Son of ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos to run for Philippines president
The son of the Philippines’ former dictator Ferdinand Marcos has announced he will run for president in the 2022 election.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr, known as Bongbong, who has defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial drug war and supported the death penalty for traffickers, declared his candidacy in a video broadcast on Facebook.
“I will bring … unifying leadership back to our country,” the 64-year-old said, joining a growing field of contenders seeking to replace Duterte. “Let us bring Filipinos back to one another in service of our country, facing the crisis and the challenges of the future together.”
Marcos Jr ran for the vice-presidency in 2016, narrowly losing to Leni Robredo. Defeat was a blow for the Marcos family, which had gone into exile in the US after the patriarch’s humiliating downfall in 1986. Marcos Sr and his wife, Imelda, were accused of massive corruption while in power.
In a recent PulseAsia Research survey of voter preferences for president, Marcos Jr was in second place behind Duterte’s daughter, Sara, though she has denied she has plans to run.
The boxer Manny Pacquiao and the mayor of Manila, Francisco Domagoso, have confirmed they will seek the top job.
If Marcos Jr’s presidential bid succeeds it would cap a remarkable political comeback. Since being allowed to return to the Philippines, members of the family have held a number of prominent political posts.
Marcos Jr served as a senator from 2010 to 2016, and his mother has said she dreams of him becoming leader. The matriarch herself served three straight terms in the lower House of Representatives before being succeeded by her nephew. Marcos Jr’s sister Imee is a senator.
But the son of a dictator accused of bloody repression and corruption remains one of the most polarising politicians in the Philippines. Marcos Jr has tried to defend his father’s rule by citing economic growth, and minimised the human rights abuses during that regime.
He has also claimed he was too young to shoulder any responsibility, but critics point out that he was governor of the Marcos family’s home province from 1983 to 1986.
News of his presidential candidacy was met with swift condemnation from his opponents. An anti-Marcos coalition described it as “a brazen show of disregard and contempt for the thousands of Filipinos killed, disappeared, tortured, displaced and violated” by his father’s regime.
Richard Heydarian, a political analyst, said the Marcos family saw an opportunity to complete its “rehabilitation”. They were “calculating that there are many never-again-to-Marcos voters there but there are even more people who want to move forward … from the current crisis, corruption scandals and incompetence that they see under the Dutertes,” he said.
Imelda Marcos wanted a “moment of historic vindication” by appearing once more on the Malacanang presidential palace balcony, Heydarian added.
Duterte is an ally of the Marcos family, and his election win in 2016 gave them a boost. His government gave the ex-dictator’s remains a hero’s burial and publicly floated the idea of winding down the hunt for his hidden wealth.
Analysts predict a possible Marcos Jr-Sara Duterte alliance for the 2022 election, which they say would be a formidable combination.