In an extraordinary reversal of the 1986 "People Power" pro-democracy rebellion against his father, Ferdinand Marcos' namesake son has been elected Philippine president by a huge margin.
Marcos Jr. had over 30.8 million votes unofficially counted as of Tuesday afternoon. His closest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo, a human rights advocate, received 14.7 million votes, with boxing legend Manny Pacquiao receiving 3.5 million.
Sara Duterte, daughter of the outgoing leader and mayor of southern Davao, led the separate vice presidential race.
With the offspring of two autocratic dictators uniting their families' political strongholds in the north and south, human rights groups were concerned.
Anti-Marcos demonstrators gathered at the Commission on Elections, blaming the agency for voting equipment malfunctions and other problems. Officials said that the broken devices didn't make much of a difference.
A group of activists victimized by the former Marcos dictatorship said they were outraged by Marcos Jr's apparent victory and would oppose it.
“Winning on the basis of outright lies, historical distortions, and mass deception is comparable to cheating,” declared the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA). “This is not acceptable.”
Marcos Jr.'s seeming win brought tears to the eyes of Etta Rosales, a former head of the Commission on Human Rights who was twice jailed and tortured under martial law in the 1970s.
“I was tortured, others were slain, and I was raped. We suffered under the Marcos regime for justice and freedom,” Rosales says.
Even though their fathers' presidencies opened some of the country's most tumultuous divisions, Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte staunchly clung to a war cry of national unity during their campaigns.
Marcos Jr. has not declared victory but praised his supporters in a late-night “address to the nation” video. “I believe your cooperation and trust will not diminish since we have much work to accomplish in the next years,” he said.
Robredo has not conceded but acknowledged Marcos Jr.'s massive unofficial advantage. She told her followers that the fight for reform and democracy will continue.
“The people's voice is getting louder,” she stated. “In the name of the Philippines, which I know you also love so dearly, we should hear this voice because in the end, we only have this one nation to share.”
“Press for the truth,” she urged her supporters. The building of lies took a long time. Now is the moment to fight and dismantle this.”
The winner will enter office on June 30 for a six-year term in a country plagued by COVID-19, poverty, inequities, Muslim and communist insurgencies, and deep political divisions.
Incumbent President Duterte is already being investigated by the International Criminal Court for hundreds of killings during his anti-drug campaign.
Amnesty International expressed grave worry over Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte's avoidance of addressing past and present human rights abuses. A wide range of urgent human rights concerns await the Marcos Jr government if approved, the rights organization said Tuesday.
Human Rights Watch also urged Marcos Jr. to improve the Philippines' human rights record if elected.
“The ‘war on drugs' has resulted in extrajudicial deaths of thousands of Filipinos; he should order an impartial investigation and prosecute officials responsible,” said Phil Robertson, the group's Asia deputy director.
Marcos Jr., 64, a former regional governor, congressman, and senator, has refused to acknowledge or apologize for his father's vast human rights abuses and looting.
The elder Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989, without admitting any wrongdoing, including allegations that he, his family, and allies acquired between $5 billion and $10 billion while in office. One of his estate's assets was fined $2 billion to compensate more than 9,000 Filipinos who sued him for torture, imprisonment, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
A well-funded social media campaign helped his widow, Imelda Marcos, and their children return to the Philippines in 1991.