MANILA (REUTERS) - The son of the disgraced late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos vowed on Tuesday (May 10) to work for all people after his stunning election victory, and told the world to judge him by his presidency, not his family’s past.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr, better known as “Bongbong”, become the first candidate in recent history to win an outright majority in a Philippines presidential election, paving the way for a once unimaginable return to rule for the country’s most notorious political dynasty.
“Judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions,” Mr Marcos Jr told the world, according to a statement by his spokesperson Vic Rodriguez.
Mr Marcos Jr fled into exile in Hawaii with his family during a 1986 "people power" uprising that ended his father's autocratic 20-year rule, and has served in Congress and the Senate since his return to the Philippines in 1991.
His runaway victory in Monday’s election now looks certain with 98 per cent of the eligible ballots counted in an unofficial tally showing he has 31 million votes, double that of nearest rival Vice President Leni Robredo.
An official result is expected around the end of the month.
“This is a victory for all Filipinos, and for democracy,” Mr Marcos Jr’s spokesman Rodriguez said. “To those who voted for Bongbong, and those who did not, it is his promise to be a president for all Filipinos. To seek common ground across political divides, and to work together to unite the nation.”
Though Mr Marcos Jr, 64, campaigned on a platform of unity, political analysts say his presidency is unlikely to foster that, despite the huge margin of victory.
Philippine markets were mixed after the vote. Stocks lost as much as 3 per cent at one point, sovereign dollar bonds fell, while the peso currency rose 0.4 per cent against the dollar.
Mr Marcos in his statement said he would begin delivering for the Filipino people and looked forward to working with international partners and organisations.
Many who did not support Mr Marcos Jr are angered by what they see as a brazen attempt by the disgraced former "first family" to use its mastery of social media to reinvent historical narratives of its time in power.
Thousands of opponents of the elder Marcos suffered persecution during a brutal 1972 to 1981 era of martial law, and the family name became synonymous with plunder, cronyism and extravagant living, with billions of dollars of state wealth disappearing.
The Marcos family has denied wrongdoing and many of its supporters, bloggers and social media influencers say historical accounts are distorted.
Students stage protest
Around 400 people, mostly students, staged a protest outside the election commission on Tuesday against Mr Marcos Jr and citing election irregularities.
The Commission on Election (Comelec), which said the poll was relatively peaceful, also upheld on Tuesday its dismissals of complaints filed by different groups, including victims of martial law, that had sought to disbar Mr Marcos Jr from the presidential race based on a 1995 tax evasion conviction.
Two of the petitioners, including leftist group Akbayan, said they will appeal to the Supreme Court.
Manila city Mayor Francisco Domagoso, running a distant fourth, became the first presidential contender to concede defeat.
A big win for Mr Marcos Jr was securing President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter, Mrs Sara Duterte-Carpio, as his vice-presidential running mate.
She won more than three times the number of votes compared with her nearest rival and also likely broadened the Marcos appeal in many areas.
Human rights group Karapatan called on Filipinos to reject the new Marcos presidency, which it said was built on lies and disinformation "to deodorise the Marcoses' detestable image".
"Marcos Jr has not publicly acknowledged the crimes of his father and his family's role, as direct beneficiaries," it said in a statement.
"Marcos Jr continues to spit on the graves and sufferings endured by all the Marcos martial law victims by feigning ignorance on the numerous documented atrocities."
Meanwhile, Amnesty International accused Mr Marcos Jr and his running mate of avoiding discussing human rights violations, including those committed under martial law and during President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.
Mr Marcos Jr, who shied away from debates and interviews during the campaign, recently praised his father as a genius and a statesman but has also been irked by questions about the martial law era.
Mr Marcos Jr has called himself a reluctant politician and in a diary entry his father once said he was worried about his son as a child being too "lazy and carefree".
As the vote count showed the extent of the Marcos win, Mrs Robredo told her supporters to continue their fight for truth until the next election.
"It took time to build the structures of lies. We have time and opportunity to fight and dismantle these," she said.
Mr Marcos Jr gave few clues on the campaign trail of what his policy agenda would look like, but is widely expected to closely follow outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, who targeted big infrastructure works, close ties with China and strong growth.
Mr Duterte's tough leadership style won him big support.
Dr Aries Arugay, a political science professor, said Mr Marcos Jr has much to do to prove he is sincere about unity.
"This polarisation will happen regardless," he said.
"Under a Marcos presidency, perhaps it will become more pernicious because I don't think the unity slogan will be implemented, meaning reaching out to the other side. It will be a tough sell because it is not credible."