MANILA, Philippines ( Associated Press) — Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ son and name took a major lead in an unofficial vote count in Monday’s presidential election in a deeply divided Asian democracy.
With more than 77 percent of the votes being tabulated, Marcos Jr. had 25 million, well ahead of his closest rival, current Vice President Lenny Robredo, a champion of human rights, who had 11.9 million.
The election 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.
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Still more challenging problems include deep poverty and unemployment and decades of Muslim and communist insurgency. The next president is also likely to hear demands to prosecute outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte for thousands of murders during the anti-drug crackdown – deaths already under investigation by the International Criminal Court.
Duterte’s daughter, Southern Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte, is the Vice President of Marcos Jr., running 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.
Sarah Duterte for vice president also had a resounding lead with 24.9 million votes in an unofficial count from the commission on election servers. The President and Vice President are elected separately in the Philippines.
“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.”
In a late-night video statement, Marcos Jr. did not claim victory, but thanked his supporters for supporting him in “this sometimes very difficult journey” and asking them to keep their guard until the vote count is over. requested.
“Let us keep an eye on the vote,” he said. “If we’re lucky, I hope your help won’t diminish, your confidence won’t be lost because we have so many things to do in the times to come.”
Marcos Jr., whose father was ousted in 1986 in a military-backed “People Power” rebellion, took extensive leadership in pre-election polls. But Robredo tapped into the shock and outrage at the prospect of a Marcos retaking the seat of power and used a network of campaign volunteers to downplay his candidacy.
Officials said the election was relatively peaceful despite violence in the country’s volatile south. Thousands of police and military personnel were deployed to secure the election complex, especially in rural areas with a history of violent political rivalry.
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Filipinos stood in long lines to cast their ballots, with voting delays in some areas for a few hours due to malfunctioning voting machines, power outages, bad weather and other problems.
Eight others were in the running for the presidency, including former boxing star Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isco Moreno and former National Police Chief Sen. Panfilo Laxon.
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 avoided such volatile issues in the campaign and instead fought for national unity, even though their father’s presidency opened up some of the Philippines’ most turbulent divisions.
“I’ve learned not to retaliate in my campaign,” Sarah Duterte told followers on Saturday night’s final day of the campaign, where she and Marcos Jr. witnessed a night of rap music, dance shows and fireworks near Manila Bay. thanked.
At his own 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 Maguindanao province, a security hotspot in the south, three village guards were killed by gunmen outside an election center in the city of Buluan, temporarily disrupting voting. Police said five rifle grenades were fired by unidentified persons at Datu Use Town Hall on Sunday night, injuring nine voters and their accomplices separately, police said.
In addition to the presidency, more than 18,000 government positions are being 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.
More than 67 million people had registered to vote, including about 1.6 million Filipinos abroad.
In the 2016 contest, Duterte emerged as the clear winner within hours of the close of the election and was quickly accepted by his major challengers. The vice presidential race that year was narrowly won by Robredo over Marcos Jr., and the result was slow to be known.
Associated Press journalists Joel Calupitan, Aaron Favila and Cecilia Forbes in Manila, Philippines, and Kiko Rosario in Bangkok contributed to this report.