The son and namesake of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos today claimed a landslide victory in the presidential election, bringing his family back to power 36 years after the popular uprising that toppled his father.
According to preliminary results from almost all polling stations, Marcos Jr., also known as “Bong Bong”, received more than 50% of the vote, twice as many as his main rival, the outgoing Vice President of the Philippines Lenny Robredo.
In a speech this morning, 64-year-old Marcos Jr. avoided celebrating his victory. “Let’s wait for it to be completely clear, for the count to reach 100% of the vote, and then we can celebrate,” he said.
In Manila, hundreds of enthusiastic supporters threw fireworks and took to the streets holding Philippine flags.
Some 67 million Filipinos had been called to the polls to elect a deputy prime minister, as well as lawmakers, half-senators, provincial governors and thousands of other local officials.
Storm of misinformation
Marcos Jr.’s triumph came after an election campaign marked by a storm of misinformation and the support of outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose popularity remains high.
For years, accounts in favor of Marcos Jr. have flooded social media, targeting mostly young people and presenting the 20 years of his father’s regime (1965-1986) as a golden age of peace and prosperity for the Philippines. Of course, they keep silent about the tens of thousands of dissidents who were arrested during the dictatorship and tortured or killed, or even the billions of dollars that the Marcos family embezzled from the country’s public coffers.
The regime was overthrown in 1986 after a massive popular uprising and the Marcos family was exiled to the United States before returning to the Philippines to patiently organize its political support network.
Less than half a century after their overthrow, Marcos returns to the presidential palace in July, from where “Bong Bong” has pledged to restore the “unity” of the country during his six-year term.
Millions of progressive Filipinos consider his triumph a severe blow after six years of Duterte’s rule, which waged a bloody war on drugs and ruled with growing authoritarianism.
“This election was our great opportunity for a radical change,” said Mae Paner, a 58-year-old activist who took part in the 1986 uprising. “There will be more deaths, more debt, more hunger. “Marcos will commit theft”, he estimated.
For Boniface Ilagan, who was imprisoned for two years and tortured during Marcos’s dictatorship, the election brought to light the deep embarrassment of society. According to him, they revealed “how deeply the fraud of historical swindlers has penetrated into the consciousness of Filipinos”.
Marcos Jr. owes his victory largely to a series of secret negotiations with other family dynasties and especially to his collaboration with Sarah Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing president, who is claiming the vice-presidency she seems to have won.
Robredo, 57, a lawyer and economist who had vowed to rid the country of corruption and manipulation of political dynasties, expressed “clear disappointment”.
The heavy defeat of the liberal opposition opens a period of deep introspection for her, said Mark Thompson, director of the Center for Southeast Asia Research at Hong Kong City University.
“He has to show clearly that he will improve the life of the average Filipino,” he said.
For his part, Marcos Jr. should try to satisfy all those who voted for him in reaction to the democratic governments that succeeded each other after the fall of the dictatorship and which they accuse of not improving their standard of living.
“It needs to present a detailed and comprehensive plan for the recovery of the Philippine economy after the pandemic,” said Peter Mumford, an analyst at Eurasia Group.
“One of the key elements for which we should monitor his government is the deterioration of corruption and nepotism,” he said in the Philippines.