Bongbong Marcos seen elected Philippine president by majority vote

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Bongbong Marcos seen elected Philippine president by majority vote
Presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos greets a crowd of supporters in Quezon province on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 where Marcos lost to Vice President Leni Robredo in the 2016 elections.
Philstar.com / EC Toledo

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, 5 p.m.) — Thirty-six years after the ouster of a despot through the People Power Revolution, his son and namesake Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is poised — in a historic majority vote — to become the 17th president of a country where cries of "Never Again" remain but have been drowned out by a nebulous promise of unity. 

The election returns have yet to be canvassed by Congress but, according to unofficial results from the Commission on Elections' Transparency server, Marcos has an insurmountable lead of over 16 million votes.

As of 4:30 p.m.. Tuesday, Marcos leads the presidential race in the partial, unofficial results from Comelec data with 30,998,979 votes.

Vice President Leni Robredo is in second place with 14,771,802 votes.

In the vice presidential race, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte ranks first with 31,427,611 followed by Sen. Kiko Pangilinan with 9,199,801.

Marcos is set succeed the tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte, whose administration leaves behind a trail of blood from his flagship "war on drugs" that has worsened what human rights groups say is a culture of impunity and has made accountability for extrajudicial killings difficult and further killings more likely.

He will also be inheriting a Philippine economy that is still recovering from its worst crash on record since the twilight years of Marcos dictatorship in 1984, as well as a government grappling with twin deficits and a heavy debt pile. A Bloomberg poll of investors and analysts in March showed Robredo is the market's most preferred candidate to facilitate economic recovery while Marcos ranked at the near bottom of the poll with just 46 survey points.

"The victory puts Marcos in a powerful position," Alex Holmes, Asia economist at London-based Capital Economics, said. "Given his family background and his chequered political career to date, there are concerns among investors that his election will fuel corruption, nepotism and poor governance."

Marcos’ bid faced at least six legal challenges at the Commission on Elections but all were dismissed at division level. Four were brought to the Comelec en banc, which announced Tuesday that these have been dismissed.

The fight is expected to continue at the Supreme Court, despite the proclamation. The petitions were anchored on Marcos' conviction for non-filing of Income Tax Returns that also revived calls for government to collect billions in estate tax that the family owes.

Throughout the campaign season, Marcos generally shunned television appearances and independently hosted debates and forums, and very rarely faced the media. He remained averse to ambush interviews and instead chose to release a steady stream of press statements as well as content through a team of partisan vloggers. His spokesperon Vic Rodriguez fielded most questions during the campaign and answered few of them. 

Online, the 2022 campaign season essentially saw a flood of misinformation and disinformation across all platforms that smeared rivals and boosted Marcos. On the ground, the top two candidates turned most sorties into massive shows of force, drawing thousands of supporters.

Robredo’s volunteers took campaigning house to house and used flash mobs and other gimmicks to boost their candidate's chances of getting elected.

‘Marcos 'yan eh’

First-time voter Charmie Castillo, 23, skipped prior elections, but when her candidate Marcos announced he was running for presidency, she did not hesitate to register to vote.

"Because I see the future of the Philippines in him," Castillo told Philstar.com during the Cavite Grand Rally on March 22.

In 2016, Carmela Katipunan, a 47-year-old barangay worker in Cavite, voted for Duterte and she believes that the leader she chose achieved "almost everything" promised.

In 2022, she said she wants a leader who is "maka-Diyos, makabayan, at magserve siya sa bayan, ang puso nasa bayan (God-fearing, patriotic, who will serve the country and whose heart is for the country)." And, for her, Marcos embodies these qualities.

65-year-old Carolina Miranda Pido, has worked in the barangay for 16 years. Like Carmela, she voted for Duterte. Pido said that she is looking for a leader with a heart, who is compassionate and who is smart.

Of course, she said, it’s Marcos.

"Marcos ‘yan, from my parents, mahal na mahal naming ang mga Marcos since then (That's a Marcos. From the time of my parents, we have loved the Marcoses so much)," she told Philstar.com.

Marcos, who has not held a public position in the last six years, has been criticized for lacking a comprehensive platform and sticking to his unity platform. Political pundits also noted that Marcos has not been able to present achievements but instead touts what his father did—with the pointed erasure of the atrocities during Martial Law.

The government has recognized and acknowledged that human rights violations happened during the Martial Law period. The Marcos family never has.

'Yellow' baggage for Robredo, Duterte brand for Marcos

Political analyst Michael Yusingco, a senior research fellow at the Ateneo Policy Center, said the Marcos win is a referendum for voters frustrated with and who distrust the people supposedly behind Robredo. Despite running as an independent candidate, Robredo remained a member of the Liberal Party and failed to put enough distance between herself and the much maligned "Yellows."

In an e-mail to Philstar.com, Yusingco pointed out that a majority of voters were born after the 1986 EDSA Revolution, which means "a huge segment of the electorate may have very little comprehension and appreciation of the political and economic destruction of the Marcos dictatorship."

This made Robredo a target of their frustration and distrust. "And with a Duterte on board, giving Marcos Jr. the benefit of the doubt becomes justified," he added.

The “sanitizing of Martial Law years on social media” and the "inability of the opposition to consolidate" also prevented a "potent counter-narrative" to the UniTeam tandem of children of presidents.

Yusingco also noted that the Marcos-Duterte tandem were quite "disciplined" in projecting their chosen "unity" and "positive vibes" in their campaign, while their supporters engaged in a vitriolic battle with Robredo’s Kakampinks online.

"But the Marcos-Duterte campaign itself has stuck to its script. They have not been challenged on this because of their refusal to participate in debates and forums and to engage seriously with the media. The only time Marcos Jr. deals with the media is if the interview can be managed because he tends not to perform well when pressured with hard questions," he added.

Yusingco acknowledged that the fear of authoritarian rule under a Marcos-Duterte administration is very real. And it is not just because the two — Marcos is the son of a dictator whom President Duterte has often praised — but because their tandem saw the coming together of powerful political clans.

And where else do political dynasties dominate? In Congress, which is supposed to serve as a check on the executive but has also quickly shrugged off that duty under Duterte and under the first Marcos administration.

"[Marcos] will find himself in a political environment very similar to the one enjoyed by the dictator, Marcos, Sr. And because he has chosen not to engage with the public-at-large, Marcos, Jr. has practically done nothing to dispel this fear," Yusingco added.

(Editor's note: This story has been revised to more clearly reflect that the current tally from the Comelec's Transparency Server is partial and unofficial. Canvassing and proclamation of winning candidates for president and vice president is done by Congress acting as the National Board of Canvassers.) 

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