by AP SANTOS, L CARTER
NEW YORK: Nearly 50 years after his father and late president declared martial law in the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. won the race to become the country’s next president.
Having secured more than 30.8 million votes in the election held on Monday with over 97% of the ballots counted in an unofficial tally, Marcos is set to replace the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, at the end of June.
Marcos’ nearest challenger, Vice President Leni Robredo, got 14.7 million votes. A victory for Marcos Jr. makes for a stunning political comeback for his family, which has become synonymous with the massive accumulation of ill-gotten wealth and human rights violations.
His late father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., was toppled in a 1986 uprising after holding power with an iron fist for two decades.
Marcos Jr.’s vice-presidential running mate is Sara Duterte, daughter of the incumbent President Duterte. Marcos, 64, has not presented many details about his policies, but is expected to carry ahead the same approach as his predecessor Duterte, pursuing a ruthless consolidation of power.
Critics say Marcos is attempting to rewrite the family’s controversial history for a youthful electorate, though they believe he is unlikely to replicate his father’s authoritarian style of ruling.
“He made promises [in his campaign] that played well with the public but aren’t particularly practicable. So his campaign has focused on gut issues, such as the rising cost of living, and lowering electricity [prices]. But he is providing a vague notion of what he is able to achieve, making it seem more straightforward than it actually is, and people seem to be buying it,” said DW Correspondent Janelle Dumalaon.
“This is the battle of the heart and soul of the country,” Nicole Curato, a sociologist and political analyst, told DW. “I don’t mean to suggest that Marcos Jr. will impose martial law like his father did, but he will have the executive power to undermine institutions that were created in response to his father’s abuse of power,” she added.
Marcos Sr. ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986 and he ruled as dictator under martial law from 1972 until 1981.
During those years, more than 60,000 people were detained, over 30,000 tortured, and an estimated 3,000 were killed, according to rights groups.
He was overthrown in a peaceful revolution in 1986 and died in 1989 while living in exile in Hawaii.
After the Marcos family was allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991, Marcos Jr. and his mother Imelda quickly moved back into politics. Imelda Marcos was elected to congress for four terms.
Marcos Jr. spent 21 years in public office, serving in the legislature and as governor of the family’s stronghold in the province of Ilocos Norte. He unsuccessfully ran for vice president in 2016.
Many have said that Marcos’ rise to power is the result of a decades-long attempt to improve the image of the family, also through social media.
An online campaign across YouTube and Facebook has attempted to frame the time under Marcos Sr. not as a period rife with human rights abuses and corruption, but rather as a time of low crime and prosperity.
A series of questionably edited videos has also sought to convince Filipinos that the stories of corruption on the part of the Marcos family were untrue.
Marcos Jr. has also seen widespread popularity among young people who do not remember his father’s rule.