According to preliminary and unofficial results, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son of the former Philippine dictator, is on the verge of winning the Philippine presidential election by a landslide, bringing the Marcos dynasty one step closer to the Malacanang Palace, 36 years after the family fled a mass uprising.
According to a partial and unofficial calculation of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Marcos Jr has nearly 30 million votes, compared to his closest challenger, departing Vice President Leni Robredo, who has roughly 14 million votes, according to CNN affiliate CNN Philippines.
Official results, on the other hand, may take weeks to confirm.
In the Philippines, Marcos Jr. is known as “Bongbong,” and his ascension results from a decades-long effort to rebrand the Marcos family’s name and image, most recently through social media, according to observers.
Marcos Jr is the son and namesake of former authoritarian leader Ferdinand Marcos Sr, whose 21-year reign was marred by human rights violations and state coffer looting. In an address late Monday, the former senator praised his fans for their faith in him.
“I can’t wait to thank all of you… to those who aided, to those who joined our struggle, to those who sacrificed,” he stated, even though the counting isn’t complete.
Marcos Jr campaigned on a ” unity platform,” promising more jobs, lower costs, and increased agricultural and infrastructure investment. According to political observers, Marcos Jr. appeals to Filipinos who are tired of political wrangling and promises of progress and economic transformation from previous administrations, which many believe have failed to benefit ordinary people.
Surveys showed him winning by more than 30 percentage points in the run-up to Monday’s election.
Sara Duterte Carpio, the daughter of populist outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, is Marcos Jr’s running mate for Vice President. Many of their supporters vote to keep Duterte’s policies in place, notably his divisive “war on drugs.”
Duterte Carpio is also leading the contest for vice president, according to unofficial results. In the Philippines, the vice president is elected separately from the president.
“We are not yet done; we are just getting started,” Robredo, who ran on good governance, transparency, and human rights platform, told her supporters.
According to CNN Philippines, she remarked, “We launched something that had never been seen before in the country’s whole history: a movement led by people.”
Her grassroots campaign was led by an army of citizen volunteers canvassing votes from house to home, and her rallies drew crowds in the hundreds of thousands.
Marcos Jr’s campaign drew on his father’s legacy, with his slogan “rise again,” appealing to those who remember Marcos Sr’s presidency as a glorious moment for the country.
Supporters of the Marcos family argue that the period was one of growth and prosperity, with significant infrastructure, including hospitals, highways, and bridges being built. Critics say that this was a ruse and that the projects were fueled by rampant corruption, foreign funding, and mounting debt.
According to human rights organizations, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured, or killed during the martial law from 1972 to 1981. Hundreds of cases are still pending. The Philippines’ Presidential Commission on Good Governance (PCGG), which collects the family’s ill-gotten money, estimates that around $10 billion has been plundered from the Filipino people.
The Marcos family has denied abusing martial law and misusing public monies for their benefit. Campaigners claim that the Marcoses were never adequately held accountable and that martial law victims are still seeking justice.
Marcos Jr. was 29 years old when his family was forced into exile in Hawaii following his father’s regime’s overthrow in 1986. Three years later, Marcos Sr died in exile, but his family returned in 1991 and became wealthy, powerful politicians, with succeeding family members representing their dynastic heartland of Ilocos Norte.
According to CNN, a Marcos victory exposes “not just Filipinos, but the globe, the impact of disinformation on a democracy,” according to Maria Ressa, the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and president and chief executive of local media portal Rappler. “He will shape the country’s future while also determining its past.”
Marcos Jr is expected to succeed President Duterte, who is known internationally for cracking down on civil society and the media and waging a violent drug war that has claimed the lives of over 6,000 people, according to police. Despite his human rights record and the Covid-19 outbreak, which exacerbated the country’s starvation, Duterte has a significant domestic following.
Beyond the country’s borders, the election has implications. With China and the United States increasingly using the Indo-Pacific as a staging ground for their global confrontation, the Philippines faces more economical and geopolitical pressure, especially since its territorial claims in the South China Sea coincide with Beijing’s.
According to analysts, the Philippines’ relations with both significant countries have the potential to be reset, and the outcome of the referendum might affect Asia’s power balance.