By Jojo Riñoza and Jeoffrey Maitem
The son of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos announced his intention Tuesday to run for the presidential election next year, a move protested by victims of rights abuses carried out during more than a decade of martial law under his father’s brutal rule.
The country of 110 million will hold a general election in May to choose a successor to President Rodrigo Duterte and his deputy, as well as fill 12 Senate seats, all 316 House seats, and some 18,000 official positions ranging from governors to mayors and town councilors.
“I am announcing my intention to run for the presidency of the Philippines in the upcoming 2022 elections,” Ferdinand E. Marcos Jr. said in a Facebook video. “I will bring back a unifying form of leadership in the country.”
The 64-year-old also took his oath as a member of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP), a fringe political party allied with the Duterte administration.
Known as “Bongbong,” Marcos Jr. served in the Senate until 2016. He ran the same year as a candidate for vice president but narrowly lost the race to Leni Robredo.
In the 2016 presidential vote, the Marcos family had backed Duterte, who often thanked the Marcoses for supporting his candidacy. Critics point out that Duterte, after months in office, repaid them by allowing the body of Ferdinand Marcos to be transferred to a heroes’ cemetery in Manila.
Allegations of human rights abuses were rife as thousands of activists went missing or were killed during the rule of the Marcos family patriarch, who served as president from 1965 to 1986 and who declared martial law in 1972. Under his rule, the Marcos family also added to the general hardship of Filipinos by plundering billions of dollars from state coffers.
The survivors of the late dictator have since been trying to rebuild their family’s image.
The Philippines at this time faces one of the most significant tests in its history, Marcos Jr. said Tuesday.
“The global pandemic destroyed the lives of people, of families, of entire communities. And if we have learned anything in this time of Covid pandemic, it is that each of us, no matter our station in life, needs the help of our fellow Filipinos,” he said.
There have been more than 2.6 coronavirus cases in the Philippines, including close to 39,000 deaths.
Marcos Jr. is entering an already crowded 2022 race.
Manny Pacquaio, the boxing icon and senator, and Manila mayor Francisco Domagoso have already registered at the election office. Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former police chief, has also announced the intention to run.
Robredo, the vice president and the presidential pick for the opposition, is expected to announce her candidacy later this week.
Duterte, who under the constitution is not permitted to run for a second term, at the weekend announced his decision to retire from politics at the end of his term. He instead endorsed his long-time aide, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, for election to the vice presidency.
Duterte’s feisty daughter and mayor of southern Davao City, Sara Duterte-Carpio, said Monday that she had no plans of joining the presidential race, even though she is expected to change her mind and enter the race.
BenarNews sources confirmed that the presidential daughter has not given up the fight.
Candidates have until Friday to file documents to be placed on the ballot and until Nov. 15 to withdraw their paperwork and register for a different position.
Marcos Jr. comes from one of the most famous political dynasties in Southeast Asia.
His father died in Hawaii in 1989, where he lived in exile after being ousted following a People’s Power uprising in 1986.
His mother, Imelda, was convicted of stashing about $200 million in stolen money through Swiss foundations when she was governor of Metropolitan Manila in the 1970s. She was ordered to serve six years in prison but was allowed bail in 2018.
Despite divided public opinion, many Filipinos are still rooting for the Marcoses, said lawyer Victor Rodriguez, the vice president of Marcos’ party.
The Marcos “support base extends now to the grassroots level,” Rodriguez said.
Marcos Jr.’s plan to follow in his father’s footsteps and be elected president is “is an insidious call to revive their despicable brand of governance – embezzlement of public funds, wholesale violations of people’s rights and civil liberties, and barefaced lies in historical distortions and denialism,” said Cristina Palabay, president of Karapatan, a Filipino human rights group.
“Karapatan condemns in the strongest terms Bongbong Marcos’ shameless announcement, as we vow to vehemently oppose and frustrate any and all efforts of the Marcoses to return to power, clearly aided no less by the Duterte administration,” she said in a statement.