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Home World News Washington Post World News Marcos family, once ousted by insurgency, wins massive votes in Philippines

Marcos family, once ousted by insurgency, wins massive votes in Philippines

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

For critics, it marks a further setback for a nation — once admired as one of the region’s few democracies — that continues to tread the path of populism. Marcos succeeds stalwart President Rodrigo Duterte, best known for his brutal insults and a war on drugs that left thousands dead.

His daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is Marcos’s running mate and next vice president. Calling itself the ‘Uniteam’ for its alleged message of unity, the tandem is a political marriage between the country’s two most powerful dynasties.

Marcos gave a speech early Tuesday thanking his supporters for their “faith in our message of unity and their “faith in the candidates.”

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the 64-year-old son of the former Philippine dictator, won the presidential election in a landslide on May 9. (Video: Reuters)

In the Philippines, nostalgia for strong men trumps democracy

The mood was jubilant as the magnitude of their victory became apparent as Marcos’s supporters chanted and celebrated in front of campaign headquarters along the same historic avenue in Manila where more than three decades ago people protested to evict his father.

Meanwhile, hundreds of disheartened supporters of his main opponent, Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, flocked to a volunteer center to console each other and tune in to her live-streamed speech.

“We have started something that has never been seen in the history of our country: a people-led campaign,” Robredo said Tuesday morning. “It took a long time to build this structure of lies. There will come a time and a chance to break it down.”

Her supporters have suggested that her grassroots campaign, which brought together several swaths of pink-wearing volunteers from various sectors, should maintain momentum and prepare to take on a role as opposition under the new government.

Dictator’s son Marcos takes overwhelming lead in Philippines elections

“One of the lessons we need to learn from the opposing camp is that when they lost… [in the 2016 vice-presidential race]they immediately started campaigning,” said Mik Afable, a volunteer who organized flash mobs and took charge of operations on Monday.

He expressed hope that their move would be a lasting one, compared to the well-funded Marcos juggernaut. “If you pay for loyalty, it goes away very quickly,” he said.

Marcos’ carefully planned trip to the presidency shows how social media can influence perception and politics in a highly online country dubbed the “patient zero” of disinformation after Duterte first won with the help of troll farms in 2016.

As chairman, Marcos will rule an archipelago of about 110 million ravaged by the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, where about a fifth of the population lives below the poverty line. He is also expected to continue the drug war and protect the outgoing Duterte from possible prosecution at the International Criminal Court.

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“This election is so sweeping because whoever wins, decides who lives and dies in the Philippines,” said Nicole Curato, a sociologist and professor at the University of Canberra.

But the rest of Marcos’ platforms and policies are largely obscure as he has skipped election debates and interviews with the independent press, instead surrounding himself with social media personalities and vloggers who enjoy preferential treatment for his campaign.

“We don’t know enough how they will rule,” Curato said. “They control the way they disseminate information.”

Marcos’s administrative experience is concentrated in the county where the family comes from. He was governor of Ilocos Norte in the 1980s (replacing his aunt), before leaving with the rebellion that toppled his father. After returning, he served as a representative for the province and then governor before being elected to the Senate in 2010 – where he was later implicated in a corruption scandal.

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

As the numbers for Marcos steadily trickled in, thousands in several districts still waited to cast their votes well past midnight. Technical problems plaguing the ballot counting machines raised fears that the ballots could be tampered with, and on Tuesday morning protesters flocked to the Election Commission in Manila to protest what they saw as an election fraught with irregularities.

The human rights organization Karapatan also called on the public to reject the Marcos-Duterte tandem, saying that Marcos “[spits] on the graves and suffering” of thousands of victims of martial law. “Worse, he has portrayed the victims of human rights abuses as opportunists seeking money,” said the group’s secretary-general, Cristina Palabay.

According to the unofficial count with 98 percent of counties reporting, Marcos won 58 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 14.7 million votes – less than half of Marcos’ total. The race was a rematch for the two, who faced each other in the 2016 vice presidential race, which Robredo won despite Marcos’ attempts to overturn the result.

Political dynasties dominate in the Philippines – with the Marcos family being one of the most famous. Ferdinand Marcos, his wife, Imelda, daughter Imee, and son have all held political positions in or on behalf of Ilocos Norte Province. Imelda, 92, who previously made two unsuccessful presidential bids, showed up to a polling station Monday in a red outfit, rosary and Chanel pin.

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

They also face several controversies: unpaid estate taxes are said to have risen to more than $3 billion, a corruption conviction for Imelda, a class action award of nearly $2 billion, and a contempt warrant issued by a U.S. district court seeking compensation for thousands. victims of human rights abuses under the Marcos administration, among others.

Marcos also has his own controversies, from a questionable tax return to his disputed claims that he graduated from Oxford University.

The Marcos family’s excesses were fully visible during their reign decades ago, with frequent jet set-ups, spending a lot of money and, as is well known, Imelda’s thousands of pairs of shoes – boxes that have since fallen victim to mold and termite infestations.

At the time, under martial law, there were many reports of human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and murders. But with a Marcos victory, the family is shielded from liability.

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

Marcos’s overwhelming victory points to the success of his social media campaign, but also to the “serious disappointment” Filipinos have had in the political establishment and democratic rule over the past three decades, said Marco Garrido, a sociologist at the University. from Chicago.

“The trust they had in liberal democracy has dried up…and they developed this penchant for illiberal rule over the course of the Duterte administration,” he said. “This nostalgia for the Marcos period wouldn’t make sense unless you put it in the context of 36 years of disappointment.”

Westfall reported from Washington.

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