THEY tried it before and it failed. Now, they’re trying it again.

When Cory Aquino challenged the overstaying President Marcos in the snap elections that he grudgingly called in 1986, he airily dismissed her as “only a woman” and “walang alam.” Taking their cue from him, his supporters mocked her mercilessly and soon “Cory Walang Alam” became a buzzword as did the equally disparaging “a woman’s place is in the kitchen.”

The insult backfired as voters rejected the notion that a housewife has no right to lead the country. Cory won and a last-gasp attempt to steal her election only served to further stoke the people’s anger that eventually culminated in the People Power Revolution that banished the Marcoses from Malacañang.

Thirty-six years later, another widow is running for president. Facing her and three others is, in a curious stroke of fate, the late strongman’s son and namesake. And, in another strange coincidence, his camp is using the line of attack they used against Cory: She is a mere housewife who suffers when compared to the “brilliant” Bongbong Marcos. If you watch the videos uploaded by Marcos trolls on YouTube, you’d probably think that Leni Robredo is a dimwit, if you did not know any better. Of course, she is not. You cannot graduate from the University of the Philippines’ school of economics if you are not sufficiently intelligent. She did and has a diploma to show for it. And, for goodness sake, she passed the Bar examinations.

Unlike Cory who responded to the accusation that she was incompetent and inexperienced by sarcastically admitting that indeed, she had “no experience in lying, cheating, stealing, killing political opponents,” Robredo has chosen to ignore them and even asked her Cebu volunteers to do the same during a Zoom meeting last year. Do not stoop to their level, she urged them.

I am not sure if all of them heeded her appeal. Some were, by then, already straining at the leash, barely able to bear the unmitigated insult heaped on Robredo and them. Human as they are, it would not be surprising if they would respond or had in fact already responded in kind notwithstanding Robredo’s exhortation.

In any case, the criticism that Robredo is a plain housewife who has no business aspiring for the presidency has only served to galvanize the ranks of housewives. If you look at the Leni-Kiko volunteer groups in Cebu, you will be amazed to see that they are “manned’ mostly by women. And they’re very passionate about what they’re doing, spending not just their time but also their resources to advance their advocacy.

The strategy of attacking a woman candidate on the basis of her gender did not work in 1986. Of course, there were many other factors that contributed to Marcos’ downfall, among them, the growing discontent of the people over the more than a decade of repression. But his disrespectful attitude towards Cory because she was a woman did not help him at all. Will it help his son? That’s the question.