishing facts:

-He was driven to the Palace around midnight on February 25, 1986, by Joker Arroyo himself. He also entered the president’s bedroom and found papers pertaining to the Swiss bank accounts. He also found diamonds in several plastic packets.

-He was asked: Where in the President’s bedroom did he find those? He said, ‘in the steel safe,’ which he easily opened because according to Roque, the numbers were ‘just pasted’ on the side.

-On cross examination, Roque told the court that he gave eight to ten packets containing diamonds to Mrs. Aquino who subsequently appointed him chairman of the task force for anti-gambling. He held office in Malacañang.”

What happened to the Samsonite attache case that Marcos told his aide to safeguard?

Aruiza wrote: “In Honolulu, when he lay dying in the hospital, Mrs. Marcos and Ferdinand Jr., decided to open the attache case, expecting to find some valuable documents. To their surprise, it contained a Philippine flag, neatly folded. The three of us in the hospital room could only stare at it. The flag now covers him where he lies in the toolshed in Honolulu.”

The late president’s remains are now at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City, Metro Manila.

Aruiza also said that as they hurried out of Malacañang to Clark Air Base, and then to Honolulu (he said the Marcoses thought they were going to Laoag, Ilocos Norte), they brought with them all kinds of luggage – carton boxes, duffel bags, suitcases, Louis Vuitton bags, garment bags – stuffed with personal things including jewelry and money. He mentioned Capt. Ramon Azurin of the Philippine Navy, another presidential aide-de-camp.

His narration: “After docking at the embassy landing, Azurin and his men loaded the luggage in a truck for transporting to the embassy compound. Barely had they finished when they were ordered to board a minibus to be driven to a waiting helicopter nearby. Azurin remonstrated, fearing for the luggage, especially the three duffel bags – two green and one white- which had been entrusted to him with repeated reminders to make sure they arrived wherever they were going. Carrying them from the Palace to the boat, one American sailor had remarked, ‘What’s in this, rocks?’

“Azurin insisted that he and his men load the luggage first into the helicopter before they themselves boarded their flight, but the Americans would not budge. They said the helicopter was warming up, waiting for them, and it was running low on fuel. They assured Azurin repeatedly they would take care of the luggage and, sure enough, they did.

“Only the white duffel bag reached Hickam Air Base in Honolulu. The two green ones, with the bulk of the money, disappeared.

“On the plane, Mrs. Marcos abruptly inquired about the duffel bags. When Capt. Azurin recounted to her what happened on the embassy grounds, she said: ‘A pity if we lose them. There were P25 million in those bags.’

Aruiza did a summary of the money they brought out of Malacañang.

“All the money on board those two planes had come from President Marcos’s private bedroom, representing the unspent portion of the campaign funds.

“How much was there?

“Nurses and agents who had helped pack the money swore that over P61 million was carried out and then stuffed into duffel bags and boxes. There were three duffel bags, two were colored fatigue green, and the third, dirty white. The two green bags disappeared on the embassy grounds.

“The rest of the money was packed as follows: two boxes with P5 million each or a total of P10 million; six boxes with P4 million each or a total of P24 million, and one box (half-filled) with P2 million, which Rolando Abadilla had returned. The grand total was P61 million.

“Of this amount, only P26 million reached Honolulu. This was the figure reported by the US customs personnel, who inventoried the monetary instruments at Hickam. The New York prosecutors would report P22 million.

“If the Hickam customs figures were correct, then P35 million evaporated somewhere. If we use the New York figures, then not P35 million, but P39 million vanished. Either way, if the magical fate of either amount is an explanation of sorts, then several millions got ‘lost’ in this manner along the way.”

When I shared this story to a neighbor, he remarked, “Narinig ko na ‘yan. Nanakawan ang magnanakaw? (I already heard that story. Someone stole from the thief.)”

This column was also carried by
Malaya Business Insight, VERA Files

A loyal aide-de-camp’s account of the Marcoses’ last hours in Malacañang

Journalist Philip Lustre Jr. has reposted his version of the last day of the late Ferdinand Marcos Sr in Malacañang (Feb. 25, 1986), written two years ago, to counter the version of Sen. Imee Marcos that will be shown in the movie “Maid in Malacañang “ about the last three days of the Marcos family in the President’s official residence.

I’m re-reading the book “Ferdinand E. Marcos, Malacañang to Makiki” by Col. Arturo C. Aruiza, who served as aide-de-camp and confidant of the late president for 21 years until the latter’s death in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1989.

Described as the “Last Loyalist,” Aruiza passed away in 1998 in Las Vegas at age 56.

I’m sharing excerpts from Aruiza’s intimate, gripping account of the scene in Malacañang on the evening of Feb. 25, 1986 like boxes of money in Marcos bedroom and the gravely ill president not being able to remember the combination of the steel safe where important items were being kept.

From Chapter 5, Defections:

“ By then, the confusion and anxiety in the Palace was unbearable and, any moment, sheer panic would overcome us. I decided to tell the president myself. I had never before entered his bedroom alone. In the past, when I saw his bedroom, that most private of rooms, where Ferdinand E. Marcos shed his guard and enjoyed the brief luxury of being human like us, sleeping, reading, washing up. watching TV, it was to follow him into it, to deposit his load of papers, documents, or attache case.

“This time, I knocked alone on the heavy wooden door twice and pushed it, and saw what I feared to see.

“He was lying in a hospital bed that was pushed to the right side of his spacious room. His eyes were closed. Surrounding him, perched on chairs or tiptoeing around, were his doctors, the unflagging, faithful two, Dr. Juanita Zagala and Dr. Claver Ramos; the nurses, Betty A. Bondoc, Evelyn Baylen, Fe C. Antonio; the attendants, Hermina Ranada and Minerva Corpus. A handful of security agents and valets stood guard on one side. These were Restituto Alipio, Ferdinand Bolibol, and Benjamin Sarmiento.

“Mattresses littered the floor. The grandchildren had slept in them, also in the modest presidential bed, which was unmade. Hundreds of books were piled everywhere in the room, and on his table were stacked papers and documents.

“Those in the room looked up hopefully when they saw me, as though asking what was happening outside. I had no good news to bring them. As I took the disorder in the room and the sleeping form in the bed, I imagined the rebel soldiers and the mob at their disposal, rushing in.

“I motioned to Dr. Zagala and asked to talk with the president. This lady doctor would serve him steadfastly, following him into exile, standing beside him through the harrowing days of coma and delirium, not leaving him until he died, told me that Marcos was feverish, 39°C.

“The president must have heard us murmuring because he opened his eyes. Dr. Zagala told him I was there. Quickly I explained the situation outside. If the mob got in, if the rebel soldiers got in, we would fight, and there would be carnage. Painfully he struggled up, helped by his nurses. On his feet at last, he ordered his security, Alex Ganut, Jr., Jovencio Luga, and Ben Sarmiento to pack his clothes, his books and papers, and then told me to call up Enrile from his bedroom.

“At this, the two doctors asked the nurses to put all his medicines in bags and boxes. Dr. Claver Ramos (not related to Fidel Ramos) gathered the president’s medical records and then asked someone to look after the medical equipment.

“I handed the phone, with Enrile on line, to the president, who asked Enrile if the men who had beaten up and then stabbled Ernesto Manuel and also beaten up the rest of Manuel’s men had been Enrile’s people. Where I stood beside Marcos, I deduced that Enrile was still calling him, “Sir.”

“No, Enrile said to Marcos, no, they were not his men, but he would ask “Fidel” to investigate.

That was their last conversation: there were more pauses than dialogue. I waited for Marcos or Enrile at the other end to say a word or two to show that something of their 20 years together still remained. I wanted for the president to say, “Good luck, Johnny!” and for Enrile to say, “I’m sorry, Mr. President,” but there was just this long silence followed by the sound of the telephone being put down.
Chapter 6, Kidnapped:
“After talking to Enrile, the president told his other son-in-law, Tommy Manotoc , to call, up is friend at the US embassy and accept the offer of transportation out of the Palace. Everyone now took this to mean we were leaving at last. We all began to pack, not only the president’s clothes, books and papers but also the boxes of money that had been stored since the campaign in his bedroom.

“The First Lady’s attendants started to put her things together, too. The three agents manning the telephone booth had unhooked their phones to help Fe Roa Gimenez. The traffic between the bedroom upstairs and Heroes Hall below grew more frenzied as all kinds of luggage made their way down. There were carton boxes, garment bags, duffel bags, travelling bags. Leather bags, attache cases, Louis Vuitton bags, suitcases and just plain boxes packed but their flaps left unsealed.

“We ran into a serious problem when we could not open Marcos’s steel safe in his bedroom. Fatigue, medication, and lack of sleep had blotted out the combination from his memory and we had no way getting its contents. These included important papers and documents, a priceless gun collection, expensive gifts like watches he never wore since he preferred his old Omega silver watch.

In particular, there were two rare watches, probably adorning some strangers’ wrists now: a Patek Philippe gold watch and a made-to-order Rolex watch with the maps of the Philippines and Sabah on its face.

Now, he could not remember the combination to the steel safe and there was nothing we could do. This was the man who could recall dates at the drop of a hat. The numbers of the presidential decrees. Names of friends not seen in 30 to 40 years. Conversations let off decades ago. Hundreds of articles in law books. And now, just a couple of numbers had slipped his exhausted mind and we were helpless.

He decided not to waste time over the safe’s combination. Instead he picked up a brown Samsonite attache case, gave it to a valet and told him, under pain of his displeasure, not to open it or part with it.

The odd part as that he did not seem to care that he could not remember. Earlier in the day, hearing that Mrs. Aquino had taken her oath ahead of him, he had shown no emotion. Now the stubborn safe stared back at us and the president reacted similarly with uncharacteristic indifference as though leaving it all to us, together with the unopened safe, leaving his life and his fate to us.

Four years later, however, there would be an interesting sequel to that unopened safe.

(To be continued. In my next column, we will find what happened to the safe and the attache case that Marcos entrusted to his valet. Aruiza also narrated about boxes of Imelda Marcos jewelry and the packing that Imelda Marcos did. )

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The awesome thoroughness of Marcos brainwashing ops

Amidst the preparations for the June 30 inauguration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr as the 17th president of the Philippines, I’m still dreadfully in awe of the thoroughness of the brainwashing operations that the Marcos family undertook to achieve their rehabilitation in less than four decades.

Historian and political analyst Manuel L. Quezon III shared in a talk with VERA Files how meticulous the rehabilitation process was. We all blame social media which the Marcoses have mastered but Quezon said their analog or non-digital work was as amazing.

“Yung favorite example ko yung mga ginawang writing exercise book na pinamimigay sa mga Grade 2 or Grade 3 ba yun so di ba kokopyahin mo yung sentence para matuto ka magsulat at ang mga example na kokopyahin ng mga bata ‘Ferdinand Marcos was the greatest president ever’ or ‘ no one loved the Philippines more than Ferdinand Marcos.’ Ganung klaseng brainwashing. Di ba analog yun libro.”

(My favorite example is the writing exercise they did for Grade 2 or Grade 3, where you copy a sentence for you to learn how to write and the examples that the children copies was “Ferdinand Marcos was the greatest president ever” or “No one loved the Philippines more than Ferdinand Marcos.” That’s the kind of brainwashing. Book are analog, aren’t they.)

That shows the depth and breadth of the Marcos influence I our society and institutions. Many in our education system are loyal supporters of the Marcoses.

Quezon also said Imee Marcos put up the Ferdinand Marcos presidential center that compiled books narrating the accomplishments of the elder Marcos. Those who want to get a certificate for the Tallano gold buy those kinds of books.

And of course, the powerful language of music.

Quezon said one of the things that he looked into in the rehabilitation of the Marcoses was the Martial Law anthem, Ang Bagong Lipunan composed by National Artist for Music Felipe de Leon Sr and lyrics written by National Artist for Literature and music Levi Celerio.

Quezon said the rock heavy metal version of Bagong Lipunan was first began to be heard again 10 years ago in in Batac Ilocos Norte where Grade 2 pupils were seen dancing to the Martial Law song. Later, it was being played outside the Ilocos Norte.

In many provinces, people were marching to the beat of Bagong Lipunan being played by bands. People didn’t associate the song with the grim history of dictatorship.

Quezon said there was a second wave of the revival and propagation of the Bagong Lipunan song after 2016 when Imee ran for senator in 2019.
In 2020, there was the third wave. Even with the pandemic, the song was being played as far as Bicol, Makati and other places in the country, Quezon said.

“Nang lumabas yung electric guitar version remake ng Bagong Lipunan song, earworm na siya sa kabataan, sa buong bansa,” he added.
(When the electric version of eh Bagong Lipunan song was released the young people in the whole country was already earworm.)
(Please listen to VERA Files podcasts, What the F?;;

But despite these thorough, creative Marcos rehabilitation efforts, Quezon noted that a Marcos popularity rating did not go beyond 35 percent – not assuring enough to reclaim Malacañang.

‘’ It took the combination of forces yung unique combination of forces na pwede lang maganap dahil gumuho na ang gitna. Merong north and south alliance for the first time since before martial law, dun sumipa.“

( It took the combination of forces yung unique combination of forces that can only happen when the center collapses. There was a north and south alliance for the first time since before martial law, That’s when it kicked off.)

From then, no political aspirants got near the Marcos- Duterte tandem in the surveys.

And who was responsible for that winning alliance? Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

What’s in this for the former president and now back as representative of Pampanga’s 2nd district?

Definitely not love and admiration for the son of a man who defeated her father in the 1965 presidential elections. In fact, GMA has not been shy in her support for the incoming vice president, Sara Duterte-Caprio.

With the sly and cunning GMA on his side, BBM is not in an enviable situation. Borrowing a line from Shakespeare, uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

Bongbong Marcos enters the world stage

Incoming President Ferdinand ” Bongbong” Marcos Jr. meets with UN Resident Coordinator to the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez June 10, 2022.

The office of incoming President Ferdinand ” Bongbong” Marcos Jr. announced that he is thinking of attending the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September in New York.

The announcement came after Marcos met with UN Resident Coordinator to the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez, who said, “This UN General Assembly meeting will be the first time that the President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will be in front of an important number of heads of state, so this is a great and, I think, a historic opportunity for the president and for the Philippines to share the new vision, the new challenges but, at the same time, the new opportunities.”

This was a day after the meeting of Marcos with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman, who told reporters afterwards that Marcos will not face arrest when he goes on an official visit to the United States, in answer to the question on whether Marcos would be allowed to enter the U.S. despite the contempt order against his family due to their non-compliance with a court order to pay victims of the martial law imposed by his father.

“This is not something that needs to be discussed. The fact is that when you’re head of state, you have immunity in all circumstances and are welcome to the United States in your official role,” Sherman said.

Marcos’ office has also announced that he will be attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Thailand in November. The 21 APEC members include the United States, China, Canada, Russia and the ASEAN countries.

Press Secretary-designate Trixie Cruz-Angeles said, “Marcos was personally invited by Thai Chargé d’ Affaires Thawat Sumitmo to the APEC Summit, in his capacity as representative of Thailand, which is the current APEC Chair.”

Since his overwhelming election win last month, Marcos Jr. and his family are on a roll. Ambassadors are lining up for a courtesy call on him.
After his virtual talks with U.S. President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and outgoing Prime Minister of Australia Scott John Morrison one after another after the elections, Marcos said, “We’re already being recognized.”
“This new administration is being recognized; mukha namang wala nang problema sa (it looks like there is no problem with) recognition. Maybe the comfortable margin that we enjoy during the election has a part to play with that,” he added.

In what is considered as one of the modern world’s stunningly successful political comeback, Marcos, once a despised name, has now become a much-desired guest. It’s as if his 31 million votes, a majority vote — a rarity in Philippine elections — has erased the issues of human rights violations, massive corruption, and tax evasion that characterized the more than 20-year Marcos regime.
Sen. Imee Marcos, the incoming president’s elder sister, goes further by painting themselves as the victims.

In an interview right after the proclamation of his brother as the winner in the May 9 presidential elections, Imee said they are very grateful for “the second chance” because “medyo mabigat ang pinagdaanan ng aming pamilya, talagang matapos ‘yong 1986 kung anu-anong kaso ang hinarap namin, bukod pa do’n sa pangungutya at pang-aapi, sabihin na natin, eh medyo hirap talaga.”
(Our family went through a lot, after 1986, we were accused with a lot of things, apart from being mocked and oppressed; it was really difficult.)

As Imee was saying that, families and friends of the victims of the Marcos regime and concerned citizens are frantically digitizing the records of the atrocities under the Marcos regime before the incoming administration, with its formidable disinformation machinery, succeeds in imposing social amnesia. The Amnesty International has documented, with the help of local civil society groups, at least 35,000 cases of torture; 70,000 incarcerations; and, 3,257 killings from this era during the Marcos regime.

As Marcos outlines in the world stage his new vision for the country, what comes to mind is Hans Christian Andersen’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

The story is about an emperor who was talked into by two swindlers who offered to weave for him a beautiful robe, which is visible only to intelligent people and invisible to all people who are stupid.

When the garment was supposedly finished, the weaver-swindlers made the motion of putting the robe on the monarch. His courtiers, afraid that they would be exposed as stupid, gushed over the garment. The emperor also pretended he was seeing the robe he was wearing and thanked the swindlers for making a beautiful garment for him. He went out proudly to join a parade. Everybody bowed to the monarch, admiring his “beautiful clothes” until he passed by a child who exclaimed, “The emperor wears no clothes!”

This column was carried also by ABS-CBN online, Malaya Business Insight, VERA Files, and Canadian

Why we have to learn the art of listening and discerning

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. being interviewed by Lizzie Laso of Times Journal and Restry de Quiroz Jr. of DZRH. To Bongbong Marcos’ let is Cookie Micaller of Jiji Press.

In his insightful piece in Time Magazine on the election as president of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the ousted dictator, scholar Jonathan Ong said: “To fight back, progressive leaders should advance their own counter-narrative and persuasive vision. But first, they must acknowledge their failure to listen.”

I recall my interview with Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, who lost to Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio in the vice-presidential contest in the recently concluded election, a few weeks before the 2019 midterm election.

I asked Pangilinan, who was then the campaign manager of the Liberal Party-led coalition, what lessons have they learned in the 2016 elections when their candidate, investment banker Mar Roxas, was resoundingly trounced by the foul-mouth Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte despite their being considered then as the incumbent administration’s ticket.

Pangilinan replied: “We didn’t listen to what the people wanted. We told them what we wanted to do for them. We didn’t ask what they wanted.”
He said that’s what they were doing in the 2019 campaign; they asked the people what they wanted. The interview took place about a month before Election Day.

I thought then, Pagilinan’s reflection made for a good campaign strategy, but a bit too late.

We are not sure how much of what they learned in 2019 was used in the 2022 elections. Whatever it was, it was smothered by the awesome machinery that the Marcoses built for Bongbong’s presidential bid.

It’s a machinery that set a specific goal – to rehabilitate the Marcoses and bring them back to power.

It was a machinery that was crafted after a thorough study of its market audience. And it crafted a narrative that appealed to the people, truth be damned.

Stories glorifying martial law and reports refuting the family’s ill-gotten wealth cases and human rights violations were packaged in catchy, engaging TikTok,YouTube, and Instagram posts and distributed across other platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Viber, WhatsApp, etcetera — reaching millions of viewers.

On May 27, VERA Files fact checked a May 14, 2021 photo collage on Facebook, falsely claiming that the Philippines was Asia’s richest country, ahead of Japan, during the Marcos era.

It was a big lie. The Philippines was neither the richest country in Asia nor “richer” than Japan, Singapore, and South Korea during Marcos’ rule from 1965 to 1986, based on gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

In the 13 days that VERA Files monitored the post, it gained 22,000 reactions; 4,400 comments; and, 28,000 shares on FB. It won’t be surprising if that erroneous report is still being shared.

Analysts differ on when the Marcoses started their image rehabilitation project. Immediately after they were ousted from Malacañang in February 1986, statements from members of the Marcos family hinted of their desire to return to the country’s seat of power, which they held for more than two decades.

Journalist Tina Luz wrote an article not so long after the 1986 People Power revolution in which she related an incident when she took a cab with Bongbong Marcos in New York City. Luz said the cab driver overhead them talking about the Philippines and butted in: “You are from the Philippines? You did right in kicking out that bastard Marcos.”

Luz said when they got off the cab, the young Marcos said something like: “See the stigma that our family has to deal with? We have to correct that.”

The rehabilitation of the Marcos image took a lot of time but it was well-calculated. First was the family members’ return to the country two years after the dictator’s death on Sept. 28, 1989.

Bongbong Marcos was the first to fly back to the Philippines on Oct. 31, 1991 under the protection of his father’s closest crony, Eduardo “ Danding” Cojuangco Jr. The next day, which was All Soul’s Day, the young Marcos went to Ilocos Norte where he was welcomed warmly and emotionally by Ilocanos, treating him like a prince returning to his kingdom.

The matriarch, Imelda Marcos, followed three days after.

The two tested the political waters by running for the national elections – Imelda Marcos for president in 1992 and Bongbong Marcos for senator in 1995. They both lost. Imelda, who got two million votes, ranked fifth, higher than the much- respected former Senate president Jovito Salonga. With eight million votes, Bongbong was number 16 in the senatorial race.

Their unsuccessful initial political bids, however, showed them the valuable knowledge that they still have considerable following that can be increased if they could whitewash the stigma attached to the Marcos regime.

They worked on that and in the 2010 Elections (won by Benigno Aquino III), Bongbong was seventh in the senatorial lineup. His elder sister, Imee Marcos, was elected senator in 2019.

In 2016, the Marcos machinery, extending to overseas Filipinos and including a robust social media network, was in place. They smartly aimed for the vice presidency, a heartbeat away from the presidency.

A campaign staff in the Marcos vice-presidential campaign said Bongbong’s first choice to partner with was Rodrigo Duterte but the then Davao City mayor dilly-dallied on his decision to seek the presidency. Marcos did not wait and settled with the very sick Miriam Santiago as his presidential candidate.

Duterte disclosed in later interviews that the Marcoses were one of the early supporters of his presidential candidacy.

Marcos’ strong vice-presidential bid concerned Äquino, whose family was the political enemy of the Marcoses. His call for support on local leaders for Robredo resulted in her winning by a slim margin of a little over 260,000 votes, upsetting the Marcoses’ return- to- Malacañang timetable.

The setback, however, jolted the Marcoses into leveling up their disinformation machinery.

Ronald Holmes, assistant professor of Political Science at De La Salle University and president of Pulse Asia Research, wrote in an article in East Asia Forum about the success of the Marcos strategy:

“Bongbong’s victory testifies to an effective rebranding of his persona. The rebranding was actively prosecuted on social media and started with stories in various social media platforms that glorified martial law and refuted narratives about the family’s ill-gotten wealth. The rebranding was abetted by Duterte’s decision to bury Bongbong’s father — the late dictator — in the National Heroes’ Cemetery. This affirmed the imagined heroism of the dead despot, a historical distortion Marcos Sr. peddled in the early 1960s as he prepared to vie for the presidency in 1965.

“Bongbong successfully projected himself as an anti-populist with his oft-repeated message of unity that inspired hope among a public that hankered for a recovery after a debilitating pandemic.”

Imee Marcos credits ‘’the legacy of [her] father “ as the most effective campaign instrumental to her family’s return to the seat of power.
The recent election taught us the importance of listening and discerning. Listen to the many voices, but it is important that we are able to distinguish something as being different from another: to differentiate what is true from false.

This column also appeared in:

Malaya Business Insight
VERA Files