Dictator’s son wins presidential election

Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr., the son of a Philippine dictator, won in a landslide

Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. will be the Philippines’ new president after a landslide victory over former Vice President Leni Robredo. Marcos was congratulated by both the US and China, and has asked critics of his father – a former dictator – not to judge him by his name.

Although the official results have not yet been announced, Marcos appears to have won the weekend’s elections comfortably, securing more than 30 million votes – over twice the number of his closest rival, outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo. Sara Duterte-Carpio, the daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, will serve as vice president, having easily dispatched her nearest rival, Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan, with a tally of over 30 million votes to 8.9 million.

US President Joe Biden phoned Marcos on Thursday to congratulate him on his victory. According to a White House statement, Biden promised to expand bilateral cooperation with the Philippines on “the fight against Covid-19, addressing the climate crisis, promoting broad-based economic growth, and respect for human rights.”

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Marcos also received a message of congratulations from Chinese president Xi Jinping, who vowed to “establish a good working relationship with President-elect Marcos [and] adhere to good neighbourliness and friendship.”

Managing the Philippines’ relations with Washington and Beijing will likely prove a delicate balancing act for the incoming president. Located on the edge of the disputed South China sea, the Philippines sits on a major geopolitical fault line, and is engaged in an ongoing territorial dispute with China over numerous islands in the sea. While an international tribunal in 2016 ruled in favor of the Philippines’ claim, Marcos stated during his campaign that he would seek a new “agreement” with his “friends” in the Chinese government.

Back at home, Marcos’ victory was met with trepidation by some. While his campaign was a popular one, Amnesty International’s regional division described his win as an “ominous moment for human rights,” while Filipino activists have condemned him for refusing to “address the basic questions concerning his father’s dictatorship, of which he was very much a part.” 

Marcos’ father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., ruled the Philippines from 1965 until 1986, when the family was chased from the country amid an uprising. Marcos Sr. implemented martial law to crack down on Islamic extremism, and human rights groups say that he subjected his political opponents to torture and extrajudicial killings during the clampdown.

Marcos Sr. has also been accused of massive corruption, and to this day a commission formed to track down the wealth allegedly siphoned by the Marcos family has recovered less than half of the $10 billion the family is believed to have hidden. 

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‘Bongbong’, who was a governor during the final years of his father’s rule, has been accused of waging a PR campaign to “whitewash” his father’s rule and present the Marcos years as two decades of prosperity and improved living standards for Filipinos. Critics have also condemned him for not denouncing his father’s alleged crimes.

However, he asked the world on Wednesday to “judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions,” promising more jobs, higher wages, and investment in infrastructure and agriculture.

It is widely believed that Macros will continue many of Duterte’s policies with regard to the outgoing leader’s ‘war on drugs’. Duterte, famed for his foul-mouthed tirades against his opponents, is currently facing an investigation by the International Criminal Court for the deaths of thousands of people during this crackdown, and Marcos has said that he would let investigators into the country, “but only as tourists.”

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