V-P bid marks biggest step in Marcos family's comeback

Philippine Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr (third from left) being endorsed as a vice-presidential candidate in next May's national elections by (from left) his mother and former first lady Imelda Marcos, former president Joseph Estrada and Senator Juan
Philippine Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr (third from left) being endorsed as a vice-presidential candidate in next May's national elections by (from left) his mother and former first lady Imelda Marcos, former president Joseph Estrada and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile during a political rally in Manila on Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Few believed that Mr Ferdinand Marcos Jr would amount to anything much without his father and namesake, the dictator who ruled the Philippines for 21 years.

Back in 1986, when his family fled to Hawaii after a "people power" uprising toppled the Marcos regime, he was a lanky, long-haired, 28-year-old playboy who had wild yacht parties.

Yet, almost 30 years on, Mr Marcos, nicknamed "Bongbong", is now a senator, and he is marking the biggest step in what has been a remarkable political comeback by running for vice-president in next year's elections. He has mostly done it without his father, who died in 1989, by his side.

It has been a long journey.

With his father's old bailiwick - a voting bloc of nine million in the northern region of Ilocos - behind him, Mr Marcos won a seat in the House of Representatives just a year after returning from exile in 1991.

He took a three-year break from politics from 1995, and then set off on a three-term stint as governor of Ilocos Norte from 1998 to 2007.

His service as governor was marked by a sense of renewal in Ilocos. He transformed Ilocos Norte from a sleepy, tobacco-dependent agricultural province into a bustling commercial hub, and steered the nation's biggest wind energy project.

He returned to the House of Representatives in 2007, and stayed there till 2010. In 2010, he won a seat in the Senate, placing seventh with more than 13 million votes.

Along the way, he married Ms Louise Araneta, now 57, a lawyer and scion of one of the Philippines' wealthiest clans, in 1993. The couple have three sons: Sandro, 22, Simon, 21, and Vincent, 19.

Settling into the humdrum rhythm of fatherhood and politics, Mr Marcos found time for himself, playing the flute and saxophone.

He also finally came to terms with the wild rumours that had dogged him when he was younger: that he was a clone and that the "real" Bongbong had died in a violent fight with a classmate at a boarding school in Britain; or, that he has a half-sister, who is now the lead bet to become the country's next president.

The president and vice-president are elected separately in the Philippines.

Mr Marcos has yet to elaborate on his political platform as a candidate for vice-president. But that does not matter much as it is his name that nips at his heels wherever he goes.

His critics say his stab at the vice- presidency is an attempt by the Marcoses to rewrite history and gloss over the human rights abuses and sacking of the state's coffers that happened under his father's rule.

But Mr Marcos insists all these have already been settled in court.

His run, he said, is all about legacy and unfinished business, among them the long-delayed burial of his father, whose remains are still inside a refrigerated, glass-topped coffin, awaiting government permission to be buried at a cemetery for war heroes.

"My father cast a very, very big shadow, and it is inevitable that I'll be under that shadow," he said.

His 86-year-old mother Imelda, famed for her collection of more than 3,000 shoes, however, would rather see him aiming higher.

"My mother is disappointed. She has wanted me to be president since I was three," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2015, with the headline 'V-P bid marks biggest step in Marcos family's comeback'. Print Edition | Subscribe