Marcos Jr. declares victory and faces calls to secure democracy

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the namesake son of an ousted Filipino dictator, declared victory in this week’s presidential elections on Wednesday and faced early calls to ensure respect for human rights. man, the rule of law and democracy.

Marcos Jr. garnered more than 31 million votes in an unofficial Monday poll tally in what is expected to be one of the strongest terms for a Philippine president in decades. His vice-presidential running mate, Sara Duterte, also appears to have won by a landslide victory.

Marcos Jr.’s electoral triumph is a victory for democracy and he has vowed to seek common ground across political divides, his spokesman Vic Rodriguez said.

“To the world: judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions,” Rodriguez said, quoting Marcos Jr..

The separately elected president and vice president will take office on June 30 after the results are confirmed by Congress. With a unique six-year term, they are poised to lead a Southeast Asian nation in dire need of economic recovery after two years of COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns. They will also inherit huge expectations to emerge from crushing poverty, gaping inequality, an end to Muslim and communist insurgencies and political divisions, which were only stoked by the turbulent presidencies of their fathers.

Marcos Jr.’s main rivals have conceded defeat, including former boxing star Manny Pacquiao. Marcos’ closest challenger, Vice President Leni Robredo, a human rights lawyer who ran on the promise of much-needed reforms, has only acknowledged his massive lead.

“As a boxer and an athlete, I know how to accept defeat,” Pacquiao said in a video message. “But I hope that even though I lost in this fight, my fellow Filipinos who wallow in poverty also won.”

The United States, a longtime ally of the Philippines, was among the first foreign governments to post a post-election comment. He expressed his willingness to work with the next Philippine president after an official proclamation, but stressed that the relationship should be based on respect for human rights and the rule of law.

“We look forward to renewing our special partnership and working with the next administration on human rights and regional priorities,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price.

He cited Washington’s long alliance with Manila “which shares democratic values ​​and interests”, and added that the US government would continue “to promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, which is fundamental to U.S. relations with the Philippines and in other bilateral contexts.” .”

Asked if the United States was concerned about Marcos Jr.’s apparent victory, Price dodged the question, but said the election and vote count followed international standards without any major incidents.

The election result was a stunning reversal of the military-backed but largely peaceful ‘people power’ uprising that toppled Marcos’ father in 1986 – a democratic triumph in an Asian region seen as a human rights hotspot. man where authoritarian regimes flourish.

Marcos Jr. has staunchly defended his father’s legacy and refused to apologize for the massive human rights abuses and looting under his rule. He visited his father’s grave at the National Heroes Cemetery on Tuesday, laying flowers and, at one point, appearing overwhelmed with emotion.

He and Sarah Duterte, the daughter of incumbent populist leader Rodrigo Duterte, campaigned on a platform of national unity without saying how they would heal the wounds that have been festering since their fathers’ presidencies.

The 64-year-old former provincial governor, congressman and senator kept mum on key political, economic and foreign policy issues, including how he would respond to calls for the prosecution of President Duterte, who oversaw a bloody campaign against drugs that alarmed the international community and prompted an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch called on Marcos Jr. to take immediate steps to improve human rights conditions in the country once he takes office, including helping the ICC prosecute Duterte, releasing its long-detained spokesperson, Senator Leila de Lima, and ordering the army and police to stop targeting activists and rights defenders.

Harder left-wing groups and survivors of the Marcos dictatorship have dismissed Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte outright, accusing them of whitewashing their fathers’ legacy during the campaign trail and in social media propaganda.

“Our generation has shown that even the most ruthless tyrant can be defeated through the collective action of the people,” said SELDA, a group of former political detainees and human rights victims in the age of law. martial under the deceased dictator. “Now is the time to harness that power again – the power to change the course of history and cast aside this infamous pair of mainstream politicians.”


Associated Press diplomatic writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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