Marcos Jr. won the Philippine presidency, unofficial counting shows

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The namesake son of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos appears to have been elected president by a landslide in a stunning reversal of the 1986 pro-democracy “people power” uprising that brought his father into global disgrace.

Marcus Jr. had more than 30.8 million votes in the unofficial results with more than 97% of the votes scheduled as of Tuesday noon. His closest challenger, Vice President Leni Robredo, a champion of human rights and reforms, received 14.7 million votes in Monday’s election, and boxer Manny Pacquiao appeared to have the third-highest total with 3.5 million.

And his running mate, Sarah Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing leader and mayor of the southern city of Davao, had made a massive lead in the vice presidential race, which is separate from the presidential race.

The alliance of a descendant of the two authoritarian leaders combined the voting power of their families’ political strongholds in the north and south, but only compounded the concerns of human rights activists.

Dozens of anti-Marcos protesters rallied in front of the election commission, blaming the agency for broken vote-counting machines and other issues that prevented people from casting votes. Election officials said the effect of the crippled machines was minimal.

A group of activists, who had suffered under the dictatorship, said they were outraged by Marcos’ apparent victory and would oppose it.

“A potential victory based on a campaign built on blatant lies, historical distortions and mass deception is tantamount to deception on your way to victory,” said the campaign group Against Marcus Return and Martial Law, or CARMMA. “this is unacceptable.”

Etta Rosales, the former chair of the Human Rights Commission, who was twice arrested and tortured under martial law in the 1970s, said Marcos Jr’s apparent victory made her cry but would not stop her from continuing efforts to hold the Marcos family accountable. .

“I am just one of many who have been tortured; others have been killed, I have been raped. We have suffered under the Marcos regime in the fight for justice and freedom and it is happening.

Marcos Jr and Sarah Duterte have avoided volatile issues during their campaign and steadfastly clung to the cry of national unity, even though their parents’ presidencies have opened up some of the most turbulent divisions in the country’s history.

Marcus Jr. did not declare victory but thanked his supporters in a late-night “Speech to the Nation” video, urging them to exercise caution until the vote count was completed.

“If we are lucky, I expect your help will not be diminished, and your confidence will not be diminished because we have so many things to do in the times ahead,” he said.

Robredo did not admit defeat but did acknowledge Marcos Jr.’s formidable leadership in the unofficial triage. She told her supporters that the struggle for reforms and democracy would not end with elections.

“People’s voice is getting louder and clearer,” she said. “In the name of the Philippines, which I know you also love very much, we must hear that voice because in the end, we only have this one nation to share.”

She asked her supporters to continue to stand up: “Press for the truth. It took a long time to build the structure of lies. We have the time and opportunity now to fight and dismantle this.”

The winner of the election will take office on June 30 for one six-year term as leader of a Southeast Asian country hit hard by two years of the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown, and which has long been plagued by extreme poverty and inequality between Muslims and communists. Rebellions and deep political divisions.

The incoming president is also likely to face calls to prosecute outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte over the killings of thousands during his anti-drug campaign – deaths already under investigation by the International Criminal Court.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch called for election winner Marcos Jr. to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines.

“He must announce an end to the ‘war on drugs’ that has resulted in the extrajudicial killing of thousands of Filipinos, and order an impartial investigation and prosecution of those responsible for these unlawful killings,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of the group. for Asia.

Marcus Jr., 64, a former provincial governor, congressman and senator, was a big lead in pre-election polls. Robredo had capitalized on shock and anger at the prospect of Marcos regaining the seat of power and harnessing a network of campaign volunteers to support her candidacy.

After being ousted in the largely peaceful 1986 uprising, the elder Marcos died in 1989 while in exile in Hawaii without admitting any wrongdoing, including accusations that he, his family, and his associates had amassed an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion while in power . A Hawaii court later found him responsible for human rights abuses and awarded him $2 billion in property to compensate more than 9,000 Filipinos who have sued him for torture, imprisonment, extrajudicial killings, and disappearance.

His widow, Imelda Marcos, and their children were allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991 and made a stunning political comeback, with the help of a well-funded social media campaign to renew the family name.

Marcus Jr. defended his father’s legacy and steadfastly refused to acknowledge and apologize for the massive human rights abuses and pillage under his father’s strongman rule.

Officials said Monday’s elections were relatively peaceful despite pockets of violence in the country’s restive south that have claimed at least six lives in the country’s restive south. Thousands of police and military personnel were deployed to secure constituencies, particularly in rural areas with a history of violent political rivalries.