four things to know about Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, whose presidential victory worries rights advocates

four things to know about Ferdinand

He introduces himself with his childhood nickname, “Bongbong”. All smiles, he shares videos of laughter with his family, united and complicit, on social networks. But don’t be mistaken. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Junior, who won the presidential election in the Philippines on Monday, May 9, worries rights defenders in the Southeast Asian country. Because this 64-year-old politician is the son of the Filipino dictator of the 1970s and 1980s, Ferdinand Marcos.

According to preliminary results covering almost all the polling stations, Marcos Junior obtained more than 56% of the vote and more than twice as many votes as his main rival, the outgoing vice-president Leni Robredo, during an election marked by insecurity in a country where vote buying and intimidation are recurrent. Franceinfo is looking at the next president of this archipelago of 110 million inhabitants, who should be invested on June 30.

1He is the son of a dictator who bloodied the country

This election to the highest state office marks the return to grace of the Marcos family, whose father was overthrown by a popular uprising in 1986. The mother of Ferdinand Marcos Junior, Imelda Romuáldez, 92, also had political ambitions. She has been a beauty queen, a member of her husband’s cabinet, a governor of the Manila region and an ambassador. While her husband was ill, she ran for the presidency twice, recalls The world (subscriber edition).

Ferdinand Marcos victory Junior, also nicknamed “BBM”, frightens the defenders of democracy, human rights, as well as the Church, very powerful in the Philippines. The results of 14 years of dictatorship remain in our minds. Ferdinand Marcos senior, elected in 1965, imposed martial law in 1972. Therepression is responsible for 3,200 extrajudicial deaths, 35,000 people tortured, 70 000 imprisoned, according to Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin*. After the American decision to no longer support the regime and the mobilization of thousands of demonstrators against them, Marcos and his family fled the presidential palace in 1986 for Hawaii, where Marcos Senior would die three years later.

Ferdinand Marcos Junior himself encouraged this violent repression, recalls The world. In 1986, he recommended that his father bomb military and police units that had defected to join the revolution, a proposal his father declined. “It’s another crossroads for us”worries Judy Taguiwalo, 72, an anti-Marcos activist who was arrested twice and tortured during martial law, interviewed by AFP on Monday, May 9. “We have to keep standing up and fighting.”

2He could revise the Constitution

Born in Manila in 1957, Ferdinand Marcos Junior is no neophyte in politics. After returning from exile in 1991, he won his father’s former seat in Congress in 1992 before becoming governor of Ilocos Norte in 1998 and senator in 2010. In 2016 he tries to become vice-president but has to bow against Leni Robredo, a former congresswoman and human rights lawyer, now 58 years old. During her six-year term, she acted as a counterweight to outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte. In particular, she denounced its policy of “war on drugs”, marked by thousands of murders committed by the security forces, which is the subject of an investigation by the International Criminal Court, explains the Guardian*. Ferdinand Marcos Junior wishes on the contrary a continuity with Rodrigo Duterte and supported his daughter, Sara Duterte, elected Monday with the vice-presidency.

Lopposition fears that Ferdinand Marcos Junior does not revise the Constitution – which prohibits to carry out more than one mandate – to establish its power. In addition, as head of state, he will have control over the Presidential Commission responsible for recovering the almost 10 billion dollars stolen by his father, underlines Reuters*.

However, the elected president does not recognize this looting and even protects the wealth of the family, whose members remain accused in around forty civil cases. He participated in thwarting efforts to get the state to recover this money. In December 2021, the administration also sent a letter of formal notice to the “Marcos heirs” concerning the unpaid taxes, notes Reuters.

3He ran a campaign based on misinformation

This repression, these past thefts were cleverly eclipsed during the campaign. This election was indeed marked by massive misinformation on social networks. With emojis and songs, video montages and rain of comments, the brutal past of the Philippine dictatorship has been “whitewashed” online.

For years, pro-Marcos accounts Junior have thus invaded social networks, passing off to young Filipinos the twenty-one years of his father’s regime (1965-1986) as a golden era of peace and prosperity for the archipelago. By ignoring the tens of thousands of opponents arrested, tortured or killed, or even the billions of dollars stolen by the Marcos from the coffers of the country for his personal enrichment. the Washington Post* reports that, according to experts, fan accounts of members of the Marcos clan are in fact managed by people employed by the family.

Disinformation that can be found on all platforms: Facebook and Twitter, but also popular social networks among young people, TikTok and YouTube, and even on Wikipedia. Among the fake news that circulates is that according to which no arrests would have taken place during martial law. Another untruth, widely disseminated: Marcos junior would have inherited tons of gold, which he would prepare to redistribute if he came to power.

For its part, “Bongbong” openly connects vlog episodes, these formats appreciated by influencers, 209 in total on its YouTube channel. Between two thematic videos on substantive subjects, he laughs during a lie detector questionnaire with his family, reacts to TikTok trends, plays video games on his laptop. A way to perfect the demonization of his clan.

4He had the support of the President outgoing

Marcos Junior largely owes its victory to a series of behind-the-scenes negotiations with other family clans, and in particular to its alliance with Sara Duterte, daughter of the outgoing president, elected vice-president. Leni Robredo, a presidential candidate who promised to rid the country of corruption and the stranglehold of political dynasties, expressed her “clear disappointment”.

Marcos Junior will have to try to satisfy all those who voted for him in reaction to the democratic governments which have followed one another since the end of the dictatorship, deemed incapable of improving the standard of living of the Filipinos.

“He will have to present a coherent and detailed plan to get the Philippine economy back on track after the ravages of the pandemic” of Covid-19, estimates Peter Mumford, analyst at Eurasia Group. All this while also satisfying the powerful political dynasties who supported him and who will expect him to return to favor. For Peter Mumford, “one of the main points to watch under his government will be the worsening of corruption and cronyism” in the Phillippines.

* Links followed by an asterisk are in English.