Late dictator Marcos' son keeps huge lead 5 months before Philippine presidential polls

Mr Ferdinand Marcos Jr topped a survey conducted by Social Weather Stations with 51 per cent of votes. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA - The son and namesake of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos has kept his sizable lead in the race for presidency, with a more than 30-point margin over his closest rival five months before the crucial election.

Mr Ferdinand Marcos Jr, 64, topped a survey conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS) with 51 per cent of votes.

His closest rival, Vice-President Leni Robredo, trailed with 14 per cent. Senator and boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao was third with 12 per cent.

Bringing up the rear were Manila Mayor Isko Moreno with 6 per cent, and Senator Ping Lacson with 5 per cent.

The survey was conducted from Dec 12 to 16.

The election to choose a successor to President Rodrigo Duterte, who is barred by the Constitution from seeking re-election, is on May 9.

The SWS survey was commissioned by think-tank Stratbase ADR, but screenshots of it were leaked by a candidate briefed about the results.

Mr Marcos' running mate, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who is Mr Duterte's 43-year-old daughter, topped the poll for vice-president with 48 per cent.

She also has a huge lead over her nearest rival, Senate President Tito Sotto, who had 28 per cent.

Mr Marcos has been enjoying a surge in popularity, as voters see him as the "continuity candidate".

Mr Duterte, 76, remains popular, though his influence has waned as his millions of followers hop over to Mr Marcos' side.

Ms Duterte-Carpio's decision to be Mr Marcos' running mate, defying her own father's wishes, had even bolstered Mr Marcos' chances.

It solidified the two candidates' support in the northern and southern parts of the country, as well as in Metro Manila, the sprawling capital region that is home to more than 13 million.

Analysts say Mr Marcos has also been reaping gains from his strong social media presence, where his handlers have managed to obfuscate the unsavoury parts of his father's legacy.

Thousands of people were killed and tortured during two decades of martial rule under Mr Marcos' father.

Previous governments, meanwhile, had recovered some 174 billion pesos (S$4.6 billion) in ill-gotten wealth from the Marcoses. Some 126 billion pesos worth of apartments, houses, land, jewellery, paintings and shares of stock are still being disputed in courts.

But Mr Marcos' supporters - mostly born after the Marcos family fled the country in 1986 following a military-backed civilian revolt - believe history has been skewed against the family and that the reign of Ferdinand Marcos Sr was actually a "golden period" in Philippine history.

The Marcoses have been cultivating this narrative and have anchored their political comeback on voters unhappy with how the Philippines has been run since 1986.

Ms Robredo, 56, has enjoyed a groundswell of support since she announced her run for the presidency to thwart Mr Marcos' ambition.

She narrowly defeated him to become vice-president in 2016.

But her campaign has been hobbled by voters who insist on blaming her and her political party - founded by the Marcoses' fierce rival, the Aquino family - for failures of past governments since 1986.

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