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



CNN

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is the presumptive president of the Philippines after he won a landslide in the May 9 election, according to unofficial results.

More than 30 million Filipinos voted for Marcos Jr., more than double that of his closest rival, outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo, partial and unofficial results showed.

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 country’s most notorious political families. 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 fueled via social media, that whitewashed the history of the Marcos era when Marcos Jr.’s father. the Philippines was ruled by a ruthless and corrupt dictatorship that ended in a popular uprising in 1986.

This is why some are concerned about a Marcos Jr. presidency.

US President Joe Biden spoke with Marcos Jr. on Wednesday. and congratulated him on his election win, according to a readout of the appeal in the White House.

“President Biden underlined 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, the addressing the climate crisis, promoting broad economic growth and respecting human rights,” the readout said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also congratulated Marcos Jr. and said the two countries would “stand together through thick and thin,” according to state media Xinhua. The bilateral relationship has deteriorated recently over dueling claims over areas of the South China Sea, although Marcos Jr. developed a rapport with the Chinese ambassador in recent months.

But lawmakers in Southeast Asia have expressed concerns about human rights under a Marcos government 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 chair of ASEAN parliamentarians for human rights.

“While the electoral process has been formally correct, we are concerned that voting choices based on lies and harmful narratives would have seriously undermined the integrity of the election and democracy itself.”

Human Rights Watch called on Marcos Jr. called for an end to outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” and to order “the impartial investigation and appropriate prosecution of officials responsible” for extrajudicial killings.

“Marcos should publicly order the military, police and other security forces to stop attacking activists, human rights defenders and journalists for murder and other violations of rights. He should end the practice of ‘red tagging’, which accuses activists and government critics of being communist fighters or supporters,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

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

According to human rights groups, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured or killed for alleged or genuine criticism of the government.

In addition to restrictions on civil rights and a brutal military police, the Marcos regime was marked by widespread corruption, with an estimated $10 billion stolen from the Filipino people.

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

The Marcos family lived a lavish lifestyle while in power, spending money on expensive works of art, overseas property and jewelry even as debts mounted and millions suffered in poverty. Former first lady Imelda Marcos was known for her extravagance and excessive spending, including an extensive collection of designer shoes.

According to their supporters, the Marcos years were a blessing for the country, with the construction of major infrastructure projects such as hospitals, roads and bridges. Critics say those projects were built on the back of widespread corruption, foreign borrowing and mounting debt.

Funds from institutions like the World Bank disappeared, the average Filipino didn’t get anything from it. Lucrative construction contracts went to friends and family.

Marcos Jr. has failed to acknowledge the abuses committed during his father’s dictatorship and the family has repeatedly denied using state funds for their own use.

But analysts say Marcos’ son took advantage of that ill-gotten wealth. “My parents would never let us forget: this is not yours, this is the people’s. Everything we have, all the benefits we have achieved, all the successes and every comfort or privilege we enjoy comes from the people,” he 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, joining his father’s party unopposed.

He was governor when his family was driven into exile in Hawaii six years later following a People Power revolution that overthrew his father’s regime in 1986. Marcos Sr. died in exile three years later, but his family returned in 1991 and became wealthy, influential politicians, with successive relatives 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. a congressional representative in his home province. He was re-elected governor of Ilocos Norte before completing another term as representative. In 2010, Marcos Jr. senator.

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

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

The May 9 elections also saw the partnership of another great political dynasty: the Dutertes.

Marcos will replace outgoing populist leader Rodrigo Duterte, but the Dutertes will not be far from power. Sara Duterte Carpio, Marcos Jr.’s running mate, is the outgoing mayor of Davao and daughter of the former president. Partial and unofficial results have her like winning a landslide for the vice presidency.

The Marcos regime may have ended in the 1980s, but campaigners say the Marcoses have never been held accountable for the scale of their misdeeds and fear Marcos Jr. undermine efforts to end injustices of the past.

As president, Marcos Jr. to be the head of 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 assets and there are still active cases. An unsettled Marcos family property tax is now estimated at $3.9 billion, but there are concerns that Marcos Jr. that would delete. Imelda Marcos was found guilty of corruption in 2018, but an appeal to the Supreme Court remains pending and she never went to jail.

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

About 11,000 victims of martial law received some financial compensation, but campaigners say they represent a fraction of all victims. “There will be no more justice to hope for when Marcos Jr. becomes president,” said Bonifacio Ilagan, co-founder of the group Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law.

President Duterte’s administration cracked down on civil society and the media by denouncing tax evasion against local, independent media that questioned the government’s policies and claims, and arrested editors.

Some fear that Marcos will continue to follow Duterte’s path and that misinformation will further obscure the truth, making it harder to hold those in power accountable.

Duterte also faces an International Criminal Court investigation into his “war on drugs,” which police say killed more than 6,000 people, and his successor could affect how much access investigators get to the Philippines.

“I will let them into the country, but only as tourists,” said Marcos Jr. in January according to Reuters.

Sociologist Jayeel Cornelio said: “While one camp is celebrating, the other camp is concerned about the economy, education and civil liberties.”

“The greater concern that Filipinos have has to do with the next six years. What will the economy look like in the next six years? What will happen to civil society? Is press freedom being curtailed? And will the government erase martial law from the curriculum? These are just some of the questions – and these are fundamental ones – for those who oppose the return of the Marcoses to power,” said Cornelio, associate professor and director of development studies at Ateneo de Manila University.

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