Philippines election: Ferdinand Marcos Jr claims victory

Late dictator's son garners more than 31 million votes in unofficial vote count from Monday’s polls

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Ferdinand Marcos Jr vowed to be a leader “for all Filipinos” after he claimed victory in the Philippines presidential election on Wednesday.

With 98 per cent of the votes counted and an unassailable lead of more than 16 million votes, Mr Marcos Jr's spokesman Vic Rodriguez said the Filipino people had “spoken decisively”.

“To the world, he says: 'judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions',” Mr Rodriguez said of the man nicknamed 'Bongbong'.

“His is a victory for all Filipinos and for democracy. To those who voted for Bongbong and those who did not, it is his promise to be a president for all Filipinos — to seek common ground across political divides and to work together to unite the nation.”

With the initial count almost complete, the son of the once-notorious Ferdinand Marcos Sr has secured more than 56 per cent of the vote and more than double the tally of his nearest rival, liberal Leni Robredo.

Voters had been predicted to back Mr Marcos Jr by a landslide, after relentless online whitewashing of his family's past, the backing of powerful political dynasties and public disenchantment with post-dictatorship governments.

For years, pro-Marcos accounts have flooded social media, leaving many young Filipinos believing his father's rule was a golden period of peace and prosperity.

Volunteers inspect election returns at the command centre of the Parish Pastoral Council of Good Governance, a church-backed election watchdog, in Manila. Getty

In reality, Marcos Sr left the Philippines bankrupt and impoverished after killing, torturing and jailing tens of thousands of opponents during his corrupt dictatorship.

Hours after his thumping victory, Mr Marcos Jr visited his father's grave at the national heroes' cemetery in the Philippines' capital Manila.

Photos posted on official social media accounts on Wednesday showed him standing by the tomb with his head slightly bowed and covering his eyes with his right hand, as if crying.

Marcos Sr died in exile in 1989 but was interred at the graveyard in 2016 only after president Rodrigo Duterte defied public outcry to order the dictator's burial with full military honours.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr visits the tomb of his father in Manila, hours after claiming victory in the Philippines' presidential election. AP

Mr Marcos Jr vowed to "hit the ground running" when he takes office on June 30, with the economy, cost of living, jobs and education among his government's priorities.

"I know that the counting is not over, it is not yet official but I'm always guided and always look to the fact that 31 million of our countrymen voted for unity," he told reporters at his campaign headquarters in Manila.

Marcos Jr supporters 'overwhelmed' by election outcome

The president-elect was greeted by a crush of supporters as he arrived at the headquarters before fronting the media.

The crowd erupted in cheers when Mr Marcos Jr grabbed a cardboard sign from a fan that read "Thank you 31 million".

Joseph Bugayong, 30, a gardener who was among those standing outside the building, said he was happy and overwhelmed by the result.

"I saw him in person and even shook his hand," he said. "My wait was worth it."

The Marcos family's astounding journey from ignominy back to political favour has overshadowed questions about how Mr Marcos Jr's government will perform.

There were few hints on the campaign trail after he snubbed televised debates and largely avoided media interviews as he sought to avoid own goals.

Human rights groups, Catholic Church leaders and political analysts fear the huge win could embolden Mr Marcos Jr to rule with a heavy fist and push through constitutional changes that could entrench his rule.

His running mate Sara Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing president, also won the vice presidency, which is elected separately, by a landslide.

Their success at the ballot box means the two offspring of authoritarian leaders will hold the highest elected positions for the next six years at least.

In his first Cabinet appointment, Mr Marcos Jr said Ms Duterte would serve as education secretary.

The overwhelming win has devastated many of Ms Robredo's supporters, who regarded the election as a make-or-break moment for the country's fragile democracy.

Many of them went door to door across the vast archipelago in a months-long effort to convince voters to support the liberal candidate for the top job.

Ms Robredo, 57, a lawyer and the current vice president, admitted to "clear disappointment" but vowed to continue the fight against poor government.

Mr Marcos Jr will have to contend with an opposition that could congeal into a potent pro-democracy movement, political analyst Richard Heydarian said.

"I think they could still be in a position to check the worst instincts of the incoming Marcos and Duterte administration," he said.

Updated: June 30, 2022, 5:26 AM
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