Philippines election: Marcos family eye return to power as country votes

Voting has begun in the Philippines, as millions head to the polls today to choose their next president

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Philippines election: Marcos family eye return to power as country votes- BPN TODAY

The man tipped to win the presidency is Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, the son of the nation’s former dictator.

If polls suggesting a landslide victory pan out, it will mean the powerful Marcos political dynasty, will sweep back into office.

His closest rival is Leni Rebredo who beat Marcos in the 2016 vice-presidential elections.

Thousands of other roles will also be up for grabs in the general election, including senator posts and seats in the House of Representatives.

A high turnout is expected of the nation’s eligible 67 million voters – many of whom are young people.

Whoever wins will take over from Rodrigo Duterte, the outspoken leader who’s come to the end of his constitutionally-enforced six-year term in office.

Duterte’s government has been criticised for its brutality in cracking down on drugs and crime, though the administration has always rejected allegations of wrongdoing.

Bongbong, 64, is the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos whose rule over the Philippines lasted for 21 years.

Marcos’s rule saw him declare martial law and take control of the country’s courts, businesses and media. The army and police arrested and tortured thousands of dissidents.

He, his wife Imelda Marcos – who is infamous for her vast designer wardrobe – along with their cronies, plundered an estimated US$10 billion from public funds. He was forced out of power in 1986 and died soon afterwards.

After his family was allowed back into the country in the 1990s, Bongbong carved out political footholds, becoming a province governor, congressman and senator.

In 2016 he ran for vice-president allied with President Duterte, but lost to Leni Robredo – his main challenger in this contest.

Rebredo is a human rights lawyer and liberal legislator who has consistently led campaigns against Duterte’s drugs violence and gender inequality.

She has vowed to tackle corruption, with her campaign slogan being: “Honest government, a better life for all”.

While behind in the polls, her rallies have drawn significant turnouts recently – particularly among younger, passionate “Pink Shirt” supporters who have launched a grassroots, door-knocking effort to win her votes.

The other candidates trail Marcos and Robredo. They include boxing champion and¬†national hero Manny Pacquiao, who has promised to tackle corruption and poverty, and Manila’s city mayor Isko Moreno who has promised infrastructure spend and a harsher line on China.

Electoral concerns

Critics say the election has been plagued by rampant misinformation on social media.

Bongbong has been accused of using social media to sow disinformation and whitewash the history of the Marcos family – something they deny.

The common theme is that Marcos’s tyrannical rule was actually a “golden period” for the country – despite the fact that the economy was on the brink, heavily in debt to foreign banks.

Bongbong has also largely steered clear of debates or forums where he might have to face independent questioning.

For Robredo, also the sole female presidential candidate in the race, tracker groups have reported an escalation in the number of online campaigns harassing and vilifying her.

While misinformation is abundant online however, there is little indication that the vote might be questioned after voters have submitted their forms.

The Asian Network for Free Elections – a monitor – has found past Philippines votes to be generally free and fair.

Filipinos are not only voting on the president but also the vice-president, senators, lower house legislators and thousands of lower-ranking officials across the whole archipelago’s 7600 islands.

A turn-out of about 80 percent – as seen in previous elections – is expected.

Counting will start the moment polls close and it may become clear in a few hours which candidates are pulling ahead. However the process could also take days before a winner is announced, as was the case in 2016.

-BBC

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