In the days following the landslide victory of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., friends and colleagues in the US and Europe with memories of his father's kleptocracy asked me how this could have happened. With all the forces working in Marcos’s favor, a more pertinent query might be: What was going to stop it?
If you spent time before the Philippines’s presidential election in the Manila area, you might have been forgiven for thinking that Marcos’s chief opponent, Leni Robredo, would waltz into office. She appeared to have the support of the urban professional class, civil-society advocates, students and portions of the business elite. Her last rally, in the financial district, was attended by hundreds of thousands of people. In tony neighborhoods, like White Plains in Quezon City, Robredo posters far outnumbered those for Bongbong, as Marcos is known. (I was reminded of Brooklyn, where I lived during the 2016 US election, with its Hillary Clinton paraphernalia.) Drive an hour or so north and the picture changed dramatically. A massive truck dealership along a highway sported Bongbong billboards along the length of its roof — a political marker as much as the geographic end of the Manila exurbs.