MANILA, Philippines ( Associated Press) – The people of the Philippines were voting on Monday for a new president, the son of an ousted dictator and a champion of reforms and human rights as a top contender at a difficult moment in a deeply divided Asian democracy. in the form of.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of a powerful ousted in the 1986 military-backed “People Power” uprising, has led pre-election polls, seemingly inaccessible. But his closest rival, Vice President Lenny Robredo, tapped into the shock and outrage at the prospect of another Marcos retaking the seat of power and used an army of campaign volunteers to undermine his candidacy.
Eight other candidates, including former boxing star Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isco Moreno and former national police chief Sen. Panfilo Laxon, are far behind in voter-preference polls.
Long queues of voters formed in most parts of the country without any major incident. But in southern Maguindanao province, a security hotspot, unidentified people fired at least three grenades around the Datu Us town hall compound on Sunday night, injuring nine villagers who traveled far and wide to be able to vote on Monday. Had traveled in advance from villages. Police said two other grenades exploded in the nearby town of Sharif Aguaq, but there were no casualties.
The winner will take office on June 30 for a single, six-year term, as the leader of a Southeast Asian nation hit hard by a two-year COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown.
Even more challenging problems include a weak economy, deep poverty and unemployment, decades of Muslim and communist insurgency. There will also be questions about how to deal with calls demanding the prosecution of outgoing populist leader Rodrigo Duterte, whose drug crackdown has killed thousands of petty suspects and sparked an investigation by the International Criminal Court. Is.
Duterte’s daughter, southern Davao city mayor Sarah Duterte, topped the survey as Marcos Jr.’s vice-presidential running mate in a coalition of descendants of two authoritarian leaders belonging to human rights groups. The alliance has combined the voting power of their separate northern and southern political strongholds, raising their prospects but concerns of human rights activists.
“History may repeat itself if they win,” said 42-year-old human rights activist Miles Sanchez. “There may be a recurrence of the drug homicides that took place under martial law and their parents.”
Sanchez said the violence and abuse that marked the martial-law era under Marcos and Duterte’s drug war more than three decades later afflicted two generations of her family’s loved ones. Her grandmother was sexually abused and her grandfather was tortured by counter-terrorism troops under Marcos in their impoverished farming village in southern Leyte province in the early 1980s.
He told the Associated Press in an interview that as part of Duterte’s actions, Sanchez’s brother, a sister and a sister-in-law were allegedly linked to illegal drugs and killed separately. She described the murders of her siblings as “a nightmare that has inflicted unspeakable pain”.
He begged Filipinos not to vote for politicians who either openly defended widespread killings or simply looked away.
Marcos Jr. and Sarah Duterte steered clear of such volatile issues throughout the three-month campaign and instead fought for national unity, even as their father’s presidency opened some of the most turbulent divisions in the country’s history. ,
“I learned not to retaliate in my campaign,” Sarah Duterte told her followers on the final day of the campaign Saturday night, where she and Marcos Jr. spent a night of rap music, dance shows and fireworks near Manila Bay. Thanks to the crowd.
At a separate rally, Robredo thanked his supporters who jammed his star-studded sorties and fought house-to-house to support his brand of clean and practical politics. He asked them to fight for the ideals of patriotism beyond elections.
“We’ve learned that those who have woken up will never close their eyes again,” Robredo told the crowd that filled the main street in the capital’s Makati financial district. “It is our right to have the future with dignity and it is our responsibility to fight for it.”
In addition to the presidency, more than 18,000 government positions are contested, including half of the 24-member Senate, more than 300 seats in the House of Representatives, as well as provincial and local offices in the archipelago of more than 109 million Filipinos.
Nearly 67 million have registered to cast their vote during the 13-hour turnout, an hour longer than the midterm elections in 2019, to compensate for slow queues expected due to social distancing and other coronavirus safety measures.
Thousands of police and military personnel were deployed to secure the election complex, especially in rural areas with a history of violent political rivalry and where Communist and Muslim insurgents are active.
In 2009, gunmen deployed by the family of the then governor of southern Maguindanao province killed 58 people, including 32 journalists, in an attack on an election convoy that shocked the world.
Associated Press journalists Joel Calupitan, Aaron Favila and Cecilia Forbes in Manila, Philippines, and Kiko Rosario in Bangkok contributed to this report.