Manila, Philippines –
Filipinos began voting for a new president on Monday with the son of an ousted dictator and an activist for reform and human rights as front-runners in an election campaign. fragile moment in a deeply divided Asian democracy.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and name of the strongman ousted in the military-backed 1986 “People Power” uprising, led the pre-election surveys with a likely lead. can not overcome. But his closest challenger, Vice President Leni Robredo, was shocked and outraged at the prospect of another Marcos retaking the seat of power and harnessing an army of campaign volunteers to bolster her candidacy.
Eight other candidates, including former boxing star Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and former national police chief Sen. Panfilo Lacson have fallen far behind in voter preference surveys. tri.
The winner will take office on June 30 for a single 6-year term as leader of a Southeast Asian country hit hard by two years of the COVID-19 outbreak and shutdown.
More challenging issues include a sagging economy, deeper poverty and unemployment, and decades-long Muslim and communist uprisings. There will also likely also be questions about how to respond to calls demanding the prosecution of outgoing populist leader Rodrigo Duterte, whose anti-drug crackdown has left thousands of suspects in custody. child was killed and prompted an investigation by the International Criminal Court.
Duterte’s daughter, the mayor of the southern city of Davao, Sara Duterte, topped the surveys as Marcos Jr.’s vice president. in a coalition of two authoritarian leaders who have long been targeted by human rights groups. This tie combined the voting power of their distinct northern and southern political strongholds, boosting their chances but heightening human rights activists’ anxieties.
Myles Sanchez, a 42-year-old human rights worker, said: “History could repeat itself if they win. “There will probably be a repeat of martial law and drug murders that happened under their parents.”
Sanchez said the violence and abuse that marked the era of martial law under Marcos and that Duterte’s war on drugs more than three decades later fell victim to loved ones from two generations in her family. . Her grandmother was sexually abused and her grandfather tortured by rebels under Marcos in the early 1980s in their impoverished farming village in South Leyte province.
Under Duterte’s repression, Sanchez’s brother, sister and sister-in-law were illegally linked to drugs and killed separately, she told The Associated Press in an interview. She described the killing of her sibling as “a nightmare that causes indescribable pain.”
She begs the Filipino people not to vote for politicians who openly defend mass killings or conveniently turn a blind eye.
Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte have shied away from such tumultuous issues during their three-month campaign and have staunchly instead fought a battle of national unity, even though their father’s presidential terms have ushered in. some of the most tumultuous splits in the country’s history. .
“I learned during our campaign not to retaliate,” Sara Duterte told followers on Saturday night on the final day of the campaign, where she and Marcos Jr thanked a huge crowd during the campaign. a night of rap music, dance shows and fireworks near Manila Bay.
In a separate protest, Robredo thanked her supporters who thwarted her all-star rallies and waged a house battle to endorse her brand of clean politics and her practice. She asks them to fight for patriotic ideals in elections.
“We’ve learned that those who have woken up never close their eyes again,” Robredo told a crowd that had filled the main avenue in the capital’s Makati financial district. “It’s our right to have a future with dignity and it’s our responsibility to fight for it.”
In addition to the presidency, more than 18,000 government positions are in dispute, including half of the 24-member Senate, more than 300 seats in the House of Representatives, as well as provincial and local offices on the archipelago. 109 million Filipinos.
About 67 million people were registered to vote in the 13-hour ballot, an hour longer than the midterm elections in 2019 to make up for slower-than-expected queues due to social distancing. and other coronavirus protections.
Thousands of police and military personnel have been deployed to secure constituencies, especially in rural areas with a history of violent political confrontation and where communist rebels and Islamic.
In 2009, gunmen deployed by the family of the then governor of Maguindanao province massacred 58 people, including 32 journalists, in an attack on an election convoy that shocked the world.
Associated Press journalists Joeal Calupitan and Aaron Favila in Manila, Philippines, and Kiko Rosario in Bangkok contributed to this report.