Ferdinand Marcos Jr became the first candidate in recent history to win an outright majority in a Philippines presidential election, paving the way for his family to return to power after more than three decades.
Manila, Philippines - Ferdinand Marcos Jr, son and namesake of the country’s former strongman, has won a landslide win in the 2022 presidential race, amassing a history-making 31 million votes, double his closest opponent, to become the first candidate since 1969 to clinch a commanding majority.
The victory completes a stunning reversal of his family’s fortune after they were forced out of power in a popular revolt in 1986.
While an angry crowd clamoured for Marcos’ family’s banishment from the Malacanan Palace more than 36 years ago, this time a throng of adoring masses will be ushering their return.
On Monday night, Marcos Jr addressed his supporters in a televised message “to keep watch of the vote”, while adding that his “gratitude cannot wait."
"We still have a lot to do in the future,” said Marcos, who looked relaxed after a three-month campaign marathon that saw him maintaining a lead in the polls alongside his running mate, Sara Duterte, daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte.
The younger Duterte also won the vice presidential race, getting even more votes than Marcos Jr.
The president and vice president are voted separately in the country.
Before the official announcement, Marcos Jr told his supporters that they would be able to celebrate soon – possibly at EDSA – the same highway that is synonymous to defiance of his father’s deadly rule.
Through his spokesperson, he also issued another statement saying, "Judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions."
Most of Marcos Jr’s senatorial slate, as well as House allies, also won assuring him of a cooperative Congress.
Topping the 12-person list for Senate is actor Robin Padilla, who has a previous conviction for illegal possession of firearms, but was later granted a full pardon by Duterte, allowing him to run for public office.
Despite concerns about the possibility of COVID-19 resurgence, more than 81 percent of the 65 million voters cast their ballot, consistent with the high voter turnout in previous presidential polls.
The election commission said on Tuesday that the voting yesterday was “generally peaceful,” although there were reports of a deadly shooting on the southern island of Mindanao, forcing at least a dozen villages to suspend voting.
Questions also linger about the counting of the votes in some areas, after the counting machines malfunctioned.
Instances of vote-buying in the southern island of Mindanao were also reported, with at least 10 individuals telling TRT World that they received sample ballots with cash equivalent to $100.
But their origin is difficult to trace and establish.
As soon as Marcos Jr’s victory became clear, hundreds of people gathered outside the Marcos campaign headquarters to celebrate, waving flags and singing an old propaganda anthem once popularised during the martial law, while passing motorists honked their car horns.
Diana Gallardo, a 29-year-old food delivery driver, told TRT World on Tuesday that she and her fellow drivers from the Paranaque area of Metro Manila, are elated with the result.
She waited until late night on Monday to hear the result.
“I expect my life to be better under the administration of Marcos Jr. I expect that the prices of goods would be much more affordable.”
For one Manila-based analyst, the latest political development from Southeast Asia’s oldest democracy shows that Filipinos “still prefer Machiavellian and Messianic rulers."
“Filipinos are still fascinated with the popularity of a strongman rule brought by the nostalgic effect of Marcos Sr and Duterte himself,” Chester Cabalza, president and founder of the Manila-based think tank International Development and Security Cooperation, told TRT World.
He said Marcos’ and his allies generated the landslide victory by “using gargantuan machinery, patronage and familial networks."
Australia is among the first countries to praise the conduct of the voting.
In his social media account, Australia’s top diplomat to Manila, Steven J. Robinson congratulated the government: “We look forward to working with the next President, Vice-President and all the officials democratically elected by the Philippine people”.
Representatives of the European Union (EU) who were in Manila to observe the election also said they observed a generally "peaceful, free, and fair democratic elections."
"The EU (Delegation to the Philippines) looks forward to working with the incoming administration for the next six years and foster closer EU-Philippines relations," the group said in a statement.
Marcos Jr also extended his streak of luck on Tuesday, after the election commission dismissed almost all disqualification cases filed against him, including those seeking to bar him from running for president due to his tax evasion conviction in 1995.
But the market reacted negatively, with the Philippine stock index sliding to a nine-month low, eroding $3.21 billion from the value of equities in a single day – possibly reflecting the anxiety in some quarters of the country about the vague economic policy of the impending winner.
The US financial giant J.P. Morgan also ranked the Philippines at the bottom of an investment list in Southeast Asia after news of Marcos Jr’s victory - pointing to increasing public debt and surging inflation.
Marcos Jr had already expected to clinch the vice presidency in 2016 – a position that would have already brought him six years ago one step closer to the seat of power, which his father held with an iron fist for over 21 years.
However, it was thwarted by a relatively unknown candidate, Leni Robredo, who claimed a narrow win.
The president and vice president are elected separately in the Philippines.
In their rematch this year, Marcos Jr made sure to hamstring his biggest threat to the presidency, Robredo, through campaign surrogates and Facebook trolls.
Vicious attacks were deployed questioning the incumbent vice president’s legitimacy, while also painting her as a bumbling speaker.
Towards the end of the campaign, even one of Robredo’s three daughters was not spared the assault with personal and misogynistic campaigns on social media.
On Tuesday, one of Marcos Jr’s most divisive supporters, Jam Magno, wrote on Twitter mocking Robredo’s supporters, “Cry all you want, but the Marcoses have just returned."
Despite the stunning loss, Robredo remained unfazed while also acknowledging the political landscape without officially conceding to Marcos Jr.
“The voice of the nation is becoming more clear. We have to listen to their voice, because at the end of the day, we share the same nation,” she said in Filipino, thanking her supporters, many of them young people who showed up by the hundreds of thousands during her campaign sorties.
Robredo also urged vigilance and said that all votes should be counted given the reports of thousands of digital vote-counting machines malfunctioning.
Robredo received 14.8 million votes, almost identical to the number she got in 2016, when she won as vice president.
‘Need to be united’
While the election may be over, she also said that her work to serve the nation will not end, urging her young supporters not to be disheartened.
On Tuesday, she attended a prayer service in her central Philippines hometown of Naga, where she addressed her supporters for a second time, telling them in the local language that “there are bigger fights, our fight does not end with this election."
In a video posted on Facebook late on Tuesday, international boxing champion and third-placer in the race, Senator Manny Pacquiao, said “the people have spoken.”
“The election is over. It is time to unite for peace and progress in our nation,” he added in Filipino.
Meanwhile, Isko Moreno, the outgoing mayor of Manila and also one of Marcos Jr’s main rivals, has conceded to the winner. He landed fourth in the race.
“The incoming administration will not be able to succeed if we hold on to our grievances, grudges, or ill will. We need to unite and rally behind those chosen by our fellow Filipinos,” said Moreno.
During the campaign, he revealed that Marcos Jr and his family have failed to pay up to $4 billion outstanding estate tax debts and penalties.
Adrian Amatong, an incoming member of the Philippine Congress from Mindanao and supporter of Robredo, told TRT World that the coming six years would be “tough."
“It’s up to every responsible Filipino to do his fair share of mitigating the situation. Hopefully, we can get things right along the way.”
Other groups are less forgiving of Marcos Jr, who they warn could repeat the mistakes of his father.
In Manila, hundreds of young protesters marched near the election commission headquarters on Tuesday to denounce the victory of Marcos Jr, while criticising the poll body for the defective vote counting machines that delayed voting in some areas.
‘Worst brand of traditional politics’
The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), a group of lawyers defending human rights victims and needy people, called the outcome of the election as “beyond easy comprehension."
“Fact can really be stranger than fiction. Or to be more precise, fiction can be repackaged into fact,” NUPL President Edre Olalia said in a statement to TRT World.
“Yet we remain undaunted and will not be hoodwinked by saccharine mantras of unity as mirage for impunity.”
“We shall carry on the fight even more intensely and await our redemption from this resurrected nightmare.”
The rights group, Karapatan, also criticised Marcos Jr saying he and his running mate, Sara Duterte, “represent the worst brand of traditional politics” in the country.
“Marcos Jr continues to spit on the graves and sufferings endured by all the martial law victims by feigning ignorance on the numerous documented atrocities,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement to TRT World.
According to government records and rights groups, 3,200 people were killed during Marcos Sr’s presidency.
An estimated 70,000 others were detained and 34,000 tortured during the same period.
Marcos Jr and his family have denied his father’s role in the rights abuses, and have refused to apologise for the atrocities.