Dictator’s son Bongbong Marcos wins Philippines election ‘by a landslide’

The Independent
The Independent

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, popularly known as “Bongbong”, is set to become the next president of the Philippines , marking the stunning comeback of a political dynasty almost four decades after it was overthrown.

With more than 96 per cent of votes counted overnight after Monday’s election, Mr Marcos has secured over 30.5 million votes, according to preliminary results. This is more than double that of his closest challenger, outgoing vice president Leni Robredo .

Though the final results will be officially declared only later in May after all votes are counted, Mr Marcos – the namesake and son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos – is poised for one of the biggest electoral victories in the country’s history.

The winner will take office on 30 June for a single six-year term.

Bongbong’s supporters, wearing red T-shirts to indicate his campaign colours, gathered outside the headquarters in Mandaluyong City on Monday night. They waved flags and raised victory signs while cars honked their horns to celebrate the win.

Mr Marcos thanked his supporters in a late-night “address to the nation” and urged them to stay vigilant until the vote count is completed.

“If we’ll be fortunate, I’ll expect that your help will not wane, your trust will not wane because we have a lot of things to do in the times ahead,” he said.

Mr Marcos is set to succeed president Rodrigo Duterte , whose brutal war on drugs led police to kill thousands without trial, according to human rights groups. His daughter, Sara Duterte, who was Mr Marcos’s running mate, is poised to secure the vice presidency in a separate election race.

Who is ‘Bongbong’ Marcos?

Mr Marcos, 64, ran under the slogan “ together we shall rise again ” in what was seen as a bid to invoke nostalgia for his father’s authoritarian regime, which has been portrayed by his campaign as a golden era.

He is the only son of the former dictator, who ruled the country from 1965 to 1986. Marcos Sr’s presidential tenure was riddled with torture, arrests and disappearances of his political opponents after he invoked years of martial law to remain in power. Many observers still remember it as one of the darkest periods in the nation’s history.

Martial law in the Philippines in 1972 marked the beginning of a 14-year rule that was notorious for widespread human rights abuses and army and police torture. Marcos Sr also faced allegations of plundering billions of dollars of state wealth when in power.

The dictator’s downfall began following a high-profile assassination of a pro-democracy politician, Benigno “Ninoy“ Aquino Jr , which triggered an uprising, dubbed as the People’s Power Revolution . The demonstrations were eventually supported by senior members of the army who rebelled against firing at protesters, defying the president’s orders.

The days of mass unrest in the country forced the family to flee to Hawaii on American helicopters. Mr Marcos was then aged 28. His father died in exile in Hawaii just three years later in 1989 and his mother Imelda Marcos, now 92, returned from exile in the 1990s.

The family took jewellery, high-end clothes and millions in cash along with them, according to reports that cited officials in US customs.

Instead of apologising for his father’s regime, Mr Marcos has been accused of attempting to whitewash the country’s authoritarian past by minimising the human rights abuses and promoting a narrative that it was for economic growth.

In their heavily social media-based campaign, Mr Marcos and Ms Duterte fell short of specifying their vision for the future, but managed to resonate with a section of Filipinos with their populist slogan of “unity”.

The choreographed campaign made deft use of social media, primarily TikTok and YouTube, to push the idea of “Uniteam”. At the same time, critics accused Mr Marcos of unleashing an army of trolls to smear his opponents and revise his family’s history online.

Mr Marcos studied in the Philippines for some time before he flew to England to study at a boarding school. While he insists he completed his graduate degree from Oxford, the university reportedly claims that he did not complete the course and was awarded a special diploma in social sciences.

He married a lawyer, Louise Araneta-Marcos, known as Liza. They have three sons, with their eldest running for the first district congressional seat of Ilocos Norte.

Mr Marcos was elected to the House of Representatives in 1991 and the Senate in 2010, despite ongoing legal issues. The family continues to face a number of court cases over plundered wealth, which is estimated to be around $10bn (£8.1bn).

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