Marcos Jr., known as “Bongbong” in the Philippines, is the son of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., whose 21-year reign was marked by human rights violations and endemic corruption. Analysts say Marcos Jr.’s rise is the culmination of years of trying to change the name and image of the Marcos family, most recently through social media.
The former senator thanked his supporters for believing in him in a speech late Monday night.
“Even though the count is not over yet, I can’t wait to thank all of you… those who helped, those who joined our fight, everyone who sacrificed themselves,” he said.
Marcos Jr.’s running mate for vice president is Sarah Duterte Carpio, daughter of outgoing populist leader Rodrigo Duterte. Many of their supporters vote to continue Duterte’s policies, including his controversial “war on drugs.”
Partial and unofficial results show that Duterte Carpio is also in the lead in the race for vice president. The Vice President is elected separately from the President in the Philippines.
On Tuesday, demonstrators, mostly students and members of progressive groups, gathered in the capital Manila outside the Philippine Electoral Commission, holding banners and chanting slogans to protest Marcos and what they called election fraud.
Marcos Jr. took to the platform of “unity” and promised more jobs, lower prices, and more investment in agriculture and infrastructure. Political analysts say Marcos Jr. is speaking to Filipinos tired of political bickering and promises of progress and economic reform from successive administrations that many say have not benefited ordinary people.
He was leading by more than 30 percentage points ahead of Monday’s vote, according to opinion polls.
Robredo, who has positioned herself as an advocate for good governance, transparency and human rights throughout the campaign, told her supporters on Monday: “We’re not done yet, we’re just getting started.”
Her grassroots campaign was led by an army of civilian volunteers who went from house to house collecting votes, and her rallies drew hundreds of thousands of people at all times.
Marcos Jr. linked his campaign to his father’s legacy, and his “Rise Again” slogan drew nostalgia from those who considered Marcos Sr.’s reign as a golden era for the country.
Supporters of the Marcos family say that this period was a time of progress and prosperity, characterized by the construction of major infrastructure such as hospitals, roads and bridges. Critics say it was an illusion and the projects were fueled by widespread corruption, foreign loans and mounting debt.
According to human rights groups, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured or killed during martial law from 1972 to 1981. The Philippine Presidential Commission on Good Governance (PCGG), which is tasked with recovering the illicit wealth of the family and their associates, estimates that about $10 billion has been stolen from Filipinos. Dozens of cases are still pending.
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.
Marcos Jr. was 29 years old when his family was exiled to Hawaii after the People Power Revolution toppled his father’s regime in 1986. Marcos Sr. died in exile three years later, but his family returned in 1991 and became wealthy, powerful politicians, successive family members representing their dynastic stronghold, Ilocos Norte.
Journalist Maria Ressa, 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner and president and CEO of local media outlet Rappler, told CNN that Marcos’ victory shows “not just to the Filipinos, but to the entire world, the impact of disinformation on democracy.”
“He will determine the future of this country, but also its past.”
Marcos Jr is set to replace President Duterte, who is known worldwide for his crackdown on civil society and the media, and for a bloody war on drugs that has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people, according to police. Despite his human rights record and the Covid-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the country’s hunger crisis, Duterte remains hugely popular domestically.
Analysts say there is scope for a reset in the Philippines’ relationship with both major powers, and the outcome of the vote could change the balance of power in Asia.
Yasmine Coles and Simone McCarthy of CNN contributed to the story.