BBM’s litmus test

By Artchil B. Fernandez

Redemption. This is the ultimate goal of the Marcoses in their quest for power. Imee Marcos made this plainly clear right after her brother Bongbong Marcos (BBM) won in the 2022 election. “What’s most important to us is of course, our name; the family name that has become so controversial— the legacy of my father is what we hope will be clarified at last.”

This is also the driving force behind BBM’s relentless trips abroad earning him the moniker “Ferdinand Magellan junior.” His number of foreign travels already exceeded the months he is in office. Frequent foreign trips of BBM did not escape international attention and was lately featured in one episode of the popular American quiz show Jeopardy.  “In office from 2022, the president of this country has taken so many foreign trips. A play on his name is ‘Ferdinand Magellan Jr.’”

In a Davos, Switzerland open forum BBM candidly admitted he went into politics to “defend ourselves.” The international charm offensive of BBM is designed to win over the international community and flip global opinion familiar with the $10 billion stolen wealth, Imelda Marcos’ 3,000 pair of shoes and jewelry collection, the horrendous human rights violations and other unsavory reputation of the Marcos family.

BBM is trying to wash over even whitewash the dark past of his family. He is telling the world they have changed hoping the international community will view his family in a more positive light. Will BBM succeed? Unlike the gullible, the critical global audience relies more on facts and concrete actions than on trolls and fake news.

International opinion makers, global newsmakers, academics, governments, and reputable individuals, institutions, and organizations are not swayed by manufactured stories peddled by merchant of lies working over-time in Marcos’s troll farms. Genuine acts not mumbo jumbo beguiling words matter to them.

One crucial issue that will determine the sincerity of the charm offensive of BBM is the investigation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the war against illegal drugs of his predecessor. How his administration treats the ICC investigation or what it does in relation to the ICC probe is BBM’s litmus test.

Last January, the Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) of the ICC granted the request of ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan to resume investigation of Du30’s war on drugs. The PTC was not satisfied with the actions taken by the Philippine government on the cases of the victims. “The Chamber is therefore not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations, or is making a real or genuine effort to carry out such investigations and any subsequent criminal prosecutions.”

The decision of the ICC to resume investigation of Du30’s drugs war has placed BBM in quandary and in an awkward situation. His charm offensive has hit a major snag which will likely determine its success or failure. What BBM will do with Du30 and his war on drugs that killed 6,252 individuals (official data) or 27,000 to 30,000 (human rights organizations figure) is central to his attempt to redeem his family’s name.

On this question hinge the whole project of Marcos rehabilitation. The answer will determine if BBM’s charm offensive is a deception, a charade aimed at tricking the world. Will the Marcosess take the ICC investigation as an opportunity to tell the Filipino people and the world they are taking a painful step towards repentance?

The question before BBM is simple. Will he cooperate or not with the ICC investigation?

Cooperation is a hint to the international community that BBM’s charm offensive is not cosmetic or superficial shrewdly intended to blindside and deceive.  It is a sign of making amends for the human rights violations done during the dictatorship of Marcos senior, an attempt at restitution.

Shielding Du30 and non-cooperation with the ICC will only strengthen what the world has known about BBM and the Marcoses. They remain unapologetic and unrepentant of the terrible misdeeds they inflicted on the Filipino people. It will expose the fakery of the redemption project, that it is all for a show, patently phony.

Is it genuine redemption or sham action that BBM will choose?

So far, BBM is inclined towards the latter than the former. He is resisting the ICC, insisting on the already settled question of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court in a 2021 ruling declared that withdrawal from ICC “does not discharge a state party from the obligations it has incurred as a member.” Yet BBM ignored the ruling. “So until those questions of jurisdiction and the effects on the sovereignty of the Republic are sufficiently answered, I cannot cooperate with them,” he adamantly said.

The resumption of ICC investigation is only the beginning for BBM. His Gordian knot will be become more knotty in the future. Things will get complicated once summons and arrest warrants are issued by the ICC to people being investigated in the war on drugs.  This will increase the pressure on BBM. His attempt to win over global opinion will flounder and will be dashed into pieces on the question of ICC’s investigation of Du30’s drugs war with all its blood and gore.

There is no way BBM can evade his litmus test. He cannot win over international opinion without an accompanying proof of concrete action.  He cannot have his cake and eat it too.  BBM cannot simply charm his way to redemption.

Will BBM pass his litmus test or fail?  Either he takes the once-in-a-life-time opportunity to demonstrate authentic remorse by helping those slaughtered in the war on drugs get justice or shield his predecessor at the cost of foregoing the chance to redeem his family’s name.


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