Marcos Jr. faces demands to ensure democracy and human rights

MANILA — After most of his main rivals conceded defeat, presumptive Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the namesake son of a ousted dictator, faced early calls on Wednesday to ensure respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy.

Marcos Jr. garnered more than 31 million votes in an unofficial vote count from Monday’s polls in what is expected to be the strongest mandate for a Philippine president in decades. His running mate Sara Duterte also appeared to have won by a landslide victory.

The separately elected president and vice president will take office on June 30 after the results are confirmed by Congress. With a single six-year term, they are poised to lead a Southeast Asian nation in dire need of an economic recovery after two years of COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns. They will also inherit great expectations of a way out of crushing poverty, yawning inequalities, the ending of Muslim and communist uprisings, and political divisions only kindled by their fathers’ tumultuous presidencies.


Marcos Jr.’s main rivals have conceded defeat, including former boxing star Manny Pacquiao. Marco’s closest challenger, Vice President Leni Robredo, a human rights lawyer who took office with promises of much-needed reform, has only acknowledged his massive lead.

“As a boxer and athlete, I know how to accept defeat,” Pacquiao said in a video message. “But I hope that even if I lost in this fight, my countrymen, wallowing in poverty, were also winners.”

The United States, a long-time treaty partner with the Philippines, was among the first foreign governments to comment after the election. It expressed its willingness to work with the next Philippine President following 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 key human rights and regional priorities,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price.


Citing Washington’s long-standing alliance with Manila “which shares democratic values ​​and interests,” he added that the US administration will continue to “promote respect for human rights and the rule of law that are essential to US relations with the Philippines and in others.” bilateral contexts are fundamental.”

When asked if the US had concerns about Marcos Jr.’s apparent victory, Price dodged the question, but said the election and subsequent vote count met international standards without major incidents.

The election result was a stunning reversal of the army-backed but largely peaceful “people power” uprising that ousted Marcos’ father in 1986 – a democratic triumph in an Asian region considered a human rights hotspot where authoritarian regimes thrive.

Marcos Jr. has staunchly defended his father’s legacy and has 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 appeared overcome with emotion.


He and Sarah Duterte, daughter of outgoing populist leader Rodrigo Duterte, fought on a platform of national unity without saying how they would heal wounds that have swollen since their fathers’ presidency.

The 64-year-old former provincial governor, congressman and senator has kept mum on important political, economic and foreign policy issues, including how he would counter calls for the prosecution of President Duterte, who oversaw a bloody anti-drug campaign sweeping the US alarmed the international community and triggered an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

The US-based Human Rights Watch called on Marcos Jr. to take immediate action to improve human rights conditions in the country after taking office, including by helping the ICC to indict Duterte, releasing his long-jailed critic Sen. Leila de Lima and the order for military and police to stop targeting activists and right-wing defenders.


Left-wing groups and survivors of the Marcos dictatorship flatly rejected Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte, accusing them of glossing over their fathers’ legacy in campaigning and 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 prisoners and human rights victims of the martial law era under the late dictator. “Now is the time to use that power again – the power to change the course of history and repudiate this disgraceful pair of traditional politicians.”


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

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Joel McCord

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