The Long View: The last hawk standing


The last hawk standing

 / 04:06 AM December 08, 2021

If it had been up to then-governor Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile would have been rounded up and at a bare minimum, thrown behind bars for planning to oust Ferdinand Sr. in a coup. Enrile had planned a coup for December 1986 — but Marcos’ announcement of a snap election had spoiled that plan. Still, they were set on a February coup attempt.

Ferdinand Jr., who’d received special forces training (which explains his particular fetish for wearing uniform fatigues throughout the closing days of the 1986 Edsa Revolution), was among the hawks demanding an uncompromising and fierce response from his ailing father. He would play a starring role in the cinematic come-from-behind victory of the beleaguered Loyalist forces. As Gringo Honasan and friends approached the Palace on its Pasig frontage, General Fabian Ver’s people would blind the attackers with searchlights; the Ilocos Norte governor, Marcos Jr., would then dramatically stand on the Palace’s river wall and demand the surrender of the attackers. If they didn’t comply, then there would be a bloodbath to prove who was still boss.

These are the sketchy details as written up soon after the fact. We know surprisingly little about Marcos Jr.’s princeling years aside from gossip. What we do know with more confidence is, prior to the Edsa revolution, the far more politically useful of the Marcos siblings was the eldest daughter, Imee, who’d become active as head of the Kabataang Barangay. Marcos Jr. for his part inherited nominal political overlordship of their home province, Ilocos Norte, first as vice governor and then as governor, but by any reckoning it was just the beginning of his political career.

From contemporary accounts we get the impression that in the closing months of his father’s regime, Marcos Jr. was a hawk, advocating aggressive measures against both military rebels and the citizenry at Edsa in 1986. When the rebels found out one of their ranks had spilled the beans they withdrew to Camps Crame and Aguinaldo; Marcos Jr. hawkishly advised his father to blast the rebels with artillery or bomb them; the old man dilly-dallied, and when he finally said go ahead, the rebels had networked with the air force and the navy so they refused.

Exile seems to have made Marcos Jr. more measured in his political behavior. At the very least, there was little in his pre-Edsa reputation to recommend him to non-Loyalists; he would have to make a name for himself.

The Road to Rehabilitation began when his mother unsuccessfully ran for the presidency, and he ran, successfully, to be the congressman for the second district of Ilocos Norte in 1992. The Loyalist constituency was large enough to have eked out two Senate seats in 1987, when two Grand Alliance for Democracy senators were elected (both, by this time, avowed Loyalists again): Juan Ponce Enrile and Joseph Ejercito Estrada. The latter, joining his own fan base to the Loyalist base, successfully contested the vice presidency in 1992 and the presidency in 1998. He (Estrada) would prove accommodating, even welcoming, to the Marcoses.

Second, it planted the Marcos flag once more in the heartland, Ilocos Norte. I was once told that Imee Marcos once referred to her home province as the “grand duchy,” a term more clever than you think: for in our baronial political culture, a fiefdom is the essential basic requirement to fulfill national ambitions. Her brother’s congressional seat was later taken over by Imee in 1998, when he became governor, again, of Ilocos Norte (he’d been vice governor in 1980 and became governor in 1983, concurrently serving as what seems to have been a decorative chairman of the board for Philcomsat in 1985): clinching the restoration of the clan to preeminence in their home turf. Marcos Jr. then returned to the House of Representatives in 2007. Having lost a bid for the Senate in 1995, he was successful the second time around in 2010, placing seventh. Along the way, his mother had successfully undertaken a restoration of her own: hoisting the Romualdez flag in 1995 in Leyte, which meant the North-South power bases of the family were once again secured (ever-useful, when someone was needed to keep the Ilocos congressional seat warm, she fluttered over to her husband’s province and became its second district congresswoman in 2010),

The point was that the grand duchy was safe again; and Marcos Jr., by becoming governor for the second time, had his own personal vindication. The only thing left was the redemption of the family name by reclaiming the Palace.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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