Ferdinand Marcos Jr joins Philippine presidential race

The latest poll showed Mr Ferdinand Marcos Jr as the second most popular candidate for president. PHOTO: MICKO ALDAVE/FACEBOOK

MANILA - Mr Ferdinand Marcos Jr, son and namesake of the late Philippine dictator, on Tuesday (Oct 5) officially announced his bid to run for president, seeking to complete a remarkable comeback more than 35 years after his family fled the country in disgrace following a popular, military-backed revolt.

"I know that it is a… unifying leadership that can lead us through this crisis, get our people safely back to work and for all of us to begin to live our lives once again. That is why I am today announcing my intention to run for the presidency of the Philippines," Mr Marcos said in a speech barely three minutes long.

He is the fourth politician to officially set off on a bid to replace President Rodrigo Duterte, 76, in next year's elections.

Boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao, 42, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, 46, and Senator Panfilo Locsin, 73, are already in the running.

The latest poll showed Mr Marcos as the second-most popular candidate for president, after Mr Duterte's daughter, Ms Sara Duterte-Carpio.

Ms Duterte-Carpio, 43, has already filed her candidacy for re-election as mayor of Davao City, her family's bailiwick.

But there had been persistent reports that her camp and Mr Marcos' group were in talks for a "unity ticket".

Pundits say Mr Marcos' announcement of his own bid for the presidency complicates that prospect, although the line-up on who is running for president and vice-president can still change till November.

Those seeking to run for president, vice-president and more than 70 other national posts have until Friday to file their certificates of candidacy. But the polling commission allows political parties to substitute their candidates till Nov 15.

Half of voters in southern Philippines will back Ms Duterte-Carpio if the elections are held today.

But she has barely any backing in Metro Manila and the rest of northern Luzon. Those are Mr Marcos' turfs.

He is seen winning over voter support from Ms Duterte-Carpio more than any other candidate.

Political analysts say Mr Marcos has been surging in the polls, as many supporters of Mr Duterte are now gravitating towards him.

The President has been dogged lately by persistent allegations of corruption and criticisms over his government's dismal response to the Covid-19 pandemic, bringing down his approval numbers. That is rubbing off on his daughter.

For Mr Marcos, winning the presidency will mark his family's triumphant return to power.

The Marcoses have anchored their political comeback on voters unhappy with how the Philippines had been run since Mr Marcos' father was booted out of power in 1986 after ruling the country as dictator for more than two decades.

Thousands of people were killed and tortured during the Marcos era, and the Marcos family was accused of stealing roughly US$10 billion (S$13.6 billion) from the government's coffers.

Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989, but his wife Imelda and children were subsequently allowed to return home and have since been clawing back the political influence they lost.

Few believed that the young Mr Marcos - known as a playboy with wild yacht parties - would amount to anything much without his father.

Yet, more than 35 years on, Mr Marcos, nicknamed "Bongbong" and now 64, is on the cusp of becoming the Philippines' next president.

He had been both a congressman and a senator. He had also been governor of Ilocos Norte province, the Marcos' bailiwick.

In 1993, he married Ms Louise Araneta, a lawyer and scion of one of the Philippines' wealthiest clans. The couple have three sons, including Sandro, who is carving his own flourishing political career.

In 2016, Mr Marcos ran for vice-president but lost to Ms Leni Robredo, widow of a popular politician. He later waged a long, bitter but ultimately losing campaign to reverse his loss.

Years later, though, the tables have turned. He is solidly ahead of Ms Robredo for a much bigger prize.

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