For months, the Philippines has been throbbing with the energy of a major election campaign.
It has been a live scene of huge rally after race during races, drawing crowds to events like concerts or street parties in the archipelago nation.
On Monday, more than 67 million registered voters will cast ballots to decide the country’s next chapter, with a new president, vice president and 12 senators, as well as 300 lower house legislators and some 18,000 officials, including the mayor, governor and local district. Councillor.
Many see the election as a high-stakes inflection point for the Philippines that will determine how it is governed and how it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The outgoing president, Rodrigo Duterte, has been a popular but polarizing figure, cracking down on a free press and human rights violations with his signature “war on drugs” policy.
see human rights supposedly hardline policy This resulted in the deaths of more than 12,000 people, of whom about 3,000 came at the hands of the police.
But supporters of Duterte believe that he has been effective in imposing discipline on the population and reducing crime and corruption.
And in a country with one of the highest poverty rates in the world, fighting poverty with jobs, health care and education has largely been at the heart of every candidate’s platform.
Who is leading the race for the presidency?
While the candidate list consists of 10 people, as the campaign ends, it has mostly become a two-way race between incumbent Vice-President Lenny Robredo and Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr., a former senator and son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. has gone. ,
The latest opinion polls put the 64-year-old Marcos Jr. comfortably ahead. His running mate, Sarah Duterte-Carpio, is the daughter of the current president.
Marcos’ popularity is the result of a major relocation of his family name, which 36 years after Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was ousted from the country’s “manpower” revolution after years of brutal dictatorship – an era riddled with corruption and violence. .
“Our political system has been monopolized and dominated by really powerful political families,” explained Sheila Coronel, a Filipino investigative journalist and professor at Columbia University in New York.
“Our political system is very undemocratic. I would say there are probably over 2,000 families that have a monopoly on local and national political office in a country of over 100 million people.”
To gain public office, Marcos Jr. had to “rebuild the myth of the Marcos era as the Golden Age of the Philippines, where there was peace, progress or prosperity,” Coronel said.
“They invested heavily in that, especially in social media,” she said. “They have specifically targeted young voters – people under 40 who have no memory of martial law or the Marcos regime.”
During the campaign, Marcos abandoned the debate and mainstream media presence in favor of messaging made for social media platforms, including TikTok, Facebook and YouTube.
“Social media has played a big role in rehabilitating the Marcos brand for the 2022 election,” said Jonathan Ong, a propaganda researcher and associate professor at the University of Massachusetts.
Opinion polls show that 56 percent voters Marcos, Ong said that most of the support is actually for his family’s brand, “which has been transformed, refined, whitewashed, cleaned up by social media.”
“It’s something that didn’t happen during the campaign season, but has also been a project for six, seven years,” he said.
What about his challenger?
Former human rights lawyer Lenny Robredo has built his campaign around trying to counter Marcos’ social media machine – and the name recognition that comes with his political ancestry.
She and her team take pride in running grassroots campaigns run by volunteers, some going door-to-door to speak directly to voters.
While Robredo, 57, is the current vice president, he has distanced himself from the Duterte administration.
In the Philippines, the President and Vice President do not have to run as the same ticket and both ran on separate tickets in the 2016 race. When she was elected, she inaugurated separately from Duterte.
That race was also against Marcos Jr. for the first time, and he defeated him for the vice president position.
Robredo’s supporters see his candidacy as a turning point where the Philippines could move away from the Duterte era – when the country often made global headlines for the president’s poor record on human rights.
In abusive speeches, Duterte often bragged about ordering the murders of accused drug dealers without due process.
Robredo, on the other hand, has promised to uphold the human rights of the citizens of the country.
It’s a message that resonates with activist Julie Zamora, who is mobilizing foreign Filipino voters in the US, also the national secretary general of the Malaya Movement USA, which has supported Robredo.
About two million Filipino voters are living overseas.
“We really have a stake in what happens in the elections and what will determine the course of the next six years,” Zamora said.
She said the past six years under Duterte were marked by “large-scale human rights violations, militarized COVID responses and … the erosion of democratic spaces”.
Who are the other candidates?
A few other candidates in the election have made the voting race exciting for Filipinos, including celebrity and world champion boxer Manny Pacquiao.
Although his numbers show him behind in polls, Pacquiao is a household name in the Philippines and around the world. He won the Senate seat in the country in 2016.
Pacquiao’s personal story is a well-known lore: he rose from abject poverty to become one of the richest men in the country.
In interviews and campaign rallies, Pacquiao has said that he is running to serve the same communities where he started, aiming to lift him out of poverty with jobs, health care and education.
Other high-profile candidates include Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso and Panfilo (Ping) Laxon, a current senator and former police general.
what’s at stake?
The next president of the Philippines will face a long list of issues that could define the country’s future for years to come: rebuilding the economy after the pandemic wiped out millions of jobs, a foreign exchange amid regional threats from China. Charting policy and future-proofing against impending crises, such as climate change.
For Coronel, who will be in the Philippines to see the results, this election is about a young democracy that hasn’t found its footing yet, given that the vote has taken three decades of storms to bring down the country’s presidential palace. comes later. Dictator
“I was right outside the palace gates when Marcos fled the country. So I want to see the whole arc of this whole story,” she said.
“they [last] 36 years have been years of procrastination and corruption – people are getting poorer, there is increasing inequality,” Coronel said.
“I think this election is about prosecuting democracy, and whether it is still a worthwhile project for Filipinos to support.”