Experts agree that Bongbong is benefiting from what Mr. Arguelles describes as “a systematic and well-oiled disinformation campaign,” though the exact mechanics of that campaign are unclear.
A recent study of disinformation leading up to the 2022 elections shows Ms. Robredo is the top target of negative social media posts, but Bongbong has denied the use of troll farms or historical revisionism.
Still, the Marcos comeback cannot be blamed on disinformation alone.
Their rehabilitation is also tied to the People Power Revolution’s unfulfilled promise of shared prosperity.
No president has successfully tackled corruption or wealth inequality in the Philippines.
Millions still live below the poverty line, and a 2019 survey found 64% of Filipino households experience food insecurity.
As in many places, the pandemic has exacerbated these problems, making people even more open to a strongman leader.
“It’s not hard to imagine why Filipinos are willing to … risk the future of the country again with the Marcos family,” says Mr. Arguelles.
“I see this development as a scramble for the familiar, even feudal order, because many of the modernist-reformist promises of the post-Marcos governments did not materialize.”
In fact, many of Bongbong’s supporters – particularly younger voters who don’t remember martial law or people whose families benefited under the Marcos regime – now describe the 1970s as a sort of golden age, when crime and traffic were down and the world respected the Philippines.
“In a state of social stagnation, Marcos Jr.’s authoritarian nostalgia and fantasy become even more attractive,” Mr. Arguelles adds.
But it’s not attractive to everyone.
Mr. Ilagan sees echoes of his own student activism in the so-called Pink Movement that’s coalesced behind Ms. Robredo, who has gained some ground in the final weeks of the race.
Whether or not they succeed in thwarting another Marcos presidency, Mr. Ilagan is banking on these youth to continue the fight against authoritarianism.
“I am heartened by the fact that there are many young people who continue our struggle,” he says.