COMMENT: 'Renowned historian' Reynaldo Ileto’s pre-election musings betray reality

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In this handout photo provided by the Office of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Ferdinand
In this handout photo provided by the Office of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., left, meets with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian as he handed the congratulatory note on behalf of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Metro Manila, Philippines on Thursday May 12, 2022. Reynaldo Ileto, a top Philippine historian, has questioned the narrative of the the United States condemning the Marcos and Duterte regimes in an essay prior to the 2022 Philippine elections. (Office of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. via AP)

With no factual evidence to support his claims but his own flimsy, taken from God-knows-where arguments, “renowned historian” Reynaldo Ileto, in an essay published on the website of the University of Melbourne, said that the 2022 Philippine national elections is far from what it’s being portrayed as.

The honorary professor at the School of Culture, History, and Language at the Australian National University claims that contrary to the election being an “archetypal battle between democracy and authoritarianism,” it would rather be “an outcome of an ongoing clash of political narratives over the past 50 years.”

What does that even mean? He said that Ferdinand Marcos Sr., a Washington-anointed dictator during the cold war-era (as it was common for third-world countries with strong ties to the United States to have such kinds of leaders), was ousted with the blessing of the same imperial overlord and the Catholic Church for not going with the economic trend of globalization during that time and used the 1986 People Power Revolt as a smokescreen. As to where this “overwhelming evidence” he was talking about was, again, God knows where.

They, in turn, enthroned Corazon Aquino, the widow of the slain Senator Ninoy Aquino and Marcos Sr.’s archnemesis. Like the usual script pro-Marcos trolls always use to justify their disgust over the post-EDSA 1 administrations, he said that they all have failed to usher in the promise of prosperity and restored democracy in the country, as if a single administration could undo more than two decades of corruption, impunity, and injustice.

He then hailed the emergence of alternative readings about that era and even pushed a little further – that Imelda’s collection of shoes was mostly made in Marikina, and that the former first lady is not as Imeldific as she really is.

He even lent credence to the myth that maybe, just maybe – the Marcoses were already wealthy even before the elder Marcos entered public service, and that the numerous cases against the family for looting the treasury have not prospered in the Philippine and the United States courts.

But what about those that have been decided upon with finality, like the numerous class action suits in Hawaii and New York, and the unpaid estate tax? He doesn’t have anything to say about it.

Ileto also falsely claimed that Vice President Leni Robredo, Marcos Jr.’s strongest contender during the elections, was running under the narrative of restoring the post-1986 Democracy Restoration, and was waging a “negative campaign” of the country entering a dark age if the Marcos-Duterte tandem wins.

And, in what would be seen as the greatest irony of all, he argued that President Rodrigo Duterte’s shift from the United States to China and Russia is “an attempt to push back on the immense influence that the US has had in the Philippine foreign policy making, particularly under the previous administrations,” rather than an act of political expediency and personal interest.

While he offered no grand conclusion as it was written three days before the May 9 polls, the subsequent victory of the Marcos-Duterte tandem, it can be inferred from his arguments, means that the country is in the right direction. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments in politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. The views expressed are his own.

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