September 18, 2021 at 12:05 am
Tony La Viña
"Despite their contrasting personalities and styles, Marcos and Duterte share similar qualities."
They came from different backgrounds and ascended the presidency via different routes. Yet this notwithstanding, they share commonalities.
Volumes have been written about the 20-year conjugal dictatorship such that very little can be said of the Marcos family that has not been told and retold already in so many ways. Ferdinand Marcos was a brilliant lawyer, a gifted speaker and a promising politician that could have made a lot of difference to his people.
Sadly, his and his wife’s ambition and greed for power and wealth got the better of him. In the end, the family had to flee the country after being unceremoniously booted out of office by an irate populace. He died in exile and went down in infamy and ignominy.
Through chicanery and underhanded manoeuvrings and tactics, Marcos managed the adoption of a constitution that allowed him to perpetuate himself in power. With the declaration of Martial law in September 1972, he was able to consolidate power into his hands to become a dyed-in-the-wool autocrat. Then the systematic plunder of the economy began: He arrested and detained every and all opposition, muffled the media, undermined democratic institutions and processes, installed his cronies in strategic and key sectors of the economy, and militarized the bureaucracy. His legacy is one of profligacy, systematic plunder, institutionalized corruption and an abysmal human rights record that eclipsed any of his good accomplishments.
The Marcos family had a chequered, if not a dark history, which Marcos tried very hard to sweep under the rug when he sought a national office and rose to national prominence. His start was never an auspicious one. While still a U.P. student he was accused, together with his father Mariano, brother-in-law and brother Pio, of the murder of Julio Nalundasan, the elder Marcos's political rival, in September1935. Marcos was prosecuted and convicted for murder and sentenced to death. But an appeal before the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision and acquitted Ferdinand. According to Primitivo Mijares, Justice Jose P. Laurel, who penned the majority decision, saw himself in the young Marcos in that he had figured in almost killing a rival during a brawl his youth, was found by a trial court guilty of frustrated murder, and was acquitted after appealing to the Supreme Court. He saw Marcos as an opportunity to pay forward his debt to society. Justice Laurel pleaded for his colleagues to acquit. Extant records would also reveal that his father, former congressman and provincial governor Mariano Marcos, "cooperated with the Japanese military authorities" as a publicist. The Philippine Archives Collection in the U.S. National Archives in Washington D.C. state that Marcos was tried and executed by the Luzon Guerrilla Armed Forces (LGAF), a guerrilla force fighting the Japanese under the command of Major Robert Lapham.
During his presidency, Marcos made the fabulous claim that he was the most decorated war hero in the Philippines; this has since been discredited as a blatantly fraudulent claim.
Rodrigo Duterte also came from a political clan. His father, Vicente Duterte, served as provincial governor of Davao and his mother was a community activist who had a prominent role in the “people power” movement that deposed the authoritarian president Ferdinand Marcos. As a lawyer, Duterte worked as a prosecutor for Davao City, before becoming vice mayor and, subsequently, mayor of the city in the wake of the 1986 People Power Revolution. Duterte won seven terms and served as mayor of Davao for over 22 years.
During his term as mayor, he has been linked by human rights groups to extrajudicial killings of over 1,400 alleged criminals and street children by vigilante death squads. Although he denied responsibility for the extrajudicial killings, he was vocal in his support for them. In 2015, Duterte confirmed his links to extrajudicial killings in Davao, and warned that, if elected president, he may kill up to 100,000 criminals.
Marcos and Duterte have contrasting personality traits and management styles. Marcos was an extremely intelligent individual who liked to flaunt his brilliance while Duterte is more self-effacing of his academic achievements. Marcos was a figure of civility. Yet behind the veneer of civility and mild manners is a man of consuming ambition, viciousness and ruthlessness. Contrast this to Duterte who is outspoken, transparent and employs vitriol and indecent and misogynistic language in public messages and political discourse, an attitude more typical of a local executive than a man holding the highest national office. For all his flaws, Duterte’s brand of politics is described as populist. This continues to endear him to the masses who are tired of traditional politicians’ propensity for double speak and hypocrisy.
Despite their contrasting personalities and styles, Marcos and Duterte share similar qualities in governance such as in the spheres of foreign policy, infrastructure development, socio-economic development, regard for democratic processes and institutions, militarization of the bureaucracy, dealing with security concerns, human rights record, propensity for strong-arm politics and others, resulting in roughly parallel outcomes. Of course, one must bear in mind that Marcos had a 20-year reign while Duterte is a one term president by constitutional dicta.