Polls opened in the Philippines on Monday as the country decides its next president in a polarising race between frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son of the late dictator, and a human rights lawyer who has vowed to tackle old, rotten politics.
Opinion surveys suggest Marcos Jr, known as Bongbong, is poised to win the election, despite his family’s notorious history of human rights abuses and corruption. The Marcoses plundered as much as $10bn from the state, while thousands of his opponents were arrested, tortured and killed.
Analysts say the Marcoses and their supporters have harnessed the power of social media to rebrand the family name and spread disinformation that downplays or denies past atrocities. False claims have been spread widely online, portraying Marcos Sr’s rule as a golden age of prosperity and peace. Marcos Jr denies any coordinated online network.
Marcos Jr has not apologised for his family’s political history, and instead praised his father as a “political genius”, and his mother, Imelda, as the dynasty’s “supreme politician” during a recent interview. Imelda Marcos, infamous for her collection of 3,000 pairs of shoes, is appealing against a 2018 criminal conviction on seven graft charges.
Marcos Jr, whose slogan is “together we shall rise again”, has campaigned with a message of unity and rekindling a former greatness.