By Karl Malakunas
His name used to be poison in the Philippines but Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is now talking about becoming president after elections showed him to be one of the nation’s most popular politicians.
The dictator’s son also insists his family has nothing to apologize for in regards to his father and namesake’s 20-year rule of the country that ended in 1986 with a “people power” revolution and a humiliating escape into exile.
“My father doesn’t need me to vindicate him,” a relaxed Marcos told AFP last May 19 in his first major interview since the national elections on May 10 that saw him secure more than 13 million votes and a seat in the Senate.
“What will vindicate my father will be the academics and the historians who will look back on his time in the cold light of day and see his administration for what it was.”
To many, Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s reign was dominated by widespread human rights abuses, the family stealing billions of dollars from state coffers and the wholesale slaughter of a fledgling democracy aimed at holding on to power.
But Marcos Jr. said his father, who died in 1989 in US exile and now lies embalmed in the family home in the northern Philippines, committed no major crimes and was a superior president to those who succeeded him.
“To compare between him and the presidents since, he was a much better president than they have been,” the 53-year-old said as he sipped on a fruit juice in an upscale Manila cafe.
He dismissed charges that his father cheated to win the 1986 elections, one of the key moments in modern Philippine history as it triggered the so-called “people power” revolution led by the democracy heroine Corazon Aquino.
Marcos was similarly black-and-white when asked if the family stole even just one dollar while in power.
“Good Lord no, of course not,” he said, then emphasized that hundreds of cases had been lodged against the Marcosos in an attempt to recover alleged ill-gotten wealth, but none had succeeded.
On human rights abuses, Marcos initially said that some minor incidents — such as a drunken soldier beating someone up — may have occurred while his father was in power.
“But it was not part and parcel of government. It was not national policy to commit human rights abuses,” he said.
Pushed further, however, on issues such as the detention of journalists, newspapers being closed and the imposition of martial law, Marcos said such measures were needed to contain “wars” against Muslim and communist rebels.
“So the war rules applied, I suppose, in that regard,” he said.
Further boosting his confidence that his family will fall on the right side of history were parallel victories in the national elections by his famously flamboyant mother, Imelda, and sister Imee.
With Imelda, 80, winning a seat in the nation’s lower house of parliament, and Imee the governorship of Ilocos Norte province that is their family stronghold, the clan is at its strongest politically since being overthrown.
“It’s a result that we all wanted. You can’t do better than that,” he said.
Marcos said the trio’s victories showed that ordinary Filipinos had never abandoned the family, and that its downfall was only because it fell victim to a plot by the United States and powerful local oligarchs.
“The EDSA (people power) revolution was American-inspired. It was a regime change… and although they’ll deny it and swear on everything that’s holy that they weren’t involved, it’s very clear that they were,” he said of the US government.
“In the family, we always knew that, but it’s very gratifying to see that other people have come around to that way of thinking.”
Marcos said he had decided to step up to the Senate — after serving for nine years as Ilocos Norte governor and three as a lower house member — purely to give ordinary Filipinos a voice on the national stage.
“I really felt that I could help, I really felt that I had learned very much and I could bring those lessons to a national stage,” he said.
Marcos insisted that entering the Senate was not part of a well-orchestrated plan to run for the presidency in the next elections in 2016.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the next six months so I think to plan for that is actually not even a practical thing to do, a wise thing to do. Because you have to watch and wait really,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said that he did want to emulate his father by becoming president.
“In the way that every foot soldier wants to be a general,” he said.