Jim Gomez – Associated Press
MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The son and namesake of ousted Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos has taken a leading role in Monday’s unofficial vote count in a deeply divided Asian democracy.
With 80% of the vote, Marcos Jr. scored 25.9 million, well ahead of his closest rival, current Vice President Leni Robredo, the human rights champion, who had 12.3 million.
The winner of the election will take office on June 30 for a six-year term as the leader of a Southeast Asian country that has been hit hard by two years of the COVID-19 outbreak and blockade.
Even more complex problems include deeper poverty and unemployment, as well as years of Muslim and communist uprisings. The next president is also likely to hear demands to bring to justice President Rodrigo Duterte for thousands of murders during his fight against drugs – deaths already under investigation International Criminal Court.
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The daughter of Duterte, the mayor of Davao City in the south of Sarah Duterte, is a companion of Vice President Marcos Jr. in an alliance of descendants of the two authoritarian leaders. Their partnership has united the voting rights of their northern and southern political strongholds, increasing their chances but increasing the concerns of human rights defenders.
Sarah Duterte also led with 25.8 million votes of the vice president in an unofficial count from the server of the Election Commission. The President and Vice President of the Philippines are elected separately.
“History can repeat itself if they win,” said Miles Sanchez, a 42-year-old human rights activist. “Possible recurrence of martial law and drug killings that took place with their parents.”
In a video statement late in the evening, Marcos Jr. did not declare victory, but thanked his supporters for accompanying him on a “very difficult path at the time” and urged them to remain vigilant until the vote count is completed.
“Let’s keep an eye on the vote,” he said. “If we are lucky, I will expect that your help will not weaken, your trust will not weaken, because we have many things to do in the future.”
Marcos Jr., whose father was ousted in 1986 as a result of an army-backed uprising of the People’s Force, led the polls. But Rabredo was shocked and outraged at the prospect of Marcos regaining power and used the campaign’s volunteer network to support his candidacy.
Officials said the election was relatively peaceful, despite hotbeds of violence in the volatile south. Thousands of police and military have been sent to guard polling stations, especially in rural areas with a history of fierce political rivalry.
Filipinos stood in long lines to cast their ballots, and the start of voting in some areas was postponed for several hours due to malfunctioning voting machines, power outages, bad weather and other problems.
Eight more people took part in the presidential race, including former boxing star Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isca Moreno and former National Police Chief Senator Panfila Laxan.
Sanchez said the violence and abuse that marked the era of martial law under Marcos and Duterte’s war on drugs more than three decades later fell victim to loved ones from two generations of her family. Her grandmother was sexually assaulted, and her grandfather was tortured by rebel forces under Marcos in the early 1980s in their impoverished farming village in South Leith province.
During Duterte’s crackdown, Sanchez’s brother, sister and sister were illegally involved in illegal drugs and killed separately, she said in an interview with the Associated Press. She described the murder of her siblings as “a nightmare that caused unspeakable pain”.
She asked Filipinos not to vote for politicians who either openly defended the massacres or looked away comfortably.
Marcos Jr. and Sarah Duterte avoided such volatile problems in the campaign and firmly adhered to the battle cry of national unity, despite the fact that their parents ’presidency opened some of the most turbulent divisions in the Philippines.
“I learned in our campaign not to take revenge,” Sarah Duterte told her followers on Saturday night on the last day of the election campaign, where she and Marcos Jr. thanked a huge crowd on a night of rap music, dance shows and fireworks near the Bay of Manila.
At her own rally, Robreda thanked her supporters for holding back her stellar outings and fighting from house to house to support her brand of clean and practical politics. She asked them to fight for patriotic ideals outside the election.
“We have learned that those who have woken up will never close their eyes again,” said Rabred to the crowd that filled the main avenue in the capital’s Makati financial district. “It is our right to have a decent future, and it is our duty to fight for it.”
In the province of Magindanao, a security hotspot in the south, three village guards were killed by gunmen near a polling station in the city of Boulogne, briefly disrupting the vote. Nine potential voters and their companions were injured separately Sunday night when unidentified gunmen fired five rifle grenades at Dat Unce City Hall, police said.
In addition to the presidency, more than 18,000 government positions are contested, including half of the 24-member Senate, more than 300 seats in the House of Representatives, and provincial and local offices across the archipelago with a population of more than 109 million Filipinos.
More than 67 million people were registered to vote, including about 1.6 million Filipinos abroad.
In the 2016 contest, Duterte became the clear winner a few hours after polls closed and his main contenders quickly lost. The vice-presidential race that year won Rabred over Marcos Jr., and the result became known more slowly.
Associated Press reporters Joal Calupitan, Aaron Favila and Cecilia Forbes of Manila, Philippines, and Kika Rosario of Bangkok contributed to the report.
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