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.)
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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

Comelec quick response foils site-hacking report from becoming a problem

So many things were not quite right in the Manila Bulletin news report about the alleged hacking of the Commission on Election (Comelec) website. The quick response from Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez foiled further spread of that suspicious report.

Jimenez took the bull by its horn, a valuable lesson not only in fighting disinformation but also in preventing something from becoming a problem, or a crisis.

The report came to our attention late afternoon of Monday, Jan. 10. It said “sensitive voter information may have been compromised after a group of hackers was allegedly able to breach the servers of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), downloading more than 60 gigabytes of data that could possibly affect the May 2022 elections.”

“This was discovered by the Manila Bulletin (MB) Technews team, which found that the hackers’ group managed to breach the system of the Comelec last Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, and download files that included, among others, usernames and PINS of vote-counting machines (VCM),” the MB article continued.

The story had the byline “MB Technews,” indicating that not one person but members of the newspaper’s technews team worked on the story.

The report triggered concern because this was not the first time that government agencies’ websites, including Comelec’s, were hacked. And there’s the approaching May 9, 2022 elections that everyone looks forward to as the campaign heats up even as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 rampages, setting new record levels of infections.

Our fact-checkers’ training tell us to immediately do lateral reading, get out of the Manila Bulletin site and check if other news media sites carried similar reports. Nada!

We got Jimenez’ statement, which said they were “validating” the news report. He did not dismiss the report outright but pointed out red flags.

“With no independent verification that a hack has indeed taken place, one thing immediately stands out: the article alleges that the hackers were able to ‘download files that included, among others, usernames and PINS (personal identification numbers) of vote-counting machines (VCM).’The fact, however, is that such information still does not exist in Comelec systems simply because the configuration files – which includes usernames and PINs – have not yet been completed. This calls into question the veracity of the hacking claim,” Jimenez noted.

Further, he said: “ As for the rest of the allegations made, please note that the article offers scant substantiation for its assertions despite claiming that the authors had ‘verified that there was an ongoing hack.’ Indeed, the article does not even offer proof of such verification.”

As expected, several theories and comments already came out on social media. There were those who suspected those loyal to President Rodrigo Duterte of sabotaging the May 9 elections for a No-EL scenario to allow him to stay in Malacañang beyond June 30, 2022.

The seed of this suspicion could have been the proposal of Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. (Pampanga, 3rd district), filed on Jan. 7, for longer term of office for the president, members of the House of Representatives and local officials on the argument that six years for a president and three years for House members are “too short.”

Later in the evening, we chanced upon this Twitter account @KimInar by someone who described herself as a “world traveler, lawyer, critic, hard-working, and independent woman.”
Earlier, @KimInar was at a Twitter party with the theme “Protect our Vote” and hashtag #ComelecHacked. It carried the Manila Bulletin headline report.

@KimInar tweeted: “Can we still entrust our vote with the Comelec?” and encouraged others to “RT.”

Jose@edsaisidro wrote: “So if not for the MB Technews team, we wouldn’t have known this hacking incident? Talagang nanakawin ulit ang mga boto natin?”

Anathema Crapolla@anathemacrapola chimed in: “This plus yung pang tatag team ni Jimenez at Guanzon ng tweets para hiyain si Bongbong sa dapat walang kwentang DQ issue, plus yung cryptic tweet ni Andy Bautista…… Ano ba ito? Harap harapang pangaggago? Eleksyon pa ba? Bigay nyo na kay Leni. Nahiya pa kayo.”

Did the Manila Bulletin news report have something to do with the petitions to disqualify presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. being heard by the Comelec First Division?

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon started the hearing Jan. 7, Friday. Marcos Jr. did not attend. His lawyer said he was not feeling well and that he was exposed to persons who tested positive of COVID-19.

Guanzon announced on Twitter: “On or before Jan 17 the @COMELEC First Division will promulgate its Resolution on the DQ cases versus Marcos Jr. If not too risky, we will read it in the Session Hall, on live stream.

This column appeared also in:

ABS-CBN online, Malaya Business Insight, and VERA Files

Is Bongbong Marcos peaking too early?

Latest election surveys showed that if elections were held today, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. would be the 17th president of the Republic of the Philippines.

It’s a nightmare in the making for those who have experienced the horrors of martial law and those who know how democracy was distorted and crushed during the Marcos authoritarian regime. Will the 50th year of the declaration of martial law on Sept. 21, 2022 be declared a national holiday by the Philippine president by then, the son and namesake of the man who signed Proclamation 1081 two days prior to its announcement, asked JB Baylon, columnist of Malaya Business Insight and VERA Files.

Pulse Asia’s December 2021 nationwide survey showed Marcos Jr. was the choice of 53% of Filipinos if elections were held now. Other candidates trail behind, with Leni Robredo, the political opposition’s muse, as the choice of 20% of the respondents; Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, 8%; boxing legend and Sen. Manny Pacquiao, 8%; and, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, 6%.

Never has a candidate in the post-1986 people power revolution elections reached that high number consistently in pre-election surveys. Not even Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who was catapulted into the 2010 presidential race by the massive public sympathy over his mother’s death a few months earlier. He led in all the poll surveys at 40-plus percent, never reaching 50%.

A favorite elections poll story is the come-from-behind feat of then-mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte, who was No. 4 among presidential aspirants five months before D-Day. The SWS December 2009 survey had then-vice president Jejomar Binay and Sen. Grace Poe preferred by 26% of the respondents, followed by Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas with 22%. Duterte had 20% support and then-senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, 4%.

Duterte’s national popularity manifested only in the April 2015 surveys. Pulse Asia’s polling sponsored by broadcast giant ABS-CBN two weeks before the May 9, 2016 elections had Duterte on top with 33%. He went on to win the elections with 16,601,997 (39.2% of votes cast).
The vice-presidential race was also a come-from-behind story with Robredo winning over Marcos Jr. by 263, 473 votes.

The come-from-behind stories are reminders that many things can happen between now and May 9, 2022. Can Bongbong Marcos continue expanding his numbers and convert them successfully to actual votes come Election Day? Or has he peaked this early and go downhill from now?
Bongbong Marcos’ advisers, having their bitter lesson in the 2016 elections experience, may be doing everything to make sure that their candidate maintains the lead.

There are calls for the opposition to unite behind Robredo against Marcos Jr. Maybe because his running mate is President Duterte’s daughter, Bongbong is identified with the current administration and his victory would be a continuation of Duterte’s policies: pro-China, low on human rights, etc.

Duterte’s badmouthing of Bongbong Marcos didn’t seem to have affected the latter’s popularity. This confirms two things: Duterte’s lame duck status (who gives importance to someone who will be out of power in a few months?) and that more than 50% of Duterte’s social media warriors, credited for his 2016 election domination, belongs to the Marcos online army.

It is doubtful, however, if Moreno, Pacquiao and Lacson would withdraw from the race. And granting they would, it is doubtful if the votes would go to Robredo, especially Moreno’s and Pacquiao’s supporters. They could even be won over by Marcos Jr.

This is one situation where Robredo’s strategists should think of the divide and conquer strategy -encourage Pacquiao to stay in the race to deprive the Bongbong-Sara full dominance of Mindanao. Marcos has the edge in Metro Manila over other candidates with 61% (Pulse Asia survey). If Moreno withdraws, his 17% might even go to Marcos.

The next surveys should be interesting. Leni’s graph has been a steady upward climb. Bongbong is clearly on top now. Where does he go from there?