Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Message to BBM (Bongbong Marcos):Please Remember History Wisely
CHINO Keiko  / Journalist

June 28, 2022
"The essence of history is to remember events wisely". This is a quote from literary critic Hideo Kobayashi. However, reality shows how difficult it is to remember history wisely.

The landslide victory of Bongbong Marcos, aka BBM - the eldest son of former president Marcos, in the Philippines' presidential election on May 9 is one such example.
In the middle of the night on February 25, 1986, the Marcos family boarded a US military helicopter and escaped from Malacañang Palace (the presidential palace) which had been surrounded by masses of protesters. At that time, I was working the night desk of the Foreign News Department, and as the deadline for the morning newspaper approached, we still didn't know the helicopter's destination. But no matter where they were going, the Marcos' rule had come to an end. For me, a sober realization of the historic significance of this event gradually sank in that night.

What happened to the fervor and clamor, known as the "EDSA Revolution" or the "People Power Revolution", that brought down the long-running dictatorship? As I looked at the large crowd rejoicing at BBM's overwhelming victory, I almost felt that all that might be “fake”.

The Philippines is a young country that could be the envy of Japan. The average age is 25 years old, and 70% of the population is under 45 years old. In other words, most of the people have no knowledge of the collapse of the Marcos regime 36 years ago. The election campaign slogan, "The Marcos era was great", appealed to the younger generation. That sounds like something I have heard elsewhere. In fact, there was a time when it was said that the Suharto era was great for Indonesia.

What they have in common is people's frustration and disappointment with their lives and the current government, in other words, the failure of politics. As a result, the past is glorified. I hope that, as BBM takes the helm of the new government, he will "remember wisely" the history of his father's failure and avoid his mistakes.

As the war in Ukraine drags on and the US-China conflict intensifies, the position of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and especially that of the US ally, the Philippines, has become increasingly important. Although he did not speak of foreign policy during his campaign except to say that he would "follow Duterte's policies", BBM has stated even before his inauguration that he intends to adhere to the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague. In the territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea, the Philippines is the only ASEAN country to bring a case to the international court and win a completely favorable decision. I hope that he will make clear in practice his transition from the pro-Chinese, anti-American Duterte polices that included shelving the ruling of the PCA to appease China.

There is another historical event that I hope he remembers wisely. In 1992, the US forces completely withdrew from Philippines due to the Philippine Senate's refusal to ratify the US-Philippines Status of Forces Agreement compounded by the large eruption of Mount Pinatubo. As if it had been anticipating the power vaccuum, three years later China siezed the Mischief Reef in South China Sea, which had been under effective control by the Philippines, and then the Scarborough Reef in 2012. There is no change in China’s posture to pounce on islands whenever opportunities present themselves. Shelving the PCA ruling didn't bring to Duterte the results he had anticipated.

I would also like to remind Bongbong that President Noynoy Aquino, the son of President Corazon Aquino, was the one who bravely brought the case to the PCA. The people of the Philippines will be happy to see joint efforts made by the long-standing political rivals, the Aquino and the Marcos families, against China.

In the economic sphere as well, the challenge they face is to break away from their dependence on China. In that sense, joining the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) as a founding member was a wise decision. It appears increasing doubtful if the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement would end up engulfing the region.

In closing, last year marked the 65th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Philippines. Against the backdrop of volatile security tensions in the region, the time has come for Japan and the Philippines to elevate their good relationship into a strategic partnership. For BBM, the challenge is not just to remember the past but to write a new chapter in history.

Keiko Chino (Freelance journalist, Sankei Shimbun, guest editorial writer)
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

千野 境子 / ジャーナリスト

2022年 6月 28日











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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Message to BBM (Bongbong Marcos):Please Remember History Wisely