May 25, 2022

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Philippines votes to elect new president, possibility of Marcos revival looms

Philippines votes to elect new president, possibility of Marcos revival looms
  • A polling official said voting was underway
  • ‘Everything is going well’ No untoward incidents yet – poll body
  • The election is a rematch between the frontrunner Marcos, VP Robredo
  • Unofficial count may indicate winning hours after polls close

MANILA (Reuters) – Elections in the Philippines began on Monday in the country’s most contentious presidential election in decades, with the Marcos family likely to return to Marcos dynasty rule 36 years after they were ousted in the “People Power Uprising”.

The election is pitted between Vice President Lenny Robredo and former senator and congressman Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of a dictator of the same name whose two-decade rule ended in general rebellion and the humiliating retreat of his family into exile.

Opinion polls show Marcos, popularly known as “Pong Pong”, leading his rival by more than 30 percentage points, having topped all polls this year. This means Robredo will need a late troop surge or low turnout if she is to win the presidency.

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Voters began lining up long before polls open at 6 a.m. (2200 GMT Sunday), and polling stations are set to operate longer than usual due to COVID-19 precautions.

Polls close at 7 pm and informal vote counting can give an indication of the winner within hours.

Marcos, 64, has offered no real political platform, but his presidency is expected to provide continuity from outgoing leader Rodrigo Duterte, whose ruthless strongman approach proved popular and helped him rapidly consolidate power.

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Robredo, 57, a former human rights lawyer and staunch liberal, has vowed to improve education and welfare, fight poverty and improve market competition if elected.

Today, Monday, the Electoral Commission (Comelec) said it had not received reports of any major issues on the ground so far, but there were slight delays in voting in some constituencies in South Cotabato and Marawi provinces.

“Our assumption is that everything is going well because there have been no unsolicited and negative reports so far,” Komlek spokesman John Rex Laudangko told a news briefing.

Marcus cast his vote in his home province of Ilocos Norte, speaking only briefly with reporters on his way out.

Marcos received a boost from the support of many young Filipinos born after the 1986 revolution, after he launched a massive attack on social media in an optimistic campaign that carried overtones of historical revisionism. Read more

His supporters and social media influencers have dismissed accounts of the looting, nepotism and brutality under his late father’s martial law, as his opponents peddled lies, presenting what his critics say is a different version of history. The Marcos camp denied conducting disinformation campaigns.

Despite their fall from grace, the Marcos family returned from exile in the 1990s and has since become a powerful force in Philippine politics, retaining their influence with enormous wealth and long-distance relationships.

The vote also presents an opportunity for Marcos to avenge his loss to Robredo in the 2016 vice presidential election, a defeat by only 200,000 votes that he unsuccessfully sought to reverse.

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Marcos walked away from the discussions and campaigned on a message of optimism and unity, telling hundreds of thousands of his supporters on Saturday that he dreams of “a victory for the unity of the entire Philippines.”

Robredo promised his supporters better education, health care, and public services if he was elected.

Vice President Sarah Duterte-Carpio, the popular daughter of the incumbent, who could shift some of her big father’s support to Marcos, may be a game-changer in the election. The president has not endorsed any candidate.

Some 65 million Filipinos are entitled to vote to choose Duterte’s successor after six years in power.

Among the positions offered are also about 18,000 positions, from seats in the Senate and Congress to mayors, governors and council members. Read more

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Additional reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz and Karen Lima in Manila, Adrian Portugal and Eluisa Lopez in Batac, Ilocos Norte; Written by Martin Petty; Editing by Ed Davies

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.