Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was proclaimed president of the Philippines by a joint session of Congress on Wednesday after a landslide victory in elections 36 years after his dictator father was ousted in a pro-democracy uprising.
The Senate and House of Representatives also declared that his vice-presidential running mate, Sara Duterte, elected separately, had won by a wide margin. She is the daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, whose turbulent six-year term ends on June 30.
They will lead a nation battered by COVID-19 lockdowns, crushing poverty, staggering inequality, Muslim and communist insurgencies, crime, and political divisions further inflamed by the May 9 election.
Marcos Jr., a 64-year-old former governor, congressman and senator, has refused to acknowledge or apologize for the massive human rights violations and looting under his strongman father’s rule and has defended his legacy.
When they take office, Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte are likely to face lawsuits to prosecute their father for the killings of thousands of mostly poor suspects as part of his years-long crackdown on illegal drugs. The deaths are currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court.
Marcos Jr. received more than 31 million votes and Sara Duterte more than 32 million of the more than 55 million votes cast in the elections. It was the first majority presidential victory in the Asian democracy in decades.
During the campaign, they avoided controversial issues and focused on a call for national unity, even though their parents’ presidencies opened up some of the most volatile divisions in the country’s history. Marcos Jr. appealed to be judged “not because of my ancestors, but because of my actions.”
Senator Imee Marcos, sister of the president-elect, thanked those who voted for her brother after what she described as years of humiliation.
“We are very grateful for a second chance”he told reporters before the proclamation. “Our family went through a lot,” she said, citing “all kinds of cases and taunts” against her.
At Marcos Jr.’s campaign headquarters, supporters waved Philippine flags, displayed victory signs and a streamer congratulating him and Sara Duterte.
Even so, both have been persecuted for the reputation of their parents.
Riot police used a water cannon and shields to prevent a few hundred activists from marching on Congress to oppose Wednesday’s proclamations, injuring at least 14 protesters, the left-wing group Bayan said. He said the forced dispersal “could be a harbinger of things to come.”
Last week, human rights activists filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging Marcos Jr.’s eligibility, citing his previous tax conviction. They asked the court to block his proclamation, but no such order was issued. The complaint was previously dismissed by the Elections Commission.
His father was forced from power by a largely peaceful “People Power” uprising in 1986 and died in 1989 while in exile in Hawaii without admitting to any wrongdoing, including accusations that he, his family and his cronies amassed between $5 billion and $10 billion while he was in power.
A Hawaii court later found him responsible for human rights violations and awarded $2 billion of his estate to compensate more than 9,000 Filipinos who sued him for torture, imprisonment, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
His widow, Imelda Marcos, and their children were allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991 and worked a stunning political comeback, aided by a well-funded social media campaign to restore the family name.
Marcos Jr. will take charge of a deeply divided country with many memories of the resistance against his father, a strong man.
Along the main avenue of the metropolitan area of Manila, the sanctuaries of democracy and the monuments erected after the fall of Marcos stand out. The anniversary of his ouster is celebrated each year as a special national holiday, and there is still a presidential commission that has worked for decades to recover ill-gotten wealth.
Marcos Jr. has not explained how he will deal with those remnants of the past.
“What about all the monuments commemorating all those lives lost? What about all those monuments that celebrate our collective victories? asked Pio Abad, a Filipino artist who opened an art exhibition last month focused on the extravagant lifestyle of the Marcoses when they were in power amid the country’s appalling poverty.
“History is at stake and that is probably, for me, one of the biggest things at stake,” Abad said.
(with information from AP)
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