Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. wins the Philippine elections, succeeding Duterte

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

To critics, it marks yet another setback for a nation once admired as one of the few democracies in Southeast Asia that continues to trudge down the path of populism. Marcos succeeds harsh President Rodrigo Duterte, best known for his crude insults and a war on drugs that has left thousands dead.

Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is Marcos’s running mate and the next vice president. The tandem, which calls itself “Uniteam” for its supposed message of unity, is a political marriage of the two most powerful dynasties in the country.

In a speech early Tuesday morning, 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 Philippine dictator, won the country’s presidential election in a landslide on May 9. (Video: Reuters)

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

Meanwhile, hundreds of disheartened supporters of her main opponent, María Leonor “Leni” Robredo, flocked to a volunteer center to comfort one another and tune in to her live-streamed speech.

“We have initiated something that has never been seen before in the history of our nation: a campaign led by the people,” Robredo said Tuesday morning. “It took a long time to build this structure of lies. The time and opportunity will come to take him down.”

His supporters have suggested that his grassroots campaign, which brought together diverse elements of pink-clad volunteers from all quarters, should maintain its momentum and prepare to take on an opposition role under the new administration.

Marcos, son of the dictator, overwhelmingly leads elections in the Philippines

“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 right away,” said Mik Afable, a volunteer who organized flash mobs and helped take over operations on Monday.

He expressed the hope that his movement would be long-lasting, compared to the well-funded behemoth of Marcos. “If you pay for loyalty, it goes away pretty 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 “patient zero” for disinformation after Duterte first won with the troll farm help in 2016.

As president, Mark will rule over an archipelago of about 110 million devastated by the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, where around a fifth of the population lives below the poverty line. It is also expected to continue the war on drugs and shield the outgoing Duterte from possible prosecution at the International Criminal Court.

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“This election is so important 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 in Australia.

But the rest of Marcos’ platforms and policies are largely unclear because he has skipped election debates and independent media interviews and instead surrounded himself with social media personalities and vloggers who enjoy a preferential treatment from your campaign.

“We don’t know enough in terms of how they will govern,” Curato said. “They control how they spread information.”

Marcos’ government experience is concentrated in the province where the family comes from. He was governor of Ilocos Norte in the 1980s (replacing his aunt), before leaving with the uprising that toppled 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 later involved in a corruption scandal.

Marcos is also expected to continue Duterte’s friendly stance toward China, having previously said he would not seek help from the United States regarding the dispute over islands in the South China Sea, which China has heavily militarized. However, popular anger is mounting against China for its pressure on Filipino fishermen, and there are long-standing ties with the United States, including between their militaries.

As the number of Marcos members gradually trickled in on Monday, thousands in various districts were still waiting to cast their ballots until well after midnight. Technical problems that plagued vote-counting machines fueled fears that ballots could be tampered with, and on Tuesday morning, protesters flocked to the Electoral Commission in Manila to protest what they saw as a blighted election. of irregularities.

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

According to the unofficial count with 98 percent of constituencies reporting, Marcos won 58.7 percent of the votes cast, more than 31 million votes, compared to Duterte’s victory of just 16 million in 2016. .

Robredo, a lawyer and social activist, came in second with 14.8 million votes, less than half of Marcos’ total. The race was a rematch for the two, who had met in the 2016 vice-presidential race, which Robredo won, despite attempts by Marcos to overturn the result.

Before Marcos Jr., no candidate in the last three decades had won the presidential election by a majority, not since the February 1986 snap election in which Marcos Jr.’s father won 53 percent of the vote, only to be overturned amid concerns about massive voter fraud, coercion and violence. Later that month, following the “People Power” revolution that saw more than a million Filipinos take to the streets to overthrow the Marcos regime, the family fled the Philippines for exile in Hawaii, and Corazon Aquino was sworn in as the nation’s first female president. .

In the Philippines, political dynasties dominate, and the Marcos family is among the best known. Ferdinand Marcos, his wife Imelda, his daughter Imee and his son have held political positions in or representing the province of Ilocos Norte. Imelda, 92, who previously launched two unsuccessful presidential bids, arrived at a polling station on Monday wearing a red suit, rosary and Chanel brooch.

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

They also face several controversies: unpaid estate taxes are reported to have ballooned to more than $3 billion; a conviction for corruption for Imelda; a class action award of nearly $2 billion and a contempt order issued by a US District Court compensating thousands of victims of rights violations under the Marcos administration, among others.

Marcos Jr. also has his own controversies, including a questionable tax record and his contested claim to have completed his studies at Oxford University.

The excesses of the Marcos family were on full display during their rule decades ago, with frequent jet-setting, spending sprees and, as is well known, the thousands of pairs of Imelda’s shoes, whose boxes have fallen victim to mold and termite infestations.

Under martial law at the time, reports of human rights abuses were rampant, including arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and murder. But with a Marcos win, the family will be shielded from liability.

There are ongoing attempts to recover up to $10 billion looted by the late family patriarch. As president, with control of executive power and influence over government agencies, Marcos Jr. will have enormous power to control that hunt.

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

“The faith they had in liberal democracy has dried up…and they have developed this taste for illiberal government over the course of the Duterte administration,” he said. “This nostalgia for the Marcos period would be meaningless unless you put it in the context of 36 years of disappointment.”

Westfall reported from Washington.

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