Marcos Jr., known in the Philippines as “Bongbong”, won a landslide election victory on May 9 on a platform of national unity and the promise of more jobs, lower prices and more investment in agriculture and infrastructure.
But critics say his rise to power was the culmination of a years-long attempt to change the name and image of the Marcos family, most recently with an intensified social media campaign.
Marcos Jr., 64, is the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., whose 21-year kleptocratic rule from 1965 to 1986 was marked by human rights violations, endemic corruption and looting of the public treasury.
The former senator and congressman was sworn in at the National Museum of Fine Arts in the capital Manila before Chief Justice Alexander Jesmundo, CNN Philippines affiliate reported.
Activist groups planned to protest the inauguration in Manila, calling for accountability for alleged crimes committed under Marcos Sr.’s dictatorship, CNN Philippines reported.
On Tuesday, Marcos Jr. endured a last-ditch effort to disqualify him when the Supreme Court decided unanimously
against two petitions seeking to withdraw his candidacy for alleged tax offenses, CNN Philippines reports.
Marcos won the election with 31.6 million votes or 58.77% of the ballots cast – a lead not seen in decades – and replaced outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte.
His running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio, the former president’s daughter, was sworn in as vice president on June 19, and they will serve until 2028.
Marcos Jr. had previously asked the world to judge him by his actions and not by his family’s past. But his campaign was dominated by his father’s legacy, including the “Rise Again” slogan, evoking nostalgia for those who saw Marcos Sr.’s reign as a golden era for the country.
His father’s corrupt and brutal rule in the Philippines was reinforced by nearly a decade of martial law from 1972 to 1981. During this time, tens of thousands of people have been imprisoned, tortured or killed for perceived or real criticism of the rights group’s government.
The President’s Commission on Good Governance (PCGG), tasked with recovering the family’s ill-gotten wealth, estimates that about $10 billion has been stolen from Filipinos.
The Marcos family has repeatedly denied abuses during martial law and personal use of public funds. Activists say the Marcos have never been prosecuted and martial law victims are still fighting for justice.
Critics of Marcos Jr see his ascension to the presidency as a whitewashing of Philippine history and an attempt by the Marcos family to rewrite the abuses and corruption committed during his father’s dictatorship.
Marcos Jr.’s inauguration marks the end of a six-year term in office for Duterte, whose bloody legacy is tied to a nationwide drug fight that has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people, according to police.
The Duterte administration has targeted civil society and the media, filing tax evasion charges against local independent media outlets that challenged government policies and statements, and arresting editors. On Tuesday, Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa said the government had ordered the closure of her news organization, Rappler.
The outspoken Duterte was also known for a history of disparaging remarks, including misogynistic comments about women, Catholic Church
and world leaders.
Some fear that Marcos Jr will continue to follow Duterte’s path and that disinformation will further obscure the truth, making it harder to hold those in power to account.
Despite his human rights record and the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbating the country’s hunger crisis, Duterte has remained hugely popular domestically.
Supporters expect Marcos Jr. and Duterte-Carpio to continue Duterte’s infrastructure policies and his controversial “war on drugs.”