Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the 64-year-old son of a kleptocratic dictator, has a huge lead in race to become the next president of the Philippines’ following the election Monday.
Marcos received more than 80% votes and had 25 million votes. This is more than twice the vote count of Vice President Leni Robertredo in the multi-person race. Early Tuesday, the votes were being counted.
Marcos Jr.’s, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., ruled the Southeast Asian nation of 110 million for 21 years before being ousted in 1986. Marcos the elder tore down presidential term limits and instituted nine years of national martial law. This also violently suppressed political dissent. Tens of thousands were detained and thousands of his opponents and critics murdered during his reign. Political allies also benefited from rampant nepotism. Imelda Marcos, his wife (89 year-old) was believed to also have taken up to $10 Billion from the state’s coffers. This led to a revolt that drove them into exile in Hawaii where Marcos, the elder, died in 1989.
Marcos Jr. was a local government official during his father’s regime. Experts tell TIME that his political rehabilitation is a reflection of the electorate’s frustration at the failure of successive regimes to alleviate long standing problems like poverty. Blatant misinformation, pumped out by supporters on social networks, helped to whitewash the Marcos family’s bloody legacy.
His canny choice of running mate also united the Marcos political machinery with that of the country’s other leading dynasty. Sara Duterte Carpio (running for Vice President) also enjoyed a dominant lead in the early voting. Her father Rodrigo Duterte-Carpio, the outgoing president, is still very popular despite his dictatorial rule and brutal war against drugs, which resulted in at least 5,000 deaths. Rodrigo Duterte’s term limit bans him from running for a second time.
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Marcos Jr. voted in his hometown of Batac, Ilocos Norte—the bailiwick of his late father. Along with his mother Imelda and his sister Irene Marcos Araneta, he voted.
In a statement, Marcos thanked his supporters, some of whom gathered to rejoice outside his party’s national headquarters in Metro Manila. “Many are saying that this fight is over but it’s not yet over,” Marcos Jr. said. “So let’s wait until it’s really very clear and 100% of the votes are counted.”
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While many fear that a Marcos Jr. win would mean a return to the oppression of his father’s day, experts say that it could signal a new era of dynastic politics, instead of brutal dictatorship. Antonio La Viña, former dean of the Ateneo School of Government in Manila, tells TIME that a Marcos Jr. victory is akin to “cementing the ruling class.”
Supporters of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. cheer on Sara Duterte, their running mate, during the last rally for campaign before the May 7th, 2022 election in Paranaque (Metro Manila), Philippines.
Ezra Acayan/Getty Images
What can you expect from a Marcos presidency
Marcos Jr. made platitudes about “unity” the heart of his campaign, but was short on specifics—save for a promise to boost the COVID-ravaged economy.
Critics fear that a Marcos win could continue the Marcos family’s historical revisionism that was highlighted the presidential campaign. Presidential authority extends to institutions investigated his family’s regime, including the Presidential Commission on Good Government, created by Marcos Sr.’s successor in 1986 to go after the family’s ill-gotten wealth. According to John Agbayani, the chairperson of the commission, it has already recovered $5 billion and will be able to secure another $2.4 billion.
In April, Marcos Jr. suggested to CNN Philippines that his family was not corrupt, but even if it was, the commission’s focus should be broadened. “I mean, if I really have a corrupt relative, his name must also surface. But it shouldn’t only be us. It should be all.”
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As Philippine president, Marcos Jr. would also have the power to appoint the head of the country’s human rights commission. He has previously raised doubts about rights violations under his father’s rule, even though the courts have awarded some $200 million in compensation to over 11,000 victims of such violations between 1972 and 1986.
A Marcos presidency is also expected to adopt a friendly stance toward China, continuing the stance of Duterte until recently, who awkwardly declared “I’m Chinese” during a 2016 visit to Beijing that he hailed as “the defining moment of my presidency.”
In a January interview with a popular Philippine TV host, Marcos Jr. suggested he would set aside a 2016 U.N.-backed ruling against China’s claims in the widely contested South China sea and instead come to a bilateral agreement with Beijing. This would increase tensions between Washington and Beijing, who have been keen to deprive China of this strategically vital waterway.
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