OPINION: Return of the Marcos clan… it’s more funny in the Philippines

Bongbong Marcos
The Marcos family at the height of their powers. But will the clan have another chance to lead? Picture from Malacañang Photo Library

Picture the scene: It’s 1976 and Adolph “Dolph-Dolph” Hitler has just been made vice-chancellor of Germany, in what many see as one of the biggest and most unlikely political comebacks in history.

He has done this by distancing himself from his father’s role in the Holocaust (and all the other unpleasantness) and by years of hard graft in the Reichstag.


In return, the Federal Reich has decided that the Hitler family need not pay back the billions they looted during the war. After all, it was a long time ago, and they did build lots of lovely infrastructure like the autobahns and…

Obviously, this never actually happened in Germany. Generally speaking, when most countries rid themselves of an oppressive dictatorship, that’s it, game over. Goodbye, and enjoy your exile in sunny Hawaii.

But it’s always more funny (as in ‘peculiar’, not ‘haha’) in the Philippines.


Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Junior is confident that a very expensive ballot recount will overturn the victory of Leni Robredo, his rival for the post of Vice President last year. (Read more here)

Should he succeed, the return of a Marcos to the centre of political power would represent one of the most remarkable political comebacks since Napoleon escaped from Elba and took back control of France.

More importantly, it would put the former senator just a heartbeat away from absolute power should anything happen to 72-year-old President Duterte.


Recently, it has been suggested that the government might scale back efforts to recover the billions of dollars plundered by Bong-Bong’s parents, including Imelda, who has occupies a safe seat in the House of Representatives. It’s particularly secure as her daughter Imee is the Governor of the province.

To really understand the cult of personality that still surrounds the Marcos family, a trip to Batac, the self-styled “home of great leaders” is essential.

Until the late dictator was buried in the national Heroes’ Cemetery last November, this was where you could see his embalmed body lying in state, at the Marcos museum. You could also enjoy a walk around his private golf course and “modest” summer house.

Thirsty for knowledge, you will no doubt read the historical signs detailing just how wonderful things were under the Marcos clan.

Now, while all deposed dictators are viewed by some with nostalgia (even Ceausescu in Romania), for the Marcos family, burnishing their past credentials is a work in progress.

Luckily for them, there is no shortage of people wanting to believe that life was better “in the olden days” and it doesn’t hurt that the current occupant of the Malacañang is among them.

The return of the clan is also helped by the collision of two negative national traits that most Filipinos will reluctantly admit to — the obsession with money and the ‘crab mentality’*.

Ferdinand Marcos was handsome and powerful, Imelda was beautiful and charismatic. The kids were educated abroad at great expense. They might have stolen money from the country, but it was theirs to steal, wasn’t it? Oh, and they are really good Catholics. Very pious and God-fearing.

And if they can achieve what they did, anyone can do it, right? Anyone can aspire to be a Marcos? In reality you’d have more chance of power if you grabbed a rifle and joined the NPA.

*For those that don’t know, this visual metaphor describes how crabs, in attempting to escape from a bucket, will pull back down those others who are close to freedom.