Ferdinand Marcos Jr is about to triumph in the presidential election in the Philippines | Philippines

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the late dictator’s son and namesake, is set to become the Philippines’ next president after taking an unassailable lead in the election, signaling an extraordinary rehabilitation of one of the country’s most notorious political families.

With more than 70% of the votes tallied, Marcos Jr had more than 23.5 million, far ahead of his closest rival, the current vice president, Leni Robredo, a former human rights lawyer, who had 11, 1 million. The size of his lead means that a comeback from his opponents is not possible.

Supporters dressed in red shirts, his campaign color, gathered outside his camp headquarters in Mandaluyong City on Monday night, waving the flag of the Philippines as passing cars honked their horns.

Marcos thanked the volunteers and political leaders “who cast their spell with us” in a late-night video message, but stopped short of declaring victory. “Let’s wait for it to be very clear, for the count to reach 100%, then we can celebrate,” he said.

Marcos Jr, 64, ran with the message ‘Together we will rise’, invoking nostalgia for his father’s authoritarian rule, which the family and his supporters have described as a golden age in a campaign fueled by misinformation online as social media flooded. with false stories that brushed aside the atrocities and corruption prevalent during the period.

Such depictions horrified survivors of the brutal regime of Marcos Sr. Thousands of political opponents were tortured, arrested and disappeared under his rule, while as much as $10 billion was looted.

Marcos Sr was ousted by the People Power Revolution in 1986, when the family was airlifted from the Presidential Palace by helicopter and fled into exile.

Since then, analysts say, the Marcoses have sought to rebrand their name and regain their place in politics. “The disinformation infrastructure has been there for a long time. It’s not like it just sprouted during this campaign. The Marcos’ plan to ascend to the presidency has been in action for decades,” said Aries Arugay, visiting scholar at the Manila-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

Marcos Jr had maintained a clear lead over his opponents in polls as the vote approached, including Robredo, who came second. A former human rights lawyer who defended marginalized groups, she campaigned on a promise of good governance and an end to corruption.

People began lining up to vote before the polls opened at 6 a.m. local time (2300 BST) on Monday morning, and some waited more than four hours in the heat as voting machines faulty votes have caused delays. The vote follows three months of relentless campaigning, during which 2 million Robredo volunteers launched an unprecedented door-to-door campaign to try to win over voters and counter the onslaught of misinformation online.

Although Marcos Jr has denied the presence of any organized online campaign, he has been the main beneficiary of false claims circulating on social media. The majority of the misinformation was aimed either at undermining Robredo’s reputation or improving the Marcos’ image, according to analysis by the fact-checking coalition. Tsek.phwho monitored disinformation in the run-up to the election.

Marcos Jr avoided televised debates and tough media interviews ahead of the election, and his campaign was thin on political details.

Leni Robredo queues while waiting to vote in Magarao, Camarines Sur. Photograph: Lisa Marie David/Reuters

Marcos Jr’s candidacy has polarized opinion, and some do not believe the family plundered the state’s wealth, despite court rulings at home and abroad.

At Santa Ana Elementary School in a residential area of ​​Manila, which opened as a polling station, Raquel Deguzaman, 59, said she supported Marcos Jr and did not believe the family was corrupt. “[Marcos Sr] was able to help the Philippines. He is really good,” she said, adding that he had built infrastructure, including hospitals.

Jack Drescher, 58, who was about to vote, also cited building infrastructure under Marcos Sr as a reason to support his son. He was not concerned about corruption within the family, he said. “He has a lot of gold so he won’t steal money,” adding that he heard that on YouTube.

A myth claiming the Marcos have large reserves of gold has been circulating online in various guises for years, including the claim that it will be returned to the people if the family returns to power.

The idea that Marcos Sr’s reign was a prosperous and peaceful era appeals to a generation of voters who did not experience Marcos Sr’s martial law regime, including those who “may harbor deep discontent with the development non-inclusive of the past 30 years,” said Ronald Mendoza, Dean of the Ateneo School of Government in Manila.

Cleo Anne A Calimbahin, an associate professor of political science at De La Salle University in Manila, said the results should come as no surprise but are sobering. They partly reflected growing public frustration with previous administrations.

“I think it’s a response from a public that has seen the lack of progress since 1986,” Calimbahin said, referring to the people power revolution that put the Philippines on the path to democracy, a process that was not linear.

“Unfortunately, the reform program and its failure to deliver on its promises since 1986 has made people even more suspicious of reformist candidates,” Calimbahin said.

The winner of the elections will take office on June 30 for a single six-year term.

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