Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. Wins Philippines Election, Succeeding Duterte

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MANILA — Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator whose family plundered billions of dollars, was elected president of the Philippines by a landslide, according to preliminary results, just 36 years after his father was ousted in a a historic revolution.

For critics, it marks yet another setback for a nation – once admired as one of the region’s few democracies – that continues to walk down the populist path. Marcos succeeds tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte, best known for his crude insults and a war on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives.

His daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is Marcos’ running mate and next vice president. The duo, which dubbed themselves “Uniteam” for their supposed message of unity, is a political marriage of the country’s two most powerful dynasties.

In a speech early Tuesday, Marcos thanked his supporters for their “belief in our message of unity” and their “belief in the candidates.”

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the 64-year-old son of the former Filipino dictator, won the landslide presidential election on May 9. (Video: Reuters)

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The mood was jubilant as the scale of their victory became clear and Marcos supporters sang and celebrated outside campaign headquarters along the same historic Manila avenue where people protested to oust his father there. more than three decades old.

Meanwhile, hundreds of discouraged supporters of his main opponent, Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, flocked to a volunteer center for solace and to listen to his live speech.

“We have started something that has never been seen before in the history of our nation: a people-led campaign,” Robredo said Tuesday morning. “This structure of lies took a long time to build. There will come a time and a chance to tear it down.

His supporters have suggested that his grassroots campaign, which has brought together diverse groups of pink-wearing volunteers across sectors, should maintain momentum and prepare to take on an opposition role under the new administration.

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“One of the lessons we have to learn from the other side is that when they lost [in the 2016 vice-presidential race]they started campaigning immediately,” said Mik Afable, a volunteer who organized flash mobs and helped take over operations on Monday.

He expressed hope that their movement would be durable, compared to the well-funded Marcos juggernaut. “If you pay for loyalty, it goes away very quickly,” he said.

Marcos’ carefully planned trip to the presidency shows how social media can shape perception and politics in a highly online country, which has been dubbed the “patient zero” of misinformation after Duterte’s first victory with help troll farms in 2016.

As President, Marcos will rule over an archipelago of about 110 million ravaged by the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, where around a fifth of the population lives below the poverty line. He should also continue the war on drugs and protect Duterte from possible prosecution at the International Criminal Court.

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“This election is so consequential because whoever wins will decide who lives and who dies in the Philippines,” said Nicole Curato, a sociologist and professor at the University of Canberra.

But the rest of Marcos’ platforms and policies are largely hazy as he skipped election debates and independent press interviews, surrounding himself instead with social media personalities and vloggers who benefit from preferential treatment of his campaign.

“We don’t know enough about how they’re going to govern,” Curato said. “They control how they disseminate information.”

Marcos’ governing experience is concentrated in the province where the family is from. He served as governor of Ilocos Norte in the 1980s (replacing his aunt), before leaving with the uprising that overthrew his father. After his return, he served as a provincial representative and then again as governor before being elected to the Senate in 2010 – where he was then embroiled in a corruption scandal.

Marcos is also expected to maintain Duterte’s friendly stance toward China, and he previously said he would not seek US help with the dispute over the South China Sea islands, which China has heavily militarized. . Popular anger, however, is running high against China over its pressure on Filipino fishermen, and there are longstanding ties with the United States, including between its armies.

While the numbers were steadily coming in for Marcos, thousands of people in various neighborhoods were still waiting to vote well after midnight. Technical problems with vote-counting machines fueled fears that ballots could be tampered with, and on Tuesday morning protesters flocked to the Elections Commission in Manila to protest what they saw as a election riddled with irregularities.

Human rights group Karapatan also called on the public to reject the Marcos-Duterte tandem, saying that Marcos “[spits] on the graves and sufferings” of thousands of victims of martial law. “Worse, he portrayed victims of human rights violations as opportunists in search of money,” said the group’s general secretary, Cristina Palabay.

According to the unofficial tally with 98% of constituency reports, Marcos won 58% of the votes cast, more than 31 million votes, compared to Duterte’s victory with just 16 million in 2016.

Robredo, a lawyer and social activist, came in second with 14.7 million votes, less than half of Marcos’ total. The race was rematch for the two, who had faced each other in the 2016 vice-presidential race, which Robredo won, despite Marcos’ attempts to overturn the result.

In the Philippines, political dynasties dominate, with the Marcos family being among the best known. Ferdinand Marcos, his wife, Imelda, his daughter Imee, and his son all held political office in or representing the province of Ilocos Norte. Imelda, 92, who had previously launched two unsuccessful presidential candidacies, arrived at a polling station on Monday wearing a red outfit, a rosary and a Chanel pin.

“She wanted me to be president since I was 3,” Marcos said of his mother in 2015.

They also face various controversies: unpaid estate taxes reportedly soared to more than $3 billion, a bribery conviction from Imelda, a nearly $2 billion class action lawsuit, and a contempt order from a US District Court compensating thousands of victims of rights violations under the Marcos Administration, among others.

Marcos also has his own controversies, ranging from a dodgy tax record to his disputed claims that he completed his studies at Oxford University.

The excesses of the Marcos family were on full display during their reign decades ago, with frequent jet-setting, spending sprees and, as is well known, the thousands of pairs of Imelda’s shoes – the boxes of which have have since been victims of mold and termite infestations.

Under martial law at the time, reports of human rights abuses were commonplace, including arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and killings. But with a victory for Marcos, the family should be safe from liability.

There are ongoing attempts to recover up to $10 billion looted from the late family patriarch. As president, controlling the executive and influencing government agencies, Marcos will have inordinate power to control this hunt.

Marcos’ landslide victory underscores the success of his social media campaign, but also Filipinos’ “serial disappointment” with the political establishment and democratic rule over the past three decades, said Marco Garrido, a sociologist at the University of Chicago.

“The faith they had in liberal democracy dried up…and they developed this taste for illiberal rule during the Duterte administration,” he said. “This nostalgia for the Marcos period would only make sense if you put it in the context of 36 years of disappointment.”

Westfall reported from Washington.

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