LAOAG CITY, Ilocos Norte – At the start of the 2022 local campaign season, re-elected Vice Governor Cecilia Araneta Marcos told the crowd of 20,000 at the March 25 Team Marcos proclamation rally that the matriarch of family, 92-year-old Imelda Marcos helped launch his political career.
Dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos’ widow encouraged Cecilia to take the place of her husband, Ilocos Norte provincial council member and vice-governor candidate Mariano “Nonong” Marcos II, when he died in February 2019. .
“Imelda Marcos First Lady’s Best Natin Advice Well You Know It Is [aking asawa na tatakbo sana bilang vice governor]. Sabi niya, kailangang maipagpatuloy ko ang ginawa niya and makapagsilbi sa inyong lahat”, she says.
(The advice of our beloved first lady Imelda Marcos was to take the place of my husband who was supposed to run for Vice Governor. She told me that I should continue his work and serve you all.)
With the help of Imelda, Cécile’s political career kicked off in 2019 with a landslide victory – 93% of the votes cast, or 227,311 votes, compared to 15,093 votes for her rival Michael Ramones.
But in this year’s high-stakes local elections, where the Marcos are challenged by another dominant political family, the charismatic Imelda is absent from the campaign trail as another member of the clan makes her political debut.
In his first electoral foray, Sandro Marcos, Imelda’s 28-year-old grandson and eldest son of presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is contesting the 1st District Congressional seat of re-elected Ria Fariñas, a member of a another dominant political family.
On the eve of the official kick-off of the local election campaign, Sandro told local journalists that his grandmother would have liked to join him on the election campaign. He decided not to because the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to his health.
Having a famous grandmother campaigning for him might improve his chances. But voters are also drawn to England-educated Sandro. As he hops from town to town in the province’s first district, young residents always ask for “selfies” with him.
His father sees Sandro following the path of the dynasty as a “great source of pride”.
Imelda has always wielded pulling power – Marcos hat – since returning in 1991 from exile in Honolulu after the 1986 EDSA People Power that ended their two-decade dictatorship.
Although she was convicted of seven corruption charges in 2018 for illegally establishing and maintaining Swiss foundations, Imelda remains revered in the land of Marcos.
Her advanced age and the frailties that come with it did not prevent her from running as a representative of the 2nd district of Ilocos Norte in 2010.
“It’s true that I am 80 years old, but I can also be a grandmother for our country,” Imelda said at the time.
During that year, she embarked on the campaign trail with other family members – her daughter and now Senator Imee Marcos who ran for governor of Ilocos Norte and Marcos Jr. as a senator.
During her public appearances, Imelda always wore her signature butterfly sleeves. Always, she danced and sang for and with voters.
During his visits to the province during pre-pandemic birthday celebrations, his adoring supporters would thank heaven for his “long life”.
Imelda and Imee have completed three terms as Congressman and Governor, respectively, in their own countries. Now, the next generation tries to protect the provincial dynasty while keeping their eyes on the main objective: recovering Malacañang.
Marcos Jr. is the frontrunner in all the polls leading up to the 2022 presidential election. Imelda thinks her son’s chances could be boosted if she joins him in the campaign trail.
Imee, speaking to reporters in a chance interview on March 24 after the Pandesal Forum in Quezon City, said his mother was very keen to join all political rallies in support of her son.
“Nagpupumiglas, gustong-gustong sumali in all rallies“(She is very restless, she wants to join all the gatherings) Imee said, adding that the family held her back because of her “co-morbidity”.
“Umiikot din siya nang sarili niya, pinagbabawalan lang namin in masusukal na lugar na maraming crowd kasi mahirap na ‘no. Pero ayaw paawat talaga naman. And siya nga ang sasabihin kong pinakamagaling na pulitiko sa aming pamilya, “ said the senator.
(She walks around by herself, we just don’t let her go where there are a lot of people. But it’s hard to control her. And I will say she is the best politician in our family.)
Campaigning is where their mother feels alive, Imee said, adding they needed her for Marcos Jr.’s campaign because she’s ‘natural’ to understand feelings and love people .
It was, after all, her dream for Ferdinand Jr. In 2015, Imelda said: “Gusto ko siyang maging presidente. Pero ‘yang pagka-president, hindi sa akin ‘yan. Hindi sa kaninuman, nasa Diyos ‘yan.”
(I want him to be president. But the presidency does not belong to me, or to anyone, but to the will of God.)
“She wanted me to be president since I was three,” Bongbong said of her mother in 2015 after she declared her intention to run for vice president.
He eventually lost to his then rival, Leni Robredo. They face off again in the 2022 presidential race.
Third-generation politician Sandro said his father or other relatives did not push him to run.
He dismissed criticism of “so many Marcos in power” in Ilocos Norte and told local reporters on the sidelines of his first-ever proclamation rally on March 25 that family power was the product of an “electoral process and democratic”.
The young generation of Marcos can still bank on the notoriety of the Marcos name, in particular that of Imelda. But whether that is enough to secure their seats is uncertain as residents of Ilocos Norte are to divide between the Fariñas and the Marcos.
Political scientist and Laoag Northwestern University instructor John Paul Castro said Marcos’ name still had some shine. But with the challenge of the Fariñas, an equally powerful political clan, they need more than their pedigree.
Castro said that if Marcos’ name is “[their] greatest political tool, a machinery, and also their symbol of power”, locals perceive the younger generation as more difficult to reach due to the language barrier.
Sandro doesn’t speak Ilocano but pushes with his door-to-door campaign, his skin now visibly sunburned.
“A Different Spectrum”
On the other side of the political divide, it is veteran politician and family patriarch Rodolfo “Rudy” Fariñas who holds the clan together.
Rudy kicked off his campaign for provincial governor by visiting remote villages in the towns of Marcos, Dingras and Solsona. Unlike in the 2019 election, when he dropped out of the race, Rudy said he was “serious” about his current gubernatorial bid.
Patriarch Fariñas has rekindled ties with former village captains loyal to him, believing they still have the political power in their areas to lobby for the candidacies of his clansmen.
In one maintenance With local media, Rudy noted that a former captain from a remote village in the town of Marcos said he was the “only governor to visit them” in the last 50 years.
This is how the Fariñas get carried away – fueling a campaign filled with nostalgia for public servants who speak their native language.
Unlike Team Marcos, the Fariñas did not hold a large proclamation rally. They started the campaign season by going straight to the base.
“Datayo deretso’t tao, sigud met kinabayag ko ti politika, ammoyo met deta. Uray idi gobernadorak ken diputado ak, mapanak ti umili babaen ti kapitan. Deretso ti tao ta isuda met ti ususto a pagubbugan ti turay”, Rudy said in February.
(We reached out to people directly, as I have done since venturing into politics, you all know that. Even when I was a governor and a congressman, I reached out to people through village captains. Directly to them because our power emanates from them.)
Castro said the local political scene is a “different spectrum” for the Marcoses.
Marcos Jr.’s popularity on the national stage must be “separated” from local politics because the Fariñas clan has “been careful to get carried away” and still maintains a loyal voter base, he said.
Besides Cecilia and Sandro, three other Marcos are running for the top elective positions in Ilocos Norte – 33-year-old re-elected governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc, son of Imee; Angelo Marcos-Barba for the representative of the 2nd district; and the re-elected Mayor of Laoag City, Michael Marcos Keon. – Rappler.com