Presumptive President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. visits his father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the latter’s grave in Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City on May 11, 2022. Photo: Rappler/ Bongbong Marcos Campaign


How is charisma generated and transformed in the 2022 Philippine Presidential elections? This paper weighs in on the critical discussion of propaganda and political branding, using melodrama and political emotion as lenses to examine the rivalry between Leni Robredo and Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. These two candidates enacted charismatic leadership within online spaces and reworked the political lexicon of the old rivalry between Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino in the snap elections of 1986. As political melodrama, the Marcos camp projected the Marcos heir setting to right the putatively maligned Marcos legacy. On the other hand, the Robredo camp saw candidate Leni reprising the emotional labor done by Aquino in harnessing People Power. Charismatic image-making here is examined as a mode of sentimental publicity that aims to create an affective collectivity by abjuring or reinstating the emotions evoked by People Power. In this political theater, the ability of the candidate to both wear and shed the image of Marcos and Aquino is of paramount importance. Their role playing projected the presidential elections as a sentimental contest that will ultimately see the candidate who proves to be the more adept in shifting their charismatic image at will, triumph.

Keywords: Marcos, Aquino, Lauren Berlant, Philippine Elections, Wayang, Ancient Greek Theater, Shakespeare, People Power, Robredo

This article is a forthcoming roundtable piece (December 2022) for Contemporary Southeast Asia (CSEA) published by ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.

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