MANILA (Reuters) – The son of late Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos claimed victory in the presidential election on Wednesday, vowing to be a leader “for all Filipinos”, his spokesman said.
With an initial count almost complete, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, popularly known as “Bongbong”, won over 56% of the vote and more than double the tally of his closest rival, liberal Leni Robredo.
The win is a stunning reversal in the fortunes of the Marcos family, which went from presidential palace to outcasts and back again in the span of a few decades.
“To the world, he says, don’t judge me by my ancestry, but by my actions,” spokesman Vic Rodriguez said in a statement.
Voters were expected to back Marcos by a landslide in Monday’s election, spurred by online whitewashing of the family’s past, backing from powerful political dynasties and public disenchantment with post-dictatorship governments.
Hours after his landslide victory, Marcos Jr visited his father’s grave at the National Heroes Cemetery in Manila.
Photos posted to Marcos’ official social media accounts on Wednesday showed him standing in front of the oversized grave, his head bowed slightly and covering his eyes with his right hand, as if crying.
“This is a victory for all Filipinos and for democracy,” Rodriguez said in the statement.
“To those who voted for Bongbong, and to those who did not, it is his promise to be a president for all Filipinos. To seek common ground across political divides and work together to unite the nation.
The Marcos family’s astonishing journey from ignominy to political favor has eclipsed questions about what the Marcos administration would do.
Rights groups, Catholic church leaders and political analysts fear the huge victory will embolden Marcos to rule with a heavy fist and push through constitutional changes that could entrench his rule.
Marcos’ running mate, Sara Duterte, the incumbent president’s daughter, also won the vice presidency, which is elected separately, in a landslide victory.
Their success at the polls means that the two descendants of authoritarian leaders will hold the highest elective offices for the next six years.
The landslide victory devastated Robredo’s supporters, who saw the election as a watershed moment for the country’s fragile democracy.
Many of them went door-to-door across the vast archipelago in a months-long effort to convince voters to back the Liberal candidate for the top job.
Robredo, a 57-year-old lawyer and current vice-president, admitted his “clear disappointment” with the result but pledged to continue the fight against bad governance.