Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was proclaimed the 17th president of the Philippines yesterday, May 25, in what has been one of the most consequential elections in recent history.
With his unprecedented win, Marcos Jr. completed a decades-long quest to restore his family to power and proved the chilling potency of disinformation campaigns, which rebranded his father’s brutal Martial Law regime as a bygone “golden age”. This coordinated effort, one that some experts argue was years in the making, was more than enough to convince millions of Filipino voters—more than half of whom were born after Martial Law—to elect another Marcos to the highest office.
The final tally from the congressional canvass found the late dictator’s son garnering 31,629,783 votes, over half of all votes cast and far ahead of the next contender—Vice President Leni Robredo—who received only 15,035,773 votes. His running mate, presidential daughter Sara-Duterte Carpio, also dominated the race for vice president with 32,208,417 votes.
Speaking before the media after his proclamation, Marcos Jr. asked the Filipino people to pray for his success. “When a president does well, the country does well, and I want to do well for this country,” he said, before snubbing further questions from reporters.
A numbers game
Despite the ongoing pandemic, the overall election turnout reached 83 percent, surpassing the 81.95 percent turnout in the 2016 national elections.
Marcos Jr. won in almost all regions except Quezon Province, Bicol, and most of Eastern and Western Visayas—areas where Robredo led. Sen. Manny Pacquiao won in his former congressional district of Sarangani, while Faisal Mangondato narrowly took Lanao del Sur.
Meanwhile, Duterte-Carpio swept most regions. Sen. Kiko Pangilinan only managed to get a foothold in most Bicol provinces, Guimaras, Iloilo Province, and Iloilo City. On the other hand, Senate President Vicente Sotto III claimed Sorsogon.
At the legislative level, six candidates who ran under the UniTeam coalition joined the Magic 12, with actor Robin Padilla leading the group at over 27 million votes. Among opposition candidates, only reelectionist Risa Hontiveros—who placed 11th with over 15 million votes—made the cut.
Forming a winning alliance
Marcos Jr. was initially coy about his aspirations for the executive seats since his loss to Robredo in 2016. Various groups, including his father’s party Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, implored him to run, but the hesitation was evident as Duterte-Carpio had been leading pre-election surveys throughout the year.
On October 2, Duterte-Carpio filed her candidacy to seek reelection as Davao City mayor, fueling speculations that she would replicate her father’s tactic in 2016—run for mayor first, substitute a presidential candidate later. Three days afterward, Marcos Jr. announced he was running for president.
After a month, however, Duterte-Carpio withdrew her candidacy and joined Lakas-CMD, hours before she would sponsor a wedding for the daughter of the party’s chairman, Sen. Bong Revilla. It was here that she was spotted alongside Marcos Jr., and where many assume their political marriage had blossomed.
The speculations materialized when on November 13, Duterte-Carpio swooped in as a substitute for Lyle Uy of Lakas-CMD after the latter withdrew his vice presidential candidacy.
Since the formation of their alliance, both Marcos Jr. and Duterte-Carpio remained atop in major preference polls, building a lead that remained unchallenged throughout the election period.
Talk less, smile more
For much of the campaign, Marcos Jr. was a frequent no-show at debates and interviews. His spokesperson, Atty. Vic Rodriguez, said in February that the candidate’s presence in debates and other fora would be on a “case-by-case” basis. On what basis these decisions were made became questionable when Marcos Jr. appeared in a cooking segment with Korina Sanchez instead of a Kapisanan ng Broadkaster ng Pilipinas presidential forum scheduled on that same weekend.
It was not until a month later that Marcos Jr. admitted to being indifferent about attending debates. In an interview, he proclaimed that he would rather campaign than answer the same questions he had been answering for 35 years.
But he nevertheless attended two debates, both organized by SMNI News—a network whose founder, Apollo Quiboloy, is facing sex trafficking charges in the United States. Quiboloy had also earlier revealed his support for Marcos Jr.
This aversive nature was also apparent in the way he selected reporters to talk to. Lian Buan, Rappler’s beat reporter on the candidate’s campaign trail, recalled, “Mahirap kasi ni-dangle nila ‘yung access over our heads. The message was, ‘If you don’t play nice, if you don’t write good stories, then you will have a very difficult time covering us.’”
(It was difficult because they dangled the access over our heads.)
Journalists who followed the Marcos campaign trail were heckled by supporters when attempting to interview the president-elect. Other times, Marcos Jr. himself would snub difficult questions, such as when he was faced with an inquiry on his family’s unpaid estate tax.
In place of formal media reporting, disinformation machinery found its footing in sputtering false information and targeted posts veiled as informational or legitimate reports. VERA Files Fact Check, a third-party fact-checking partner for Facebook, revealed that Marcos Jr. benefited most from election-related disinformation and Robredo was the most-targeted subject. Experts have echoed this as well. Fatima Gaw, assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman and a researcher on digital technologies in culture and politics, pointed out that disinformation “is really priming the audience to rationalize [the Marcos] lies and distortions.”
The sentiment also seemed apparent during The LaSallian’s on-the-ground coverage of election day. In a Caloocan City precinct, a voter, who remained anonymous but revealed they voted for Marcos Jr., told the publication that the unflattering coverage of his candidate only siphoned votes away from his opponents. “Sinasabi nilang magnanakaw si Marcos. ‘Di naman nila mapapatunayan na magnanakaw si Marcos,” he added.
(They say Marcos is a thief. They can’t prove that.)
What to expect
It is not yet clear how Marcos Jr. plans to begin his presidential term. As of writing, he has yet to complete his cabinet, though he has so far named 13 possible candidates, some of whom were his supporters during the campaign, while others were cabinet members from past administrations.
Despite an incomplete list, Rodriguez assured people that they can expect “meaningful appointments” for now. “Sabi rin ni BBM, he would rather be judged by his last 100 days than his first 100 days,” he added.
Marcos Jr. told reporters in a press conference last Monday, May 23, about his discussions with foreign diplomats, covering plans ranging from reviving the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant to renegotiating the Philippines-United States Visiting Forces Agreement.
Nevertheless, some voters expressed what they expect from the incoming administration. Maria Corazon Montes from Parañaque City hopes that the next six years will be “definitely not the same as the past six years.” Another voter from Caloocan City hopes for more new and continued projects in the next six years.
For Edcel Padulla and Judiehl Tordecilla, first-time voters from Bacoor, Cavite, whatever improvements the country may gain—especially in the economy and agriculture—should reach everyone in the country.
Bulacan resident RJ Atienza wants the next six years to be “rebuilding years” coming from the pandemic. “For me, the government was not as efficient as they should [have been]…I am expecting an honest and transparent government where people have equal opportunities and where government officials are held accountable for their actions,” he emphasized.
An unfinished win
Even as Marcos Jr. waits for his inauguration, he already faces many challenges ahead.
On the day after the elections, as his supporters danced and celebrated along EDSA, protesters flocked around the Commission on Elections office in Intramuros, Manila. This came as doubts surrounding the preliminary results of the elections afflicted much of the public, especially with the reported hitches with voting machines that were still ongoing hours after precincts were supposed to close.
In past weeks, more rallies sprung up to question alleged election anomalies and reject the upcoming Marcos-Duterte leadership. Most recently, human rights advocates gathered in Liwasang Diokno in Diliman, Quezon City to denounce Martial Law and protest against the then-impending proclamation of Marcos Jr. The demonstrators were later violently dispersed by state police.
As of press time, two petitions to overturn the Commission on Elections’ dismissal of cases against Marcos Jr. have been lodged to the Supreme Court, which is expected to return from a writing break on June 14. The cases had called for disqualification or cancellation of the president-elect’s candidacy.
As per the constitution, Marcos Jr. and Duterte-Carpio will be inaugurated into office on June 30.