Bongbong Marcos' win is a lost for all Filipinos
How BBM's win is actually a symptom of colonial and racial capitalist domination
The putative victory of Bongbong Marcos (BBM) is a heartbreaking slap in the face. Many are speculating about how he won. On one hand, many are rightfully concerned with the spread of disinformation and institutionalization of historical revisionism in the Philippine education system and on social media. On the other hand, others are also rightfully outraged by the reckless handling of voter ballots, the breakdown of counting machines, and the heavily policed precincts where people had to go to vote—all of which contributed to voter disenfranchisement. Either way, his victory is a disrespectful insult to the thousands of people who were imprisoned, tortured, and killed during his father’s dictatorship during the 1970s and 1980s.
Nevertheless, beyond the disinformation, historical revisionism, voter disenfranchisement, and the stories and research about martial law survivors, we need to acknowledge that there are still people out there who support BBM, even despite knowing what his family has done. It is here where my analysis starts.
Here, I’m asking, why do these BBM supporters cling to him even after knowing the cruel violence and oppression he brought into the lives of so many Filipinos? Is it because they are hedging their bets that they will be in the “wealthy” camp that is safe from the slicing off of the poor and damned souls of the earth? Do they align with BBM and accept the impending sacrifices on the basis that an authoritarian government might have the capacity to bring about a false “certainty” in the precarity of living in the Global South?
Why do we need to acknowledge this subset of people? Because in my view, they represent a harrowing reminder of the fragility of (neo)liberal democracy under global capitalism and its inability to protect the most marginalized. These peoples’ “choice” to align with BBM is in no doubt a horrid decision, but it was made out of a set of already bad options that were determined by foreign domination in the global economy. While I am seeking to historically situate their decision here, I want to make it clear that I am not sympathizing with the blatant disregard for the history of violence the Marcos family has brought upon people in the Philippines. I certainly think an administration with Leni Robredo as president would do less damage to the people. But regardless of who becomes president, the president works within the confines of many structural forces that make oppression, violence, and alienation possible.
That is, the point I want to make is that it is not as simple as “ignorant” Filipinos who fell for disinformation and voted for a dictator’s son. If anything, this claim is a reduction that blames the oppressed individual and vacates the history of colonialism and racial capitalism. But if we give agency back to these BBM-supporting Filipinos, we can recognize that their choice to align with BBM is perhaps rationalized as a choice that affirms their imagined community of Filipinos. Unfortunately, their imagined community is an exclusionary community that protects them, but violently neglects marginalized people living in poverty, landless agricultural workers, queer and trans people, and more. It is an individualist choice made out of fear, a fear that their livelihood is on the line. And when placed in the conditions to fear one own’s life, some people make decisions that prioritize their survival and safety over others. In other words, they are not ignorant, but rather they made a wrongful, fearful sacrifice for survival. Here, the question we need to address is: how can we reimagine safety and survival that does not come at the expense of others?
Nevertheless, while the decision to elect BBM is wrong because it perpetuates the conditions of violence in the Philippines, attacking BBM supporters for being “ignorant” is also an unproductive band-aid solution. It does not address the root issues that created the conditions of possibility that engendered authoritarian fascist violence and oppression in the Philippines.
So to move forward in a way that does not alienate Filipinos (as this election outcome is a loss for Filipinos everywhere), our analysis cannot be contained by the boundaries of a nation because it is a global issue. In fact, this election outcome is in part a symptom of the Global North’s capitalist expropriation and exploitation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color all around the world. It is a symptom of the modern world economy that was founded on racialized hierarchies, Indigenous dispossession, and forced migration for enslaved labor. It is also a symptom of the many decades of (neo)liberal restructuring in the 20th century that displaced the responsibility of care, health, and safety to families (especially women and queer people) by cutting public expenditures, dismantling social welfare, fixing the currencies of “developing” countries to the U.S. dollar, creating international financial institutions that handed out predatory loans to impose these same dismantling policies against social safety nets in the Global South, and squeezed land, resources, and labor to generate profit for the rich and wealthy in the Global North.
Together, these systems of (neo)liberalism and racial capitalism created the precarious conditions that people are forced to live in today. And it is what alienates us, makes us believe in “survival of the fittest,” and causes the divisions we see in the Philippines today. These structuring forces of our politics and economy in the Philippines obscure the wealthy classes of the world who hoard resources behind a false and racist framework of crisis, scarcity, and overpopulation. It makes us think we are alone because our institutions have been stripped of the responsibility to take care of us. And it is in this context of capitalist-induced crisis where fascist authoritarianism grows and thrives. So, make no mistake that this election result is the outcome of colonialism and racial capitalism. This is why the decolonization of our minds and institutions as well as the abolition of racial capitalism are imperative for safety and survival that does not come at the expense of others.
Therefore, the hope for the future of the Philippines relies on us Filipinos and our allies who must take their place in solidarity with those struggling against different dimensions of the same violence and oppression: Black, Indigenous, African, Women, Queer, Trans, Palestinians, Dalits, Muslims, Kurdish, Pacific Islanders/Oceanic People, Latina/o/x, and so many more. Filipinos need to reject the internalization of colonial, racialized, and capitalist practices.
Do not give in to the false narratives of meritocracy, liberal progressivism, individualism, or scarcity that perpetuate colonial and racial capitalist logics, practices, and institutions.
You are not alone. There is a place for you in the world. The world is big enough for all of us and we must find ways to collectively organize and come together in this ongoing struggle. Padayon tayo!