By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
MANILA (Worthy News) – Voters in the Philippines went to the polls Monday in a presidential election that put the son and namesake of the late dictator against a human rights lawyer.
If Ferdinand Marcos Jr. triumphs, it will be a stunning reversal of the 1986 pro-democracy uprising that pushed his father out of office.
His main rival is Leni Robredo, the current vice president and head of the opposition after she promised a more accountable and transparent government.
Opinion polls suggest Marcos Jr. retains a significant lead over Robredo, despite his family’s past. Some voters told Worthy News that Robredo “is for defending rebels, criminals, drugs rapists” and said, “she will make people poor.”
A survivor of a massacre said she did not trust Robredo. “My father and brother were killed by rebels in 1985. They killed them because my father was on the side of Marcos. I will never forget that. Robredo never spoke against these killings,” the teacher and nurse told Worthy News.
Emely Laga, a church worker in Bohol’s Baclayon municipality, also supports Marcos saying he had remained “humble even if other candidates say some bad words about him or his family.”
She added: “All he wants is unity among Filipino people. That is why I like him to be our next president.”
Not everyone agrees. “I recall that Marcos Jr. arrived here with a big campaign renting all buses bus and blocking traffic. Robredo arrived just on a motorcycle. It was such a difference,” said voter Meriam Comia.
“She did so much for our province Camarines Sur for instance, in flood prevention. We have always suffered from storms before. And that is why I vote for her,” Comia added.
Whoever wins will replace outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, 76, constitutionally barred from re-election.
The winner will inherit an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic, deeper poverty, unemployment, and hyperinflation due to skyrocketing oil and gas prices.
Additionally, decades-old insurgencies inflamed political divisions in this heavily Catholic nation.
Outgoing populist leader Duterte’s successor also likely faces calls to prosecute him for his bloody crackdown on illegal drugs.
Critics say that fight left thousands of mostly poor suspects dead and alarmed the international community.
The International Criminal Court has investigated the killings as a possible crime against humanity.
Duterte encouraged extrajudicial executions of those involved in the drugs trade and said he would “be happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts in the country.
President Duterte said in 2016 that he shot dead three men while mayor of Davao and that he murdered a person during his violent teenage years when he was “in and out of jail.”
Among the top contenders, Marcos Jr. is seen as the most China-friendly candidate. If elected, he is likely to continue Duterte’s pro-China policies, analysts say.
PRESSURE FROM FILIPINOS
However, if he is victorious as expected, Marcos Jr. will face pressure from Filipinos, remembering the human rights atrocities and plunder under his father’s dictatorship.
He would likely see a push back against any perceived threat to democracy or attempt to recover his family’s assets seized by the government as ill-gotten wealth.
The elder Marcos led an era of authoritarianism and corruption, ruling for two decades from 1965 — nearly half of it under martial law.
During that period, tens of thousands were either imprisoned, tortured, or killed, according to human rights investigators. Yet, Marcos Jr. “will win, and I believe this will make a great country again,” said voter Merry-Joy Osman, a Christian aid worker in Mandaue City in the central-eastern coastal region of Cebu.
She stressed: “He will win not because he wants the return of his family’s hidden wealth. He wants to work for the people who believe in him.”
More than 67 million people were eligible to vote in Monday’s elections. Polling stations opened at 06:00 local time, and official results were due shortly after 19:00 local time.
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