With the son and namesake of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos leading in polls to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte, the three-month campaign season ahead of the Philippines presidential election kicked off on Tuesday
The strong support shown for Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr has sparked concern among proponents of human rights and democracy.
Current Vice President Leni Robredo is trailing in second place, ahead of actor-turned-mayor of Manila, Francisco Moreno Domagoso, champion boxer Manny Pacquiao and former chief of police Panfilo Lacson.
The election season will also see the vice president separately elected, along with half of the 24-seat Senate.
Has Duterte endorsed any candidates?
Duterte is barred from running for a second six-year term. He had backed his loyal aid Senator Christopher Go as his successor but Go has since pulled out of the race.
He has not yet endorsed any other candidate, saying they are all “my friends.” He had previously described Marcos Jr as “weak.”
Nevertheless, Duterte’s daughter Sara is standing as Marcos Jr’s vice-presidential running mate — although the vice president is elected separately.
“The overwhelming presidential favorite remains Marcos,” Eurasia Group analyst Peter Mumford told AFP, giving him “70 percent odds” of winning.
“Many of Duterte’s ‘pro-authoritarian’ supporters see Marcos as the continuity ‘strongman’ candidate,” Mumford added.
The second most popular candidate, Robredo, beat Marcos in 2016 for the vice presidency, but she has so far failed to win over supporters who often vote based on personality rather than policy.
The Marcos family legacy
The older Marcos ruled the Philippines with a brutality that saw widespread human rights abuses with the killing and torture of thousands of people and the targeting of minorities and suspected communists, while his family grew rich by plundering the country’s wealth.
Marcos Jr’s rise to power would mark a return for the controversial family after the dictator was forced to flee into exile in the US in 1986 following an army-backed “people power” uprising.
The candidate has defended his father’s legacy citing economic growth and playing down the human rights abuses. Due to coronavirus restrictions limiting carnivalesque campaigning parties, Marcos has pursued a successful social media program.
Many of his supporters are too young to remember the violence enacted by his father’s regime.
However, opponents have tried to block the dictator’s son by filing petitions with the Commission on Elections saying that the candidate should not be allowed to stand due to his previous conviction for failing to provide income tax returns.