This year’s Philippine presidential elections, which concluded on May 9th, has been the most consequential one since the 1986 People Power Revolution ousted Ferdinand Marcos Sr who ruled the country under 14 years of Martial law.
More than three decades later, the Philippines will see another Marcos in power. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, son and namesake of the late ruler, won a landslide victory in the presidential race. His vice president will be Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of current president Rodrigo Duterte – another leader known to have governed the country under strict laws with his “war on drugs” being a strong case in point.
With 98.35% of election results processed, Marcos Jr garnered about 31 million votes, twice the number of presidential candidate Leni Robredo, who is currently the country’s vice president. Some 67.5 million Filipinos were eligible to vote in this year’s elections.
The results of this year’s election clearly show that traditional politics still prevail in the country. Even non-traditional routes, such as people’s campaigns seen in Leni Robredo’s campaign, could not match the resources and machinery of patrons, political dynasties and strongmen.
While this year’s elections have indeed forced Filipinos to confront their understanding of the senior Marcos’ Martial law regime previously, many still have questions about the Marcos-Duterte campaign machinery this time round and its use of social media platforms to influence public perception. The election results intensified opposition to disinformation and historical revisionism, which many fear will worsen under a Marcos-Duterte leadership.
The revisionist narrative stating that Marcos Sr’s leadership marked the “golden age” of the Philippine economy, bringing glory, wealth and infrastructure to the country, downplays the human rights abuses during that time. It disregards over 100,000 human rights victims, 70,000 people who were arrested mostly arbitrarily without warrants of arrest, 34,000 who were tortured, and over 3,000 killed by the hands of the military and police. The Marcoses’ refusal to acknowledge past atrocities, coupled with Marcos Sr’s hero’s burial three decades after his death, also add insult to injury.
The reality of a continuation of the current state of affairs has always been dreaded, with election polls consistently showing Marcos-Duterte in the lead. Although petitions were filed to void Marcos Jr’s candidacy, he came out on top in the end and still, with many activists requesting to void his presidential win. Indeed, the 9 May election is historic – dramatic, for sure, and no doubt a consequential one with yet another Marcos in the presidential seat.
The next six years for the Philippines
The lack of clarity from Marcos Jr’s campaign platform caused much of the concern expressed by the opposition parties and wider community.
Although he emphasised “unity” throughout his campaign, and offered a few indications of his plans, including continuing some of the current administration’s policies, snubbing all presidential debates did not give him much opportunity to outline concrete plans that could help solve the many problems the country faces.
Marcos Jr’s platform also did not elaborate plans on Philippines’ foreign policy, particularly those concerning geopolitical and security issues. However, he has been quoted as saying that he wants to strengthen relations with China, even though maintaining a delicate balance is expected due to the country’s historically strong relationship with the United States.
In addition Marcos Jr’s standing contempt judgement issued by a court in the US, in relation to a human rights class suit against his late father, leaves many wondering how this will impact his state visits to different countries, including the US.
The lack of a clear direction exacerbates the Philippines’ murky future, and upon Marcos Jr’s inauguration on 30 June, he also stands to inherit a country facing a huge budget deficit, rising inequality, and high food and fuel prices.
The people are left with no choice, however, but to wait with bated breaths to see how his administration will unite a polarised country, as he repeatedly stated throughout his campaign; how he plans to uphold national interests; and most importantly, allay growing fears on the protection of democracy and human rights.
Only time will tell.