Marcos Jr wraps up Philippines election campaign as victory looms | News

The prospect of Ferdinand Marcos Jr being installed in the presidential palace has alarmed rights activists and religious leaders.

The son of late Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos concluded his presidential election campaign on Saturday with a raucous rally of hundreds of thousands of supporters, as polls show him heading for a landslide election victory.

Monday’s election victory would cap a decades-long effort to rehabilitate Marcos’ legacy after the patriarch was impeached and the disgraced family driven into exile in the United States.

The prospect of Ferdinand Marcos Jr returning to the presidential palace in Manila has alarmed rights activists, religious leaders and political analysts who fear Marcos Jr cannot rule “unconstrained”.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of red-clad Marcos supporters gathered on a dusty wasteland dominated by a gleaming luxury casino – a stark reminder of the country’s vast income gap. Sporting national flags, they gathered in front of a stage featuring a huge screen of the candidate smiling as Filipino reggae, hip-hop and pop played at deafening levels.

“We will win as long as you stay awake on Monday so there is no more tragedy,” Marcos told the crowd, referring to his claims he was cheated in the vice-run. 2016 presidency.

The Marcos family’s remarkable return from outcasts to the pinnacle of political power in the Philippines was fueled by public anger at the corruption and poverty that persisted under governments that followed his father’s dictatorship.

Photo from 1985 shows then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda [File photo: Romeo Gacad/ AFP]

Marcos Jr ran a tightly controlled campaign, skipping televised debates with rivals and largely avoiding media interviews to avoid his own pre-Election Day targets.

A massive and well-funded social media disinformation campaign targeting a predominantly young electorate with no memory of her father’s violent dictatorship and corrupt regime has also sought to rewrite the family’s history.

“Six Years of Hell”

Human rights defenders and numerous Catholic priests have publicly lobbied to prevent Marcos Jr from returning to the seat of power at Malacanang Palace, where he grew up.

“It will be another six years of hell,” warned political satirist and activist Mae Paner, 58, who was part of a popular uprising that ended the previous Marcos regime.

Ten candidates are vying to succeed current President Rodrigo Duterte in historic elections seen by many as a watershed moment for Philippine democracy.

Polls indicated Marcos Jr would win more than half of the vote, making him the first presidential candidate to secure an outright majority since his father was ousted by a “people power” movement in 1986.

Analysts have warned that such an outcome would lead to weaker democratic checks and balances, more corruption and another attempt to overhaul the 1987 constitution – which could include scrapping the one-term limit for presidents.

Previous administrations, including Duterte’s, tried to change the constitution, but they didn’t have enough support in Congress to push through changes.

The latest poll by Pulse Asia Research showed Marcos Jr 56%, 33 percentage points ahead of his closest rival Leni Robredo, who narrowly beat him in the 2016 vice-presidential race.

Such a winning margin would give Marcos Jr the power to “govern as Duterte wanted”, a longtime observer of Philippine politics told AFP.

“That is to say, without constraint,” he said.

Robredo’s recent poll has raised hopes among progressive supporters that their volunteer-led campaign could still cause an upset.

But pollster Ana Maria Tabunda of Pulse Asia Research gave Robredo little hope.

“Our margin of error is only plus or minus two percentage points – given the big gap, it won’t affect the results,” Tabunda said.

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