The son and namesake of ousted Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos took a commanding lead in an unofficial vote count in Monday’s presidential election in the deeply divided democracy. With 80% of the votes tabulated, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had 25.9 million, far ahead of his closest challenger, current Vice President Leni Robredo, a champion of human rights, who had 12.3 million. The election winner will take office on June 30 for a single, six-year term as leader of a Southeast Asian nation hit hard by two years of COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns.
Still more challenging problems include deeper poverty and unemployment and decades-long Muslim and communist insurgencies. The next president is also likely to hear demands to prosecute outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte for thousands of killings during his anti-drug crackdown—deaths already under investigation by the International Criminal Court. However, Duterte’s daughter, southern Davao city Mayor Sara Duterte, is Marcos Jr.’s vice presidential running mate in an alliance of the scions of two authoritarian leaders. Sara Duterte also had a formidable lead with 25.8 million votes for vice president in the unofficial count. The president and vice president are elected separately.
“History may repeat itself if they win,” said Myles Sanchez, a 42-year-old human rights worker. “There may be a repeat of martial law and the drug killings that happened under their parents.” In a late-night video statement, Marcos Jr. did not claim victory but thanked his supporters for accompanying him on “this sometimes very difficult journey” and urged them to keep up their guard until the vote count is completed.
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