By J.C. Gotinga and Jojo Riñoza
The political party founded by the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos on Friday nominated his son as its presidential candidate in the 2022 election.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr., 64, thanked his supporters from the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (New Society Movement) for the nomination but stopped short of publicly declaring his intention to run.
“It is an expression of the understanding of the work that the KBL continues to do in the past 40 years, even more, that’s what that message was,” Marcos Jr. said of the nomination.
“If they endorsed me, I also thank them for the trust they bestowed upon me. I don’t know that you can interpret that as an acceptance.”
Marcos Jr. said he was contemplating his final move, stressing that he was in consultations with allies and the “discussion is about to end.”
Known as “Bongbong,” Marcos Jr. served in the Senate until 2016, the same year he ran – and lost – the race for vice president.
He lost to the current incumbent, Leni Robredo, but complained of cheating and petitioned for a recount. The Presidential Electoral Tribunal, however, sealed Robredo’s win.
That same year, the Marcos family backed Rodrigo Duterte.
For his part, Duterte, who has acknowledged that support helped him win the presidency in 2016, backed Marcos Jr.’s electoral complaint. At one time he said he considered him the real vice president.
Marcos Jr. has until next month to decide whether he will run next year.
Besides president and vice president, voters in May 2022 will fill 12 of the 24 seats in the Senate, all 316 House seats, and cast their ballots for thousands of officials, from provincial governors to town mayors and councilors.
‘A mad attempt’
Democracy advocates have opposed efforts to back a Marcos Jr. candidacy.
“Bongbong’s run is a mad attempt for the Marcoses to return and restore their power and rule a country pillaged and violated during [the older] Marcos’s martial law,” Judy Taguiwalo, of the group Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law, told BenarNews.
His sister, Imee Marcos, was elected senator in 2016.
Taguiwalo said the Marcos family wants “to further evade their accountability for their crimes, and to promote the historical lies that they have perpetuated.”
And Marcos Jr.’s presidential run would also be “a form of direct support” for the continuation of his father’s “murderous rule,” she said.
Taguiwalo also compared Duterte’s rule to the elder Marcos’s dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s, pointing to “countless allegations of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, corruption and anti-people governance, and subservience to foreign interests.”
A people-power revolt ousted Marcos following two decades of a dictatorship where thousands of activists were killed or went missing, and national coffers were emptied.
The elder Marcos is accused of having taken about U.S. $10 billion (508 billion pesos), but the government has been able to retrieve only $683 million (34 billion pesos). Marcos Sr. died in Hawaii in 1989, where he lived after being driven from power.
So far, boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, popular Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso and veteran lawmaker and former police chief Panfilo Lacson have announced their candidacies for the top office.
As for Robredo, she acknowledged on Friday that some supporters have expressed frustration about her perceived hesitancy to run. The vice president has led the opposition against Duterte while serving as vice president.
She sought to assure supporters, saying in a statement that she was preparing to end “the kind of leadership that is the root of all suffering. It was her duty, she said, to consult with many stakeholders “in pursuit of this goal.”
Meanwhile, Duterte has said he would seek the vice presidency, as his term ends next year.
Under the Philippine constitution, a president is restricted to a single six-year term. It was framed that way in 1986 to prevent another dictator from rising in the Philippines.
Political analysts have said this was Duterte’s strategy to maintain power while the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates thousands of deaths under his widely criticized war against illegal drugs.
Duterte’s ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Laban (PDP-Laban) party has been pushing his longtime aide, Sen. Christopher Go as its presidential candidate, but the senator has said he doesn’t want to run.
Analysts have speculated that if both men win, Go may step down to make way for Duterte to replace him.
Duterte’s daughter Sara, who serves as mayor in Davao City, has also been touted as a candidate for the nation’s top office but has said she has no plan to run.
On Friday, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said on Marcos Jr. could likely team up with Sara Duterte. After all, her father has never hidden his closeness to the Marcos family.
“There is still a possibility, and I think it is probable that it will be a team-up with Sara Duterte and Bongbong in the end because that would appear to be the strongest team and logically that will be the direction,” Carpio, who is a leading opposition figure, told reporters.
“But of course we cannot say for certain because everything is fluid at this time. We don’t know exactly if he [Marcos Jr.] will run for president or slide down to vice, but we know he is running for a national office.”
Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato, Philippines, contributed to this report.