Who is “Bongbong” Marcos Jr and why are some Filipinos nervous about his family’s return?

Despite his popularity among millions of voters, many Filipinos are shocked by his victory and what it means for democracy in the Philippines.

Marcos Jr. is a member of one of the most famous political families in the country. His victory, analysts say, is the successful culmination of a decades-long rebranding campaign that has revived the name and image of the Marcos family.

Critics have pointed to a widespread disinformation campaign, recently boosted through social media, that blanched the story of the Marcos era, when Marcos Jr.’s father ruled the Philippines through a brutal and corrupt dictatorship that ended in an uprising. popular in 1986.

That’s why some are worried about a Marcos Jr presidency.

Global reactions

United States President Joe Biden spoke to Marcos Jr. on Wednesday, congratulating him on his election victory, according to a White House reading of the appeal.

“President Biden stressed that he looks forward to working with the President-elect to continue strengthening the US-Philippine Alliance, while expanding bilateral cooperation on a wide range of issues, including the fight against Covid-19. , addressing the climate crisis, promoting a broad economic growth based on respect for human rights “, reads the reading.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also congratulated Marcos Jr., saying the two countries “would be together for better or for worse,” according to state-owned Xinhua media. the bilateral relations have worn out recently for dueling claims in areas of the South China Sea, although Marcos Jr. has established a relationship with the Chinese ambassador in recent months.

But lawmakers in Southeast Asia have expressed concerns about human rights under a Marcos administration and the impact of online disinformation.

“The widespread spread of disinformation has created an environment that has made it difficult for many voters to make informed decisions at the polling station,” said Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker and chairman of ASEAN human rights parliamentarians.

The presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. celebrates as he greets the crowds outside his headquarters in Mandaluyong, Philippines on May 11.

“Even if the electoral process was conducted in a formally correct way, we are concerned that voting choices based on lies and harmful narratives may have seriously undermined the integrity of the elections and democracy itself.”

Human Rights Watch asked Marcos Jr. to end the “war on drugs” of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte and to “order the impartial investigation and adequate persecution of the officials responsible” for the extrajudicial killings.

“Marcos should publicly order the military, police and other security forces to stop targeting activists, human rights defenders and journalists for killings and other rights violations. He should end the practice of ‘red tagging’. accusing government activists and critics of being Communist fighters or supporters, “Phil Robertson, Asian Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

The era of Marco

Ferdinand Marcos Sr. ruled the Philippines for 21 years from 1965 to 1986, with the country living under martial law about half that time.

Tens of thousands of people have been jailed, tortured or killed for perceived or actual criticism of the government, human rights groups say.

In addition to restrictions on citizens’ rights and a brutal military police, the Marcos regime was characterized by widespread corruption, with approximately $ 10 billion stolen from the Filipino people.

Ferdinand Marcos, with his wife Imelda at his side and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., far right, on the balcony of the Malacanang Palace on February 25, 1986 in Manila.

The Marcos family lived a lavish lifestyle while in power, spending money on expensive artwork, property and jewelry overseas, even as debt spiraled and millions suffered in poverty. Former first lady Imelda Marcos was famous for her extravagance and her overspending, which included a large collection of designer shoes.

Their supporters say the Marcos years have been a boon for the country, with the construction of large infrastructure projects such as hospitals, roads and bridges. Critics say those projects were built on the basis of widespread corruption, foreign lending and rising debt.

Funds from institutions how the World Bank disappeared, with the average Filipino reaping no advantage. Profitable construction contracts went to friends and family.

Who is Marcos Jr?

Marcos Jr. did not recognize the abuses committed during his father’s dictatorship and the family repeatedly denied using state funds for their own use.

But analysts say Marcos’ son benefited from that illicit wealth. “My parents would never make us forget: this is not yours, this comes from the people. Everything we have, all the advantages we have had, all the successes and any comfort or privilege we enjoy comes from the people,” he said. said in a recent interview with CNN affiliate CNN Philippines.

Marcos Jr. was 23 when he became deputy governor of the northern province of Ilocos Norte in 1980, running unchallenged with his father’s party.

He was governor when, six years later, his family was thrown into exile in Hawaii following a popular power revolution that overtook his father’s regime in 1986. Marcos Sr. died in exile three years later, but his family she returned in 1991 and became wealthy, influential politicians, with successive family members representing their dynastic stronghold of Ilocos Norte.

Former first lady Imelda Marcos, second right with her daughters Imee Marcos, right, and Irene Marcos Lopez, left, and son Ferdinand Marcos Jr., second left on July 7, 2007 at the National Library in Manila .

Upon their return to the Philippines, Marcos Jr. became a congressional representative in his home province. He was re-elected governor of Ilocos Norte before completing another term as a representative. In 2010, Marcos Jr. became a senator.

He ran for vice president in 2016 and was narrowly defeated by Leni Robredo, a former human rights lawyer and his closest rival in the 2022 presidential race.

Personalities and dynasties dominate Filipino politics, with power concentrated in the hands of a few elite and influential families. Marcos Jr.’s sister, Imee Marcos, is a senator, his mother Imelda, now 92, was a four-time congressman, and her son, Sandro, was elected Congressman in 2022. The son of Imee, Matthew Marcos Manotoc, was re-elected as governor of Ilocos Norte in 2022.

The elections of 9 May also saw the collaboration of another great political dynasty: the Duterte.

Marcos will replace outgoing populist leader Rodrigo Duterte, but the Dutertes will not be far from power. Marcos Jr running mate, Sara Duterte Carpio is the outgoing mayor of Davao and daughter of the former president. Her partial and unofficial results see her win an avalanche for the vice presidency.

Why are people worried?

The Marcos regime may have ended in the 1980s, but activists say the Marcos have never been held accountable for the extent of their misdeeds and fear that Marcos Jr. could erode efforts to resolve past injustices.

As president, Marcos Jr. would head the institutions set up to investigate allegations against his family’s former regime.

The Presidential Commission on Good Governance has recovered less than half of the stolen wealth and active cases remain. An unpaid Marcos family inheritance tax is now estimated to be worth $ 3.9 billion, but there are concerns that Marcos Jr. would cancel it. Imelda Marcos was found guilty of bribery in 2018 but she remains pending a Supreme Court appeal and has never gone to jail.

Although Marcos Jr. said he would expand the PCGG and tackle bribery and bribery, many fear that justice will not be served.

Opinion: Imelda Marcos' shoe collection hinted at a scary realm

Some 11,000 victims of martial law abuse have received financial compensation, but activists say they represent a fraction of all victims. “There is no more justice to hope for if Marcos Jr. becomes president,” said Bonifacio Ilagan, co-convenor of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law group.

President Duterte’s administration cracked down on civil society and the media, slapping allegations of local tax evasion, independent media which defied government policies and claims and the arrest of publishers.

Some fear that Marcos will continue on Duterte’s path and that disinformation will further obscure the truth, making it more difficult to hold those in power accountable.

Duterte is also facing a investigation by the International Criminal Court in his “war on drugs” which killed more than 6,000 people, according to police, and his successor could influence investigators’ access to the Philippines.
“I will let them enter the country, but only as tourists,” Marcos Jr. said in January, according to to Reuters.