Twenty-four years ago the Marcoses were chased out of the country. Now, Ferdinand junior is running for the Senate, Imelda for Congress and her daughter Imee for governor. Marcos senior, who died in 1989, is refrigerating above ground -- his family's awaiting the most opportune moment to plop his semigelatinous corpse in the National Heroes' Cemetery.
Far from being ostracized as a bandit queen, Imelda has the media beating a path to her door and churning out fawning, clueless or uncritical articles, her crimes framed with the cop-out word "alleged.". The klepto who collected everything from New York condos to jewelry, underwear and shoes -- all on the people's tab -- has become a historical curio, the topic of a sympathetic disco musical.
The Marcoses are nothing but classy about their resurgence. Recently, Ferdinand junior -- Bongbong -- airily declared there were no human rights violations during Martial Law. Before that, in a separate interview, Imelda sneered that Cory Aquino was a "thief", "dictator" and "usurper."
Actually, junior is a convicted tax evader linked by no less than the Swiss Federal Court to criminal activities.Sister Imee has been tied to murder: in 1977, when a Mapua university student spoke up in a public forum and embarrasssed her, Imee's guards seized the youth, tortured him, beat him to death then left his bloodied corpse on the pavement. The Marcoses have hundreds of cases pending against them.
Yet the slippery, slimy Marcoses continue to elude and mock justice. In 1998, Bongbong told an interviewer "My father must be laughing in heaven right now. Nobody can still get his hands on the Marcos gold."
The family owes its survival to several factors. One is the country's forgetfulness: an entire generation of Filipinos has grown up learning and knowing close to nothing of the Marcoses depredations.
Another is what no less than Lee Kwan Yew himself calls the Filipinos' "soft, forgiving culture."
"Only in the Philippines", Lee observes, "could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, still be considered for national burial. Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics..."
Every administration since Martial Law has been unable to bring the supercrooks to book. Cory failed to jail them, Fidel Ramos thought it prudent not to earnestly pursue his former bosses. Joseph Estrada was all for burying Marcos senior in the Heroes Cemetery.
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has done the most to nurture the Marcoses' reblooming. Under her, the decades-old cases against the Marcoses have languished. Symbolically, the head of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) -- the agency formed specifically to prosecute the Marcoses -- was photographed dancing with and kissing Imelda during her birthday.
Arroyo's government now seems headed for a last-minute "universal settlement" where the Marcoses get to keep most of their loot (estimated to be at least US$10 billion) and admit to no wrongdoing. In return, the government will drop all the cases, promise the Marcoses immunity from any suit, and get a lump sum of money.
Who will actually get that lump sum is anybody's guess. But it's useful to remember that in 2004, Arroyo helped herself to recovered Marcos loot intended for human rights victims and spent it on her election campaign.
Arroyo's pretty clear about where she stands on the issue of corrupt national leaders -- she instantly pardoned the one big fish Philippine justice has ever netted, the oafish and disgraced ex-president Estrada.
Towards Ferdinand Marcos and all he represents, Gloria's policy is not "repudiate", it's "replicate".
The dictator killed thousands of Filipinos, stole billions of dollars, and all but ruined what there was of Philippine democracy. It's a tough sked to follow, but Arroyo's tried her busy best. Her abuse of power, attempts to change the Constitution in order to hang on to power, blatant display of cronyism all channel the term "Marcosian." Not content to use Marcos tactics, she's also used Marcos henchmen such as Ronaldo Puno, Blas Ople, Gabriel Claudio.