Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator of the same name, is set to become the next president of the Philippines after taking the erratic lead in elections, signaling an extraordinary rehabilitation for one of the country’s most notorious political families.
With more than 70% of the votes scheduled, Marcus Jr. received more than 23.5 million, far ahead of his closest challenger, current Vice President, Lenny Robredo, a former human rights lawyer, who received 11.1 million. The scale of his advance means that his opponents cannot return.
In a late-night speech from his campaign headquarters in Manila, he thanked volunteers for months of “sacrifice and work” but stopped short of declaring victory. “Let’s wait until it’s clear, until the number is one hundred percent, then we can celebrate,” he said.
Marcus Jr., 64, ran with the “Together We Rise Again” message, evoking nostalgia for his father’s authoritarian regime, which the family and their supporters portrayed as a golden era in a campaign fueled by online disinformation.
Social media was filled with false stories about Marcos Sr.’s rule, which brushed aside the atrocities and corruption that was rampant during that time.
The survivors of Marcus Sr.’s brutal regime are terrified by images like these. Thousands of political opponents were tortured, arrested and disappeared under his rule, while up to $10 billion was looted.
The People’s Power Revolution overthrew Marcos Sr. in 1986, when the family was flown in a humiliating atmosphere from the presidential palace by helicopter, and fled into exile.
Since then, analysts say, the Marcos have sought to rebrand and reclaim their place in politics. “The infrastructure for disinformation has been around for a long time. It’s not as if it just appeared during this campaign. Aries Arugay, visiting fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, based in Manila, said Marcos’ plan to reach the presidency has been in the works for decades.
Marcos Jr. maintained a clear lead over his opponents in the polls taken in the run-up to the vote, including Robredo, who ranked second. A former human rights lawyer who advocated for marginalized groups, she campaigned on the promise of good governance and an end to corruption.
People began lining up to vote before polls opened at 6 a.m. local time (2300 GMT) on Monday morning, and some waited more than four hours in the heat. The vote came three months after a fierce campaign, as two million Robredo volunteers launched an unprecedented door-to-door campaign in an effort to win over voters and counter an onslaught of online misinformation.
Although Marcus Jr. has denied the existence of any organized online campaign, he has been the biggest beneficiary of the false allegations circulating on social media. While Robredo and Marcos have been the subject of false allegations, misinformation about Robredo has been very negative. Misinformation spread about Marcos and his family and was largely designed to improve his image.
Marcus Jr.’s candidacy polarized opinion. At Santa Ana Elementary School, in a residential area of Manila, which opened as a polling station, Raquel Degozaman, 59, said she supports Marcos Jr. and doesn’t think the family was corrupt. “[Marcos Sr] He was able to help the Philippines. “It’s really good,” she said, adding that he’s built infrastructure, including hospitals.
Marcos ran alongside Sarah Duterte, who is vying for the vice presidency. It also made tremendous progress with more than 23.3 million votes in the unofficial counting from the Election Server Committee. The President and Vice President are elected separately in the Philippines.
Cleo-Ann Calmbahn, associate professor of political science at De La Salle University in Manila, said the results shouldn’t come as a surprise, but they were sobering. They partly reflected the growing frustration among the public with previous administrations.
“I think this is a response from the public that has seen the lack of progress since 1986,” Kalimbahn said, referring to the people power revolution that set the Philippines on the path to democracy, a process that was not linear.
“Unfortunately, the reform agenda and its inability to implement since 1986 has even made people wary of reformist candidates,” Kalimbahn said.
Marcus Jr. has avoided television debates and defied pre-election media interviews, and his campaign has been weak on policy details.
The winner of the election will take office on June 30 for a single six-year term.