The eponymous son of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos appeared to have been elected Philippine president in a landslide in a stunning setback to the 1986 “People Power” pro-democracy revolt that ousted his father.

Marcos Jr. garnered more than 30.8 million votes in the unofficial results with more than 97 percent of the votes tabulated as of Tuesday afternoon. His closest challenger, human rights advocate Vice President Leni Robredo, got 14.7 million votes in Monday’s election, and boxing great Manny Pacquiao appeared to have the third-highest total with 3.5 million.

His running mate, Sara Duterte, the outgoing leader’s daughter and mayor of the southern city of Davao, had a formidable lead in the separate vice-presidential race.

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

angry activists

Dozens of anti-Marcos protesters rallied at the Elections Commission, blaming the agency for failing vote-counting machines and other problems that prevented people from casting ballots. Election officials said the impact of the machine malfunction was minimal.

A group of activists who suffered under the dictatorship said they were furious at Marcos’ apparent victory and would oppose it.

“A possible victory based on a campaign built on blatant lies, historical distortions and massive deception is tantamount to cheating your way to victory,” said the group Campaign Against the Return of Marks and Martial Law, or CARMMA. “This is not acceptable.”

Students and activists clash with riot police during a demonstration in front of the Election Commission office as they question the results of the presidential election in Manila, Philippines, on Tuesday. (Aaron Favila/The Associated Press)

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

“I am just one of many who were tortured, others were killed, I was raped. We suffered under the Marcos regime in the fight for justice and freedom and this happens,” said Rosales.

Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte avoided volatile issues during their campaign and stuck firmly to the rallying cry of national unity, even as their parents’ presidencies opened up some of the most turbulent divisions in the country’s history.

‘We have many things to do’

Marcos Jr. has not claimed victory, but he thanked his supporters in a late-night “address to the nation” video, urging them to stay vigilant until the vote count is complete.

“If we are lucky, I hope your help will not wane, your confidence will not wane because we have a lot of things to do in the times ahead,” he said.

Robredo did not admit defeat, but acknowledged Marcos Jr.’s huge advantage in the unofficial count. He told his supporters that the fight for reforms and democracy will not end with the elections.

“The voice of the people is becoming clearer,” he said. “On behalf of the Philippines, which I know you love so much too, we should listen to this voice because, in the end, we only have this nation to share.”

He called on his supporters to continue to stand up: “Push for the truth. It took a long time to erect the structure of lies. Now we have the time and opportunity to fight and dismantle this.”

The winner of the election will take office on June 30 for a one-time six-year term as leader of a Southeast Asian nation hit hard by two years of COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns and long afflicted by crushing poverty, the enormous inequalities, Muslims and communists. insurgencies and deep political divisions.

Vice Presidential hopeful Sara Duterte gestures during her final campaign rally Saturday in Paranaque City, Philippines. (Aaron Favila/The Associated Press)

Marcos Jr., a 64-year-old former provincial governor, congressman and senator, has defended his father’s legacy and steadfastly refused to acknowledge and apologize for the massive human rights violations and looting under the strongman rule of his father.

After his overthrow in the largely peaceful uprising of 1986, the elder Marcos died in 1989 while in exile in Hawaii without admitting to any wrongdoing, including allegations that he, his family and his cronies amassed between $5 billion and $10 billion while he was there. in the power. A Hawaii court later found him responsible for human rights violations and awarded $2 billion from his estate to compensate more than 9,000 Filipinos who sued him for torture, imprisonment, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.

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