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MANILA — Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was 28 when a helicopter whisked his family away from the Philippine presidential palace as millions of protesters demanded the removal of his dictator father in a historic “people power” revolution.

Just over 36 years later, the son is celebrating a landslide victory in a presidential election, an extraordinary comeback for a family once best known for widespread human rights abuses and the looting of an estimated $10 billion.

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Marcos’ share of the vote in Monday’s election was double that of his closest rival, according to an unofficial tally by the electoral commission. The results, largely seen as legitimate, unlike the last election held during his father’s martial law rule, left some of the original people power activists dejected and confused. “We said in 1986, ‘Never again,’” said Florencio Abad, who was among the millions of protesters who swarmed the streets of Manila at the time and later became a cabinet member. “How did they manage to get back?”

The Marcos family has waged a decades-long campaign to resurrect their reputation. That, coupled with the shortcomings of successive governments and a masterful political coup by siding with the daughter of current President Rodrigo Duterte, helped fuel his once-unthinkable return to the presidency.

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Sara Duterte-Carpio has an insurmountable lead in the vice-presidential election, which is being held separately, according to the unofficial count.

“I wouldn’t have believed this in 1986 or even 1995,” said Joshua Kurlantzick, a Southeast Asia analyst at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.

Since the late 1990s, the Philippines has seen a succession of ineffective and corrupt governments, Kurlantzick said, leading to the government of Duterte, whom he described as a “semi-autocrat.”

“The idea of ​​strongman rule is becoming very popular again, even among the young.”

The Marcos family was allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991 by then-President Corazon Aquino, whose husband was assassinated in 1983 and helped spark the People Power movement that ultimately ousted the elder Marcos after 20 years in power.

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Allowing the family to return from exile after Father Marcos’ death was an act of “extraordinary generosity”, according to David Chaikin, a researcher at the University of Sydney.

“This was the beginning of the Marcos family working their way to power,” he said.

‘NEW GENERATION OF VOTERS’

Both Marcos Jr. and his mother Imelda quickly returned to politics, rebuilding their political networks while fighting dozens of cases to win back the family’s wealth. The family has maintained that their fortune was legitimately earned despite the small salaries Marcos Sr. and Imelda Marcos earned during their presidency.

Imelda Marcos was elected congresswoman for four terms. Meanwhile, her son spent 21 years in public office, serving in Congress and as governor of the family’s stronghold in Ilocos Norte province. She ran unsuccessfully for vice president in 2016.

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The high-profile political roles of the Marcoses (Marcos’s sister, Imee, is a senator) were bolstered by a finely tuned social media campaign that downplayed human rights abuses and corruption during their reign. father, calling it a “golden age” of economic prosperity and infrastructure construction.

The Philippines posted strong growth for much of the 1970s, but its fortunes plummeted in the early 1980s as global debt and interest rates soared, economists said. The economy shrank by nearly 15% in the last two years of the Marcos administration, according to World Bank data.

With half of voters between the ages of 18 and 40, the social media campaign found a receptive audience.

“This is also a new generation of voters,” said Patricio Abinales, a Filipino professor of Asian studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. “None of them lived through the Marcos and post-Marcos eras.”

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Voter support for Marcos doubled in November when Duterte-Carpio announced she would be his running mate, according to pollster Pulse Asia.

People power protester Abad, who held cabinet positions for President Corazon Aquino and also for her son, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, said post-1986 governments were unable to reverse the injustices of the Marcos era.

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“The changes that occurred were not profound enough…particularly in addressing the problem of inequity and the exclusion of so many Filipinos from the distribution of wealth in the country,” he said.

“There is justifiable disappointment.”

Along with Marcos Jr., other members of the clan have also won elections, according to an unofficial count. His son Sandro seems destined to be a member of the House of Representatives, his sister Imee’s son Matthew Manotoc is likely to be reinstated as governor of Ilocos Norte province, another relative as lieutenant governor and another as mayor of the city of Laoag, the provincial capital. . (Reporting by Karen Lema and Tom Allard; Additional reporting by Poppy McPherson, Neil Jerome Morales, and Kay Johnson; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Reference-nationalpost.com

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