Frustration, desperation, and deception

By Artchil B. Fernandez

The foremost question in everyone’s mind is the outcome of the 2022 election, particularly the presidential race. Why did the family the Filipinos threw out of power 36 years ago return to power? Why have Filipinos, as a whole, chosen to turn blind to the high crimes the Marcos family committed against them?

While it will take time to distill and digest the data on the phenomenon, this column offers an initial or preliminary take on this development. Three words best capture the anomaly – frustration, desperation, and deception.

Filipinos, especially those in the lower strata of society are frustrated. This frustration has been around for years and first propelled Du30 to the presidency in 2016. The return of Marcos demonstrates the devious manipulation of frustration through disinformation, lies, and falsehoods.

Frustration runs deep among the poorest segment of the population, and this is rooted in their miserable condition which has not changed for decades. The overthrow of the corrupt and repressive Marcos dictatorship in 1986 ushered in new hope. Along with the restoration of democracy, the masses expect their economic and social condition will considerably improve under the new regime.

Several regimes came and went since 1986 but the lot of those in the lowest section of the population remains unchanged. Every regime after 1986 made “change” their battle cry but no fundamental change happened. The only thing that changed is the faces of the leaders from local to national leadership.

Thus, it was easy for Du30 in the 2016 election to discredit the EDSA project. Du30 created a counter-narrative blaming the failures of EDSA for the plight of the poor. That liberal democracy failed was Du30’s campaign theme and offered a populist with an authoritarian brand of leadership.

One fruit of frustration is desperation. The masses and even a significant portion of the middle class were desperate for change which liberal democracy did not deliver. This desperation was tapped by Du30, presenting the desperate a strong-arm leadership that will solve the national malaise. A sizable slice of Filipinos embraced his illiberal project out of desperation thinking this a way out of the national morass.

Towards the end of Du30’s term, the frustration and desperation remain. Nothing substantial has changed in the lot of the masses and Du30 miserably failed to deliver his promises. The illegal-drug problem did end in three to six months, but corruption is still rampant and key election promise like ending “endo” was unfulfilled.

Bongbong Marcos hijacked the frustration and desperation of the public through insidious deception. For years, the Marcos disinformation machine created a counterfeit reality painting the brutal and corrupt rule of the dictator patriarch as the “golden age” of the Philippines.

Through troll farms and factories, the Marcos deception machine penetrated and dominated social media, bombarding it with lies, disinformation, misinformation and fiction. The uncritical and unsuspecting public was fed with falsehoods and fake reality. They were made to believe that there was once a “paradise” in the Philippines under the dictatorial regime of Marcos senior. This “non-existing paradise” was destroyed by the EDSA revolt, the lies of the Marcoses claim.

For the poorest section of the population to get out of grinding poverty, for the Philippines to be “prosperous” again, the bogus “golden age” is the answer, the disinformation machine proclaims. Only by bringing the Marcoses back to power can the fake “nostalgia” of the past return, the lie trumpets.

All forms, shapes, and sizes of lies were peddled by the Marcos deception apparatus to pollute the digital world as well as other media platforms to feed the disillusionment of the masses. The deadly combination of frustration, desperation and deception made the victory of Marcos junior in the 2022 election possible.

Frustrated and desperate, the majority of Filipino clung to the false hope nurtured by deception. They swallowed the lie that the Marcoses will end their misery, improve and change their sorry state, and end the cycle of poverty. Will this come about?

In the same way, the past EDSA regimes and liberal democracy failed, the illiberal project also failed and did not deliver.  The epic failure of the Du30 regime is evidence populism cannot deliver. For the time being, the devious deception of the Marcoses is able to conceal the truth and the inevitable, enabling them to return to power.

But for how long can the Marcoses sustain the make-believe reality they foisted on Filipinos?  Until when can they maintain the deception? In the end, reality and truth will have a way of puncturing the lies and the fiction.

The problem of the Philippines is systemic, and what is needed is system change. Change of faces in national leadership will not bring the fundamental change to Filipinos, particularly the poorest section of the population hunger. The Marcoses and their allies cannot solve the problem of poverty and corruption for they are part of the problem.

The Marcoses and their allies in the Axis of Evil are living off the asymmetrical social system. They will not destroy the unjust social structure that not only sustains their existence but is the source of their wealth and power. Keeping the vast majority of Filipinos poor, frustrated and desperate is their sole way to survive and maintain their privileged position.  The hoped-for “change” under Marcos 2.0 will not come.

The victory of Marcos junior is a double-edged sword. The Marcoses set a high expectation that finally, the Philippines will be rich and affluent under them. If they fail to deliver (most likely) the hungry and angry masses will again turn against them. Either they destroy the system to fulfill their false promise or maintain it at their own peril.