MANILA: Ferdinand Marcos Jr was Wednesday proclaimed the next Philippine president after a landslide win that rights groups and religious leaders fear could weaken the corruption-prone country’s democracy. Marcos, who formally takes office next month, secured more than 31.6 million votes, or 58.8 percent of the total, according to a final tally released by parliament. He was the first presidential candidate to win an outright majority since his dictator father, who presided over widespread graft and human rights abuses, was ousted by a popular revolt in 1986. In the Philippines, the winner only has to get more votes than anyone else.
A joint session of the House of Representatives and Senate formally ratified the results and proclaimed Marcos the Philippines’ 17th president. He will be inaugurated on June 30. Speaking after the proclamation ceremony, Marcos said he was “humbled” by his success at the ballot box and vowed to “always strive to perfection”.
“I want to do well because when a president does well the country does well and I want to do well for this country,” the 64-year-old told reporters. Marcos’s victory followed relentless online whitewashing of his family’s past, and alliances with rival political dynasties that have the means to influence voters in their regions.
His liberal rival Leni Robredo finished well behind in second place with just over 15 million votes. Marcos’s running mate Sara Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, was proclaimed winner of the vice presidential race. Wearing a traditional formal shirt, Marcos greeted Sara Duterte with a hug as she arrived at a holding room inside the parliament building.
Former first lady Imelda Marcos, 92, who has been the driving force behind the family’s comeback from exile to the peak of power, was pushed in a wheelchair into the chamber where she held a seat as recently as 2019. Joining her was the new first lady, Louise Araneta-Marcos, along with other relatives and supporters.
‘Prelude of things to come?’
Hours earlier and several kilometres away, hundreds of riot police and protesters opposing the proclamations clashed outside the Commission on Human Rights. Water cannon was sprayed on the crowd of activists. Leftist groups reported at least 10 people wounded. “Is the violent dispersal today a prelude of things to come under a Marcos-Duterte administration-where exercising our basic rights and freedoms are met with brazen State violence?” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan human rights group, asked in a statement.
After six years of President Duterte’s authoritarian rule, activists and many religious leaders wanted Robredo for the top job, fearing a Marcos administration would lead to further erosion of human rights and democratic checks and balances. Marcos has so far given few clues about how he will govern the poverty-plagued country of 110 million people. On the campaign trail, Marcos embraced some of the elder Duterte’s key policies, though he avoided scrutiny of his positions by shunning televised debates with rivals and largely avoiding media interviews.
Marcos’s admiration for his father, whose time in office he has portrayed as a golden era for the Philippines, has raised concerns that he may seek a similar regime. He looks set to have a commanding majority in the House of Representatives where his cousin Martin Romualdez is the frontrunner for the powerful speaker’s job. Most of the 24 senators-including his sister Imee-are aligned with outgoing President Duterte or Marcos Jr. Analysts say that could enable him to push through changes to the constitution that have eluded his predecessors.
Marcos Jr will face a range of challenges when he takes power, from reviving the pandemic-battered economy and creating jobs, to dealing with an increasingly assertive Beijing in the South China Sea and the impacts of climate change. He has announced several cabinet appointments in recent days, including respected economist Arsenio Balisacan to the head of the National Economic and Development Authority. Sara Duterte will serve as education secretary. – AFP