Marcos, son of a strongman, wins Philippine presidential election

  • Majority win for the first time since the fall of the elder Marcos
  • The outgoing leader’s daughter wins the vice presidency
  • Marcos has been accused of seeking to whitewash the family’s past
  • Social media dominance crucial to victory
  • Robredo calls to fight lies

MANILA (Reuters) – Ferdinand Marcos Jr. scored a stunning victory in the Philippines’ presidential election on Monday, the first majority victory since the 1986 revolution that toppled his late father’s two-decade dictatorship.

An unofficial count showed that Marcos, popularly known as “Bong Pong”, had exceeded the 27.5 million majority vote required, paving the way for an unexpected return to Marcos family rule, 36 years after its humiliating retreat into exile during the “People Power Uprising”.

“I hope you don’t get tired of trusting us,” Marcus told supporters in comments broadcast on Facebook, a platform at the core of his political strategy.

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“We have a lot of things to do,” he said, adding that “an endeavor as large as this one does not involve one person.”

Marcos Jr. received 29.9 million votes, twice that of Vice President Lenny Robredo, with 93.8% of eligible votes counted, according to the Informal Electoral Commission (COMELEC) count. Participation was around 80%.

An official result is expected towards the end of the month.

Despite their fall from grace, the Marcos family returned from exile in the 1990s and remained a powerful force in Philippine politics, retaining their influence with enormous wealth and long-distance relationships.

Marcos Jr. has served as governor, congressman, and senator, his sister, Amy, is currently a senator, and his mother, Imelda, an influential power broker and widow of the late dictator, served four terms in Congress. Marcos Jr’s son Ferdinand Alexander prepared to win a seat in Congress on Monday.

strong man approach

Marcus, 64, offered no real political platform, campaigning on a simple but vague unity message.

His six-year presidency is expected to provide continuity from outgoing leader Rodrigo Duterte, whose tough and tough style proved popular and helped him quickly consolidate power.

Analysts expect Marcos to focus on completing Duterte’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure upgrade and seeking closer ties with China, but some say the Philippines’ current problems of corruption and cronyism could worsen. Read more

A big boon for Marcos was securing the president’s daughter, Sarah Duterte Carpio, as his running mate, and he tapped into her father’s broad support and helped Marcos make his way into the new electorate. An unofficial count showed Duterte-Carpio to win the vice presidency with more than three times the votes of her closest challenger.

Marcos has been criticized for skipping presidential debates and making little appearance in the media during the campaign, enabling him to limit scrutiny and control of his message through a network of influencers and bloggers who have been given extensive access to his events.

Monday’s finding shows the massive impact of a complex process on social media in young, post-revolutionary Filipinos, and the proliferation of disinformation that challenges historical accounts of Marcos’ martial law era.

His camp insists he has not engaged in disinformation.

The Marcos family lived notoriously opulent lifestyles, but they deny the theft of billions of dollars in state wealth while at the helm of what historians consider one of Asia’s most notorious corrupt regimes. Many of Marcus Jr.’s supporters are convinced that the earlier accounts of the former First Dynasty were lies propagated by his opponents.

As the voices poured in, supporters jumped outside Marcos’ campaign headquarters, waving flags and chanting “Marcos, Marcos, Marcos” with ecstasy.

“We are very happy because of his broad leadership,” said Milay Ilagan, 20. “Unity really prevailed.”

“Pong Pong Marcus’ wish that we all unite has come true.”

Although Marcos refrained from giving his victory speech, his son Ferdinand said it was time to enjoy their victory.

“We must celebrate because I can say we have already won,” he told his supporters. “Let’s fulfill the BBM promise, we will all rise again,” he said, referring to his father.

structures of lies

The win avenged Marcos Jr.’s loss to Robredo in the 2016 vice presidential election, a defeat by only 200,000 votes Marcos fought in vain for her heart.

In an apparent criticism of Marcos, Robredo urged his supporters to continue the fight for the truth.

“We have many things to fight for. Don’t leave them,” she told a news conference.

“Keep standing up. Insist on the truth. It took time to build the structures of lies. We have the time and opportunity to fight and dismantle these.”

About 65 million Filipinos are entitled to vote for president, vice president, legislative seats, and thousands of local office, from governors to mayors and councilors.

The Komelek said the election was relatively peaceful, with 15 security incidents, including the killing of three security personnel, in an area prone to political violence.

The high turnout caused long queues at polling stations, exacerbated in some areas by malfunctions in 533 of the 106,000 counting machines.

The National Union of People’s Advocates, whose membership includes victims of martial law persecution for Marcos Sr., said the election was unintelligible and targeted what it described as a historical review of Marcos.

“The truth can really be stranger than fiction. Or, to be more precise, the novel can be reassembled and turned into reality,” she said in a statement.

“We will continue to fight intensely and will wait for our deliverance from this resurrected nightmare.”

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(Reporting by Karen Lima and Neil Jerome Morales) Additional reporting by Eluisa Lopez, Adrian Portugal and Enrico Dela Cruz. Written by Martin Petty; Editing by Nick McPhee

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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