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Marcos Propaganda: Then and Now

Feature | Laurice Angeles

Graphic by Jas Teope

“It is the President’s desire that you do not waste the time of Tibo Mijares by asking him to explain what stories the President had ordered him to write.”

These were the words of the presidential assistant of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to the military’s then Office of Civil Relations (OCR) chief, Colonel Noe S. Andaya. The OCR chief had then just questioned Primitivo “Tibo” Mijares on one of his pieces in his column, “PM Views,” as stated in Tibo’s own accounts. Upon this statement from the presidential assistant, Andaya has never once tried to question Tibo again.

Mijares was a fairly well-rounded newspaperman of his time and therefore became Marcos’ confidant, media czar, and chief propagandist in the onset of martial law in 1972 until he defected to the United States in 1975.

Spreading propaganda has apparently been a special tool of the Marcoses since the time Ferdinand Marcos was elected as president, particularly using the expertise of Mijares to rationalize the dictator’s declaration of martial law on this day 49 years ago. Through the years, even long after the dictator and Tibo had died, it has been evolving and has found its way into modern times.

The Marcoses have been shamelessly and consistently trying until now to clear their family name particularly of the numerous injustices and violence during the martial law period. And with the convenience of social media today and the rising popularity of influencers in various platforms, it has become subtler yet even more powerful.

Slyness of social media

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, son of the late dictator, took this chance once again as he got himself an interview with media personality Toni Gonzaga in her Youtube channel feature, “Toni Talks.” The interview was seemingly harmless, which kicked off with lifestyle talk, as they sat on homey chairs in the classy receiving area of Bongbong Marcos’ home.

Yet in light conversion, with the aid of Gonzaga’s carefully crafted questions, he was able to continue reinterpreting martial law as a genuine solution to save the country just as his father has, and to reduce the endless calls for justice from martial law victims to mere hate.

The interview video titled, “The Greatest Lesson Bongbong Marcos Learned From His Father,” posted a week ago has currently amassed 5.6 million views at the time of writing. Although Gonzaga has received much flak from Filipinos and various communities for this interview, still a handful of others came to her defense citing that she has the right to interview whomever and however she pleases — and here comes the danger of this clever and sly propaganda technique.

There is a very well known belief in the advertising world that helps the media use public disasters or accidents to their own advantage — “Bad publicity is still publicity.” This assumption combined with the myth of “neutrality” and the mischievous trap of giving “both sides” a platform in media and journalism gives the Marcoses, in this case, the opportunity to revise history and the very chance to be viewed by the Filipino people in a seemingly new light.

This consequently leads many Filipinos to be conflicted on the issue which drives the carefully planned method to be effective. Even smaller social media personalities can be found featuring politicians in their platforms and some politicians themselves also create platforms and content of their own. In this case, the goal of diverting a number of critical minds’ attention from the real issue of martial law to the foolish conflict of whether Marcos should be given a platform or not was achieved.

Repetition as a tool

With this at hand, it is important to recall how Marcos Sr. was just as sly, cleverer even, when he tasked Mijares with various propaganda and image building projects for then first lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos and with the declaration of martial law.

One of those projects was the “get Manglapus mission.” Raul S. Manglapus was a former senator at the time, a prominent politician who was spending years in the United States in exile after martial law was declared. Mijares’s mission, according to his own accounts, was to initially arrange a meeting between the first lady and the overseas Filipinos in opposition to the martial law — to charm the exiles and somewhat dissolve the movement.

However, Marcos Sr. specifically instructed Mijares instead to use his power as a journalist and encourage Manglapus to lead the overseas opposition. And while at that, Manglapus should call special attention to the graft and corruption among top military commanders and “old society” politicians that led the dictator to declare martial law.

Aside from the complicated missions, Mijares was also tasked to write as dictated by Marcos Sr., not only one but many pieces in PM Views that generally summarizes the views of the dictator and not of Tibo himself. He was appointed as the Media Advisory Council chair as well among other roles as Marcos’ chief propagandist.

Mijares, as an enlightened journalist, decided to defect and to expose Marcos’ lies and crimes despite the knowledge of endangering the lives of his family and his own. He disappeared in 1977 and his youngest son was killed and mutilated in the same year.

Remembering this, a similarity in method between then and now is observed where media persons are utilized. The endless repetition of disinformation among the Filipino people from the Marcoses from the 1970s to the present is as clear as day, and this repetition has led to a facade where they continue to lie in fake glory as competent leader servants who contributed greatly to the country.

Social media is now aiding the Marcoses in continuing to gain control and to generate the repeat that they aim for. While media during the martial law could easily be pointed out as biased and state-controlled, newer formats such as vlogs, interviews, and short-form videos seem more independent and genuine since accounts are owned by individuals. With that, it can be considered that the format of media today is quite tricky and maybe even more than that from many years ago.

And it has now unfortunately become an added responsibility upon the Filipinos to be more critical of what they consume to stop falling into their deceitful traps.

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The official student publication of the College of Science, UP Diliman.

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Scientia

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The official student publication of the College of Science, UP Diliman.

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