Voters in the Philippines choose their next leader, senators, representatives and thousands of local office holders on Monday
MANILA, Philippines — More than three decades after a largely peaceful “people power” revolt toppled Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his son and namesake is the top choice in most voter preference polls. Some of the main issues in Monday’s vote:
WHAT IS AT STAKE
A Ferdinand Marcos Jr. triumph would be a stunning reversal of the 1986 pro-democracy uprising that propelled his father from office to worldwide infamy. Many Filipinos aware of the human rights atrocities and plunder that took place under Marcos’ senior dictatorship would likely rebuff any perceived threat to democracy or any attempt by Marcos Jr. to recover assets seized from his family as than ill-gotten wealth.
The winner of the election inherits immense problems, including an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic, deeper poverty and unemployment, hyperinflation due to soaring oil and gas prices, decades-old insurgencies and inflamed political divisions. He or she could also be called upon to sue incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte for his bloody crackdown on illicit drugs. The International Criminal Court has investigated the murder of thousands of mostly poor child drug suspects as a possible crime against humanity.
FERDINAND MARCOS JR.
A former provincial governor, congressman and senator, the late dictator’s 64-year-old son is making the Marcos family’s most impressive bid to regain the presidency. His mother, Imelda Marcos, twice unsuccessfully tried to regain the seat of power after she returned with her children to the Philippines from exile in the United States, where her husband died in 1989.
Marcos Jr. defended his father’s legacy and stubbornly refuses to apologize and acknowledge the atrocities and looting during the dictatorship. Married to a lawyer, with whom he has three sons, he has stayed away from controversies including a past tax conviction and the Marcos family’s refusal to pay a huge inheritance tax. Throughout his campaign, he tenaciously held to the battle cry of national unity. He denies accusations he funded a year-long social media campaign that exploited online trolls to smear naysayers and whitewash the Marcos family’s checkered history, daring critics to “show me a”.
As an economics student at the University of the Philippines in the 1980s, Leni Robredo joined the massive protests that led to the ouster of the elder Marcos. The 57-year-old also studied law and won a seat in the House of Representatives in 2013 in her first foray into politics after the death of her husband, a respected politician, in a plane crash in 2012. She beat Marcos Jr. in the 2016 Vice Presidential Race by a narrow margin in their first campaign showdown. His advocacy focuses on defending human rights and empowering the poor in part by teaching them their legal rights.
The daughter of a magistrate’s court judge, Robredo does not belong to any of the prominent families that have dominated Philippine politics for generations and presents herself as an independent backed by a network of campaign volunteers. As vice president of the opposition, which was elected separately from Duterte, she condemned the killings of mostly poor drug suspects as part of her crackdown, angering the hot-headed leader and straining their ties for years. The mother-of-three has been cited for her integrity and lifestyle that eschews the trappings of power – she used to regularly travel alone by bus to her home province as a member of Congress.
Eight other presidential candidates have fallen behind in pre-election polls, including Manny Pacquiao, the 43-year-old former boxing star, who has vowed to build homes for the poor and lock corrupt politicians into a ” mega-jail”. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, a 47-year-old former television idol, has banked on his life story of rags to power and public admiration for his massive cleanup of the capital. Senator Panfilo Lacson, a 73-year-old former national police chief, has vowed to continue to use his investigative skills to expose major government corruption.
SECURING THE VOTE
Besides the presidency, more than 18,000 government positions will be up for election, including half of the 24-member Senate, more than 300 seats in the House of Representatives, as well as provincial and local offices across the archipelago of over of 109 million Filipinos. About 67 million people are registered to vote. Voting will take place at 1 p.m. Monday, the one-hour extension intended to compensate for slower queues due to social distancing and other coronavirus safeguards. After voting centers close, thousands of counting machines across the country will send unofficial results to be counted. A partial, unofficial tally could reveal a clear winner within hours, but a close race could take longer. The official tally and solicitation by Congress can take weeks.
Thousands of police and military personnel have been deployed due to longstanding risks posed by Communist and Muslim rebels and a history of often bloody family and political rivalries in rural areas. In 2009, gunmen deployed by the family of the governor of the southern province of Maguindanao massacred 58 people, including 32 journalists, in an attack on an election convoy that shocked the world.