By Alan C. Robles
In 1985, I was a young journalist freelancing for foreign publications and local alternative media such as Malaya and Mr & Ms Special Edition (which became the Inquirer), plus I wrote regular features and a humor column for the now defunct Philippine News and Features, edited by Luis Teodoro.
Only the alternative press used PNF stories – the mainstream papers and broadcast stations were all controlled by Marcos and his cronies – so my articles usually appeared in Malaya and Veritas. I was never sure if anybody actually read my humor columns but after 1986, I found out I had at least two fans: Mita Pardo de Tavera (the staunch convervative Catholic who became Cory Aquino’s social welfare minister) and Jose Ma Sison. Yes, that one.
I wrote this feature sometime during the brief campaign season of the snap election – probably in December 1985. It was the last full year of the Marcos dictatorship, but of course nobody knew that. The atmosphere was tense, fearful, hopeful, defiant.
When I read it now I am struck by the similarity in atmosphere to the 2022 presidential campaign.
What struck me then was the enthusiasm of the people – tens of thousands of them – who turned out for the sorties of Cory and her vice presidential running mate, the forgettable, insignificant and inconsequential Salvador “Doy” Laurel. What was similarly evident was the awesome power deployed against them: the regime’s political machinery, money, the police, military, Comelec, the paid crowds, the lavish giveaways, the entertainers, nonstop propaganda and commercials that filled the airwaves. The display was blatant, crude, threatening and depressing.
It really looked like a hopeless struggle and in fact history notes that Marcos won the election – he won it by stealing it. And shortly after he was chased out of the country.
Manilans Gird for February 7
By Alan C. Robles
“I’m voting for Cory, though I know she’s going to lose,” says the student.
Why vote for her then? “ At least that’s one vote less for Marcos.”
This pluck and fatalism indicate the chill of apprehension accompanying election fever in Manila. A very vocal anti-Marcos feeling obtains in this city, alongside a widespread belief that Mr. Marcos’ government will prevail through some unexpected or devious trick.
*In Plaza Miranda late at night, a scruffy man talks to a mixed group of students, vendors and businessmen on the folly of electing Corazon “Cory” Aquino as president: “She has communist advisers and the military will never accept her if she wins. Marcos will declare martial law or there’ll be a coup d’etat.”
Hoping for the best but expecting the worst, prudent Manilans have been stocking up on groceries. The belief is that prices will rise dramatically after the elections. *Despite apprehensions and sometimes indifference (“Marcos will win anyway” is a favorite refrain), the polls are still attracting a lot of lively activity in the city.
With four million registered voters, representing 16 per cent of the country’s electorate, Metro Manila is a prize catch. Sentiment favors Aquino, but the money and machinery are on Marcos’ side. *To raise funds, Aquino supporters have to sell campaign souvenirs and buttons. The Marcos camp gives theirs away by the bushel. The opposition talks about issues in its rallies. The government lures crowds with TV stars and entertainers.
Notwithstanding the illegality of the act, public resources are allegedly being used. Government vehicles, it is said, ferry government employees to rallies where they get free T-shirts and food. “We each got P20 for attending”, says one such participant.
Manila is being saturated with Marcos: bridges are being repainted and streets are being paved, beneath signs crediting the President. Radio commercials portray Marcos as almost god-like (“he seems to make the plants grow when he looks at them”, reveals an alleged Malacanang Palace gardener); red, white and blue posters affirm “it’s still Marcos”; diligent campaigners distribute leaflets, pamphlets and comic books praising the President and attacking Cory.
Sometimes the sheer size of the effort only provokes more pointed reactions. In one large bookstore, the person in charge of the sound system changed radio stations when a Marcos commercial started. *At the Ateneo University, the dominant color is yellow – the color of Cory pennants and posters. The only two Marcos stickers visible are stuck flat on the pavement, and have been much abused by pedestrian footwear.
At the Baclaran church, attempts to give away Marcos- Tolentino comics have met with varied responses. “Throw it away” one girl told her companion abruptly. Another asked if the pamphlets were pro-Cory. A housewife looked at what she was given and muttered “so Marcos is fighting back.” She dropped the comics on the ground and stomped on them repeatedly. *Of course, only time will tell what impact such emotions will have on how the city votes. Wherever else Manilans feel about the election – and there are those who feel it won’t take place to begin with – they all have one thing in common. They’re all waiting for February 7.”
Philippine News and Features