May 2, 2022 (9:18 PM)

6 min read


Graphic by Son Roy Almerol and Mariz Aylah Cenojas

Trolls, memes, and fake news—Philippine social media during the upcoming 2022 polls are evidently influenced by the experiences of 2016. It was during this tumultuous period that historical revisionism of the Marcos regime, particularly during the Martial Law period up to the People Power Revolution, began to gain traction. As critics became the criticized, and lies drowned out truths, Marcos apologists, as they would become known, would either flood discussion spaces with misinformation, or be swept along with it.

This wave of misinformation is propagated by none other than the camp of presidential candidate and dictator’s son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. Despite his father’s overthrow and his family’s ouster in the wake of the 1986 EDSA Revolution, it is almost unimaginable that another Marcos would be vying for the country’s top position. But the reality is clear: Marcos has consistently topped surveys since the beginning of the campaign period, despite his conviction as a tax evader, his continued refusal to attend presidential debates (save for the SMNI one), and his refusal to acknowledge the atrocities committed during his father’s regime.

So why has the Marcos name turned from a reminder of one of the country’s darkest periods in its history to one of a “golden age”?  For D, a college student from Ateneo de Davao University, it was a combination of relatives’ stories, online misinformation, and mental gymnastics.

D was exposed to the Marcos apologist narrative at a young age, as his relatives would tell him stories about the Martial Law years being the country’s greatest.

“Even when I was very young, I’d already heard close relatives say from time to time how the Marcos years were the ‘best years to be a Filipino,’ so the seeds were already sown then,” D said of his younger years.

D also adds that his parents, who had lived during the Marcos regime, became the primary criterion for him to indulge in the pro-Marcos view of the era. 

“My parents literally grew up during the Marcos administration, which was why I took their experience as the sole criterion for accepting the pro-Marcos narrative,” he said.

But D’s adoption of the Marcos apologist narrative was catalyzed by the 2016 elections, where misinformation on social media conjured up the dictator’s supposed achievements, erstwhile promoting the idea that the succeeding Aquino administration discarded them entirely. Being a teenager, D found himself caught in the storm of misinformation that rocked the online spaces he’d typically frequent. 

“However, the 2016 elections were the catalyst for me to become a full-fledged Marcos apologist. False media regarding the achievements of the Marcos administration began circulating more prominently in Youtube and in other social media outlets—basically every teenager’s hangout—so I consumed these media, out of curiosity, and became instantly hooked. It was also the most convenient counterpoint to the faults and failures of the Aquino administration, hence, it became so endearing for me to follow the ‘Marcos-Golden Years, Aquino Victim’ narrative,” D explained.

D’s embrace of the Marcos apologist narrative had a significant impact on his perception of mainstream media. He described how he began to form opinions over reading headlines without knowing the full context. 

“My days as a Marcos apologist definitely had an effect on how I processed and perceived ‘mainstream media.’ To put it short—I remember already forming an opinion (usually negative) over a news I’ve yet to read or grasp a full context of,” D stressed.

Becoming wary of critical news outlets such as ABS-CBN and Rappler, D turned to alternative media. However, D’s newfound skepticism towards mainstream media wasn’t selective enough to the extent that he solely relied on said sources. Although D admits to noticing the flaws in the Marcos apologist narrative’s logic, he simply chose to ignore or even justify them.

“I was not necessarily ‘blinded’ in the sense that the truth and reality were not within my view at all—in retrospect, I could honestly say that, for my situation, I deliberately turned a blind eye—which was why it wasn’t that hard to purge myself from my fanaticism because I’d already seen the red flags, I just chose to ignore them (or find some justification for them),” D explained.

D then proceeded to discuss some of the contradictions that he had encountered during his investment in the Marcos apologist narrative, particularly its criticism of Imperial Manila—the idea that programs by post-Marcos administrations focused solely on the Philippine capital’s development.

“I can remember people being angry at past successive presidents for being too Manila-centric when it comes to development and for simply stroking the egos of the so-called ‘Imperial Manila.’ But then the same people would also praise Marcos for his ‘outstanding’ infrastructure projects—the LRT, the Cultural Center, the Heart Center, the Lung Center, Manila International Airport, the highways, the bridges—despite almost all of them being located [in] Manila,” he recalled.

D then discussed his criticism of the infamous fallacy of questioning Martial Law critics by virtue of having no experiences during the said period.

“Fanatics, for another, would also question the validity of protesters’ claims against Martial Law because of the simple fact that they, apparently, had not experienced it. Which is funny, because, with that logic, the same fanatics would also rant about how the People Power Revolution had failed the people and was outright wrong, despite the fact that they themselves had not marched at EDSA.” 

Ultimately, D could no longer endure the “mental gymnastics” of adhering to the Marcos apologist narrative, and by January 2020, he had abandoned it altogether.

D’s story is one of many told by Marcos apologists, both former and current. They would be told by relatives of the “golden age” they lived under the dictator’s rule; they would become skeptical of mainstream media and become susceptible to misinformation, and they would attempt to rationalize their beliefs through fallacies and lies. And while others would eventually open their eyes in disillusionment just as D had, many continue to be blind—either by choice or by circumstance.

The article was previously published in the Election Issue 2022 of Atenews. Read it here:

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