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Philippine Elections: Marcos Victory Sparks Protests

by YAR

MANILA (AP) — Angry young voters rallied in the Philippines Tuesday to protest Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the former dictator, who won a landslide victory this week in one of the most divisive presidential elections in recent history. country.

Multiple election monitors said they had received thousands of reports of election-related anomalies since Monday’s vote. Malfunctioning voting machines was a major concern, with VoteReportPH, an election watchdog, saying the breakdowns had “severely hurt this electoral process.”

On Tuesday, Leni Robredo, Marcos’ closest rival in the race and the country’s current vice president, said her team was investigating reports of electoral fraud. But all opinion polls before the election had predicted Marcos would win by a wide margin, and his lead for Tuesday was so overwhelming that reports of fraud and machine malfunctions were unlikely to influence the outcome. .

Mr. Marcos, known by his childhood nickname “Bongbong,” had amassed almost 31 million votes as of 4:30 pm, according to a preliminary count. That was more than double the number of votes Robredo had, giving Marcos the largest margin of victory in more than three decades. Voter turnout was around 80 percent, an election official said Tuesday.

During his campaign, Mr. Marcos appealed to a public disillusioned with democracy in the Philippines, a country of 110 million and the oldest democracy in Southeast Asia. Yet for many Filipinos, the Marcos family name remains synonymous with excess and greed, and a painful reminder of the atrocities committed by his father.

Marcos’s 92-year-old mother, Imelda Marcos, was sentenced to up to 11 years in 2018 for creating private foundations to hide her unexplained wealth, but remains free. She posted bail and her case is being appealed to the Supreme Court. Critics fear Marcos could use the presidency to dismiss that case and other pending cases against the family.

Dozens of mostly young voters gathered in a park in front of the electoral commission building Tuesday morning to protest the election results and Mr. Marcos, chanting: “Thief, thief, thief! !”. and “Put Imelda in jail”. Riot police monitored the demonstrations.

Paula Santos, a doctor in training, confronted the officers: “Personally, I’m afraid,” she told them. “I am turning 27 and I am scared for our future, especially now that I am an adult. When I was young, I didn’t care about politics. But now I get goosebumps from fear.”

In the months before the election, hundreds of thousands of young supporters of Ms. Robredo had campaigned door-to-door, trying to combat an online disinformation campaign that portrayed the violent Marcos regime as a “golden age”. in the history of the country.

Ms. Santos told officers that she had supported young Marcos when he ran against Ms. Robredo for the vice presidency in 2016 “because of the beautifully designed posts and infographics I saw on YouTube.” “But then I saw other accounts, I did research,” she said. “Knowing the truth is now in your own hands.”

“We are not here to rewrite history,” he added. “We are here to learn from it.”

In a later interview, Ms. Santos said that she and her 17-year-old sister cried on election night. Both had campaigned for Mrs. Robredo. “I was expecting a close fight,” she said. “I didn’t expect there to be such a big gap between the numbers. It was hard to believe.”

Across the country, many voters shared his disbelief.

Recrimination and regret prevailed among some Filipinos as they considered another Marcos as president, 36 years after millions of their compatriots ousted the Marcos family for looting billions of dollars from the treasury.

Robert Reyes, a Roman Catholic priest who has spent every Wednesday for the past 11 weeks outside the electoral commission building demanding a clean vote, said the Catholic Church had not “denounced evil.” The Catholic church, which has enormous influence in the Philippines, played a crucial role in overthrowing the Marcos dictatorship during the 1986 “People Power” uprising.

“Hopefully this will wake up the church,” Father Reyes said. “Because what moral authority does the son of a dictator have who has not returned what his father has stolen from him? What authority does he have to rule a country whose people were plundered by his father?

Mrs. Robredo did not formally award the race. On Tuesday, she told her followers to accept “whatever the end result is.”

“I don’t consider this a loss because we have accomplished a lot this election season,” she said, speaking during a Catholic mass in the Bicol region, where she is from.

She has hinted at a larger role for her broad-based movement, which she said “will not die at the end of the count.”

The counting of votes could continue until the end of the week. On Tuesday afternoon, Marcos had not yet delivered a victory speech. But in a statement, Victor Rodriguez, Marcos’s spokesman, said his “unquestioned leadership” meant that “the Filipino people have spoken decisively.”

“For those who voted for Bongbong and those who didn’t, his promise is to be a president for all Filipinos,” Mr. Rodríguez said. “To the world he says: do not judge me by my ancestors, but by my actions.”

Sara Duterte, the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte and Marcos’s running mate, garnered 31.5 million votes as of Tuesday, more than triple the votes of Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who was running for vice president in support of Robredo.

Duterte has been accused of rolling back democratic institutions during his six years as president. Opponents have warned that the alliance between the Marcoses and the Dutertes could usher in a new era of autocracy in the Philippines.

Mr Marcos and Mrs Duterte are expected to take office on June 30.

As protests continued in front of the electoral commission building on Tuesday, demonstrators held signs reading “Never Again” and “Fight Marcos, Reject Duterte.”

María Socorro Naguit, 72, a freelance writer at the protest, said she was 22 when the Marcos regime, during a crackdown on the press, closed the magazine she worked for. “I’m here because it’s too much, you know?” said Mrs. Socorro Naguit. “Honestly, I cannot tolerate the return of the Marcos.”

Seeing the results come in Monday night, Ms. Socorro Naguit said her first reaction was to swear. “And I thought of the republic. Oh my gosh,” she said.

For Mirus Ponon, a first-time voter in Manila, election day was marked by emotion. The 20-year-old college student and civil rights activist stood in line for five hours to vote for Ms. Robredo.

The euphoria did not last long. Several hours later, she was crying.

“You could see it from the point of view of the structured propaganda and machinery of the Marcos,” he said. “But it is something that makes you very depressed, as someone who loves the country. You want to keep fighting, but the country and its people are failing you.”

Camila Elemia Y Jason Gutierrez contributed report.

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