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Dictator’s son, rights advocate, is vying for Philippine presidency

MANILA – More than three decades after a largely peaceful “people power” revolt toppled Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his son and namesake has emerged as the front runner in most polls of voter preference in Monday’s presidential election.

Here are some key facts about the key issues, the frontrunners, and election concerns:

WHAT’S AT Stake

If Ferdinand Marcos Jr. triumphs, it will be a stunning reversal of the 1986 pro-democracy uprising that drove his father from office to global disgrace. Many Filipinos remember the human rights atrocities and looting that occurred under his dictatorship, and would likely retaliate against any perceived threat to democracy or Marcos Jr.’s attempt to recover his family’s assets, which were confiscated by the government as ill-gotten gains .

The winner will inherit immense problems, including an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic, deeper poverty and unemployment, hyperinflation from skyrocketing oil and gas prices, decades of insurgency and inflamed political divisions. The successor to outgoing populist leader Rodrigo Duterte is also likely to face calls to prosecute him for his bloody crackdown on illicit drugs that has killed thousands of mostly poor suspects and alarmed the international community. The International Criminal Court is investigating the killings as possible crimes against humanity.

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FERDINAND MARCOS JR.

The 64-year-old son of the late dictator, a former provincial governor, congressman and senator, is making the Marcos family’s most impressive attempt yet to regain the presidency. His mother, Imelda Marcos, tried twice unsuccessfully to regain the seat of power after returning to the Philippines with her children from exile in the United States, where her husband died in 1989.

Marcos Jr. has defended his father’s legacy and steadfastly refuses to apologize for and acknowledge the atrocities and looting during the dictatorship. He is married to a lawyer with whom he has three sons and has stayed away from controversies, including a previous tax conviction and the Marcos family’s refusal to pay a hefty inheritance tax. Throughout his campaign he stubbornly maintained a rallying cry of national unity. He denies allegations that he funded a years-long social media campaign that used online trolls to smear opponents and whitewash the Marcos family’s checkered history, and challenged critics to “show me one”.

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LENI ROBREDO

As an economics student at the Philippine State University, Leni Robredo joined the massive protests that led to the elder Marcos’s downfall in the 1980s. The 57-year-old also began studying law and successfully ran for a seat in the House of Representatives in 2013 in her first foray into politics after her husband, a respected politician, died in a plane crash in 2012. She defeated Marcos Jr. in the 2016 vice presidential race by a narrow margin in her first campaign. Her advocacy focuses on defending human rights and empowering the poor, in part by teaching them their legal rights.

The daughter of a court judge, Robredo does not belong to any of the prominent families that have dominated Filipino politics for generations, and operates as an independent party supported by a network of volunteers. As the opposition vice president, elected separately from Duterte, she condemned the killing of mostly poor drug suspects as part of his crackdown, which angered the brazen leader and strained their relationships for years. The mother-of-three has been cited for her integrity and a lifestyle that eschews the trappings of power — she regularly traveled solo by bus to her home province as a congresswoman.

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OTHER COMPETITORS

Eight other presidential hopefuls have fallen far in pre-election polls, including Manny Pacquiao, the 43-year-old former boxing star who has promised to build houses for the poor and lock corrupt politicians in a “mega-prison.” Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, a 47-year-old former TV crush, banked on his life story from rags to power and public awe at his massive purge of the capital. Senator Panfilo Lacson, a 73-year-old former national police chief, has vowed to continue using his investigative skills to uncover the government’s vast corruption.

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SECURE VOTING

Aside from the presidency, more than 18,000 government posts are contested in the elections, including half of the 24-member Senate, more than 300 seats in the House of Representatives, and provincial and local offices in the archipelago of more than 109 million Filipinos. About 67 million have registered to cast their ballot during the 13-hour voting period starting at 6am, an hour longer than the 2019 midterm election, to make up for slower queues due to social distancing and other coronavirus protections.

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Thousands of police and military personnel have been deployed to rural areas amid longstanding risks posed by Communist and Muslim rebels and a history of often bloody family and political rivalries. In 2009, gunmen deployed by the family of then-governor of southern Maguindanao province massacred 58 people, including 32 journalists, in an attack on an election convoy that shocked the world.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/05/08/dictators-son-rights-lawyer-vie-for-philippine-presidency/ Dictator’s son, rights advocate, is vying for Philippine presidency

Joel McCord

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