MANILA - If Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr wins the vice-presidential race in 2016, the Philippines will become the laughingstock of the world, a fellow senator said Thursday.
Sen. Sergio Osmena III, grandson of the late Commonwealth President Sergio Osmena, was incarcerated for five years during the martial rule of Marcos' father, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos. He escaped from a maximum security prison cell in Fort Bonifacio in 1977, along with ABS-CBN's Eugenio Lopez Jr.
In an interview on ANC's Headstart, Osmena said he is reminded of the late Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's description of the Marcos family in his book "From Third World to First."
"Over the next decade, Marcos’s cronies and immediate family would tiptoe back into the country, one by one – always to the public’s revulsion and disgust, though they showed that there was nothing that hidden money and thick hides could not withstand." From Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First”"He begins his part on the Philippines this way. 'Now the Philippines is a completely different story. Nowhere in the world do you see the family of a dictator being allowed back into the country and running for public office.' Even Lee Kuan Yew couldn't understand it, so somebody as dumb as me can't understand it either," he said.
Asked what would be the effect of a Marcos being elected vice-president, Osmena said: "We will be the laughingstock of the world. I think so."
In his book, Lee described the late President Marcos as "the undisputed boss of all Filipinos."
"Imelda had a penchant for luxury and opulence. When they visited Singapore…they came in style in two DC8’s, his and hers."
From Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First”"Imelda, his wife, had a penchant for luxury and opulence. When they visited Singapore before the Bali summit, they came in style in two DC8’s, his and hers," Lee wrote.
He also described the Filipino people as having "a soft, forgiving culture."
"Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, still be considered for a national burial. Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics," Lee wrote.
The Marcos family has long been dogged by accusations the dictator oversaw massive human rights abuses and plundered billions of dollars from state coffers until a famous "people power" revolt toppled him from power in 1986.
But after the Marcos patriarch died in exile in Hawaii in 1989, the family returned to the country in 1991 and began a successful political comeback, culminating in Bongbong Marcos getting elected to the Senate in 2010.
THE SHALLOWEST EXCUSE
In the interview, Osmena castigated Marcos' series of campaign ads that focused on the theme "Hindi ako ang aking nakaraan (I am not my past)."
The campaign emphasizes Marcos' previous message that Filipinos should "move on" from the past.
"That is the shallowest excuse. If we were in Germany and a son of [Adolf] Hitler came back, I don't think that he'd be able to use the phrase 'moving on.' In other words, sasabihin ng tao 'Tumahimik ka na lang.' Maski wala kang direct kasalanan, tumahimik ka na lang sapagkat this reminder of your father's pre-war and wartime activities is not going to sit well with our nation and our people," Osmena said.
"They are going to say that. The son of Stalin or the son of Mao Tse-Tung will probably face the same situation. Again, like Lee Kuan Yew wrote, the Filipinos are a very forgiving people. I guess that is the best way to explain that."
The senator, however, said he has no plan to campaign against Marcos, saying that he is very civil with the latter in the Senate.
He said that with only 24 senators in the Upper Chamber, "you can't have cold wars going on."
"We talk if we have to talk. There's been no problem."
He also confirmed that he is backing the vice-presidential bid of Liberal Party bet Leni Robredo .
"The elections are always a dynamic process...I’ve never seen so many candidates for vice-president and these are all political heavyweights," he said. Aside from Marcos and Robredo, the other vice-presidential candidates include Senators Gregorio Honasan, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero and Sonny Trillanes.
In an earlier interview, Senator Marcos refused to apologize to the Filipino people over accusations that the dictator oversaw massive human rights abuses and plundered billions of dollars during martial law.
He earlier told ABS-CBN News his vice-presidential bid is not a move to gain a political position but an opportunity to continue the Marcos family's service to the Filipino people.
Asked if it is possible that the Marcoses have been "vindicated" in the eyes of the people, he said: "Siguro, yes. Binoboto kami eh."
(The following excerpt is taken from pages 299 – 305 from former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First”, Chapter 18 “Building Ties with Thailand, the Philippines, and Brunei”)
The Philippines was a world apart from us, running a different style of politics and government under an American military umbrella. It was not until January 1974 that I visited President Marcos in Manila. When my Singapore Airlines plane flew into Philippine airspace, a small squadron of Philippine Air Force jet fighters escorted it to Manila Airport. There Marcos received me in great style – the Filipino way. I was put up at the guest wing of Malacañang Palace in lavishly furnished rooms, valuable objects of art bought in Europe strewn all over. Our hosts were gracious, extravagant in hospitality, flamboyant. Over a thousand miles of water separated us. There was no friction and little trade. We played golf, talked about the future of ASEAN, and promised to keep in touch.
In Bali in 1976, at the first ASEAN summit held after the fall of Saigon, I found Marcos keen to push for greater economic cooperation in ASEAN. But we could not go faster than the others. To set the pace, Marcos and I agreed to implement a bilateral Philippines-Singapore across-the-board 10 percent reduction of existing tariffs on all products and to promote intra-ASEAN trade. We also agreed to lay a Philippines-Singapore submarine cable. I was to discover that for him, the communiqué was the accomplishment itself; its implementation was secondary, an extra to be discussed at another conference.
We met every two to three years. He once took me on a tour of his library at Malacañang, its shelves filled with bound volumes of newspapers reporting his activities over the years since he first stood for elections. There were encyclopedia-size volumes on the history and culture of the Philippines with his name as the author. His campaign medals as an anti-Japanese guerrilla leader were displayed in glass cupboards. He was the undisputed boss of all Filipinos. Imelda, his wife, had a penchant for luxury and opulence. When they visited Singapore before the Bali summit they came in stye in two DC8’s, his and hers.
Marcos, ruling under martial law, had detained opposition leader Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, reputed to be as charismatic and powerful a campaigner as he was. He freed Aquino and allowed him to go to the United States. As the economic situation in the Philippines deteriorated, Aquino announced his decision to return. Mrs. Marcos issued several veiled warnings. When the plane arrived at Manila Airport from Taipei in August 1983, he was shot as he descended from the aircraft. A whole posse of foreign correspondents with television camera crews accompanying him on the aircraft was not enough protection.
International outrage over the killing resulted in foreign banks stopping all loans to the Philippines, which owed over US$25 billion and could not pay the interest due. This brought Marcos to the crunch. He sent his minister for trade and industry, Bobby Ongpin, to ask me for a loan of US$300-500 million to meet the interest payments. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “We will never see that money back.” Moreover, I added, everyone knew that Marcos was seriously ill and under constant medication for a wasting disease. What was needed was a strong, healthy leader, not more loans.
Shortly afterward, in February 1984, Marcos met me in Brunei at the sultanate’s independence celebrations. He had undergone a dramatic physical change. Although less puffy than he had appeared on television, his complexion was dark as if he had been out in the sun. He was breathing hard as he spoke, his voice was soft, eyes bleary, and hair thinning. He looked most unhealthy. An ambulance with all the necessary equipment and a team of Filipino doctors were on standby outside his guest bungalow. Marcos spent much of the time giving me a most improbable story of how Aquino had been shot.
As soon as all our aides left, I went straight to the point, that no bank was going to lend him any money. They wanted to know who was going to succeed him if anything were to happen to him; all the bankers could see that he no longer looked healthy. Singapore banks had lent US$8 billion of the US$25 billion owing. The hard fact was they were not likely to get repayment for some 20 years. He countered that it would be only eight years. I said the bankers wanted to see a strong leader in the Philippines who could restore stability, and the Americans hoped the election in May would throw up someone who could be such a leader. I asked whom he would nominate for the election. He said Prime Minister Cesar Virata. I was blunt. Virata was a nonstarter, a first-class administrator but no political leader; further, his most politically astute colleague, defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile, was out of favour. Marcos was silent, then he admitted that succession was the nub of the problem. If he could find a successor, there would be a solution. As I left, he said, “You are a true friend.” I did not understand him. It was a strange meeting.