marcos22-1652184961346
Supporters of presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. gather to celebrate as partial results of the 2022 national elections show him with a wide lead over rivals, outside the candidate's headquarters in Mandaluyong City, Philippines, May 10, 2022. Image Credit: REUTERS

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who is set to become the president of the Philippines after winning the elections, comes to the job with a controversial family history.

He’s the son of a dictator who was embroiled in corruption and human rights violations, and was ousted after two decades in power in the Southeast Asian nation. His family’s popularity saw a recent resurgence largely driven by social media.

Here’s what you need to know about Marcos Jr., and what to expect when he takes office in June.

1. Who is “Bongbong” Marcos?

Marcos Jr., 64, is the only son of Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled over the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. “My father sort of wanted me to enter politics,” the younger Marcos said in an interview in 2017. “He sort of forced me and pushed in that way.”

While being the scion of a political heavyweight came with its own perks - in his 20s, he was already governor in their home province of Ilocos Norte, about 440 kilometres north of Manila - his family’s fall from power led him to flee to the US.

2. What are his achievements and controversies?

After returning to the Philippines in 1991 following the death of his father, Marcos has experienced mixed political fortunes. He won a congressional seat, and became governor again, but lost his first attempt for a position elected nationwide - a 1995 race for the Senate - before winning a seat in 2010.

In 2016, he narrowly lost out in his bid for vice president to Leni Robredo - his main rival in the just-concluded presidential race - then unsuccessfully protested the results.

His background itself is the subject of some controversy. His Senate profile initially stated that he had an Oxford degree in philosophy, politics and economics. Critics said he had a special diploma that fell short of an actual degree. In October, the University of Oxford waded in, saying that Marcos didn’t complete his degree. The website has since been amended.

3. What about his family?

After Marcos Jr.’s father declared martial law in 1972, thousands were killed or disappeared and many more were tortured or suffered other human rights violations.

The Marcoses amassed between $5 billion to $10 billion of public money through their cronies and associates according to estimates from the Philippine government, but only about $3 billion has been recovered as of 2020. The economy contracted as state coffers were plundered - infamously symbolised by the extravagant shoe collection of matriarch Imelda.

Marcos has dodged questions about his father’s regime, saying in a television interview on Jan. 24: “We will no longer go back to 35-year-old issues.”

Marcos’ wife is Louise “Liza” Araneta-Marcos, a lawyer who herself comes from a wealthy family.

maros-1652184957166
Presidential candidate, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., left, raises arms with running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the daughter of the current President, during their last campaign rally Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Paranaque city, Philippines. Image Credit: AP

4. What is his platform?

Marcos Jr. teamed up with outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter Sara, who has won the vice-presidency, aiming to benefit from her father’s continued popularity.

In the Senate, Marcos helped pass bills mostly pertaining to local governments. Marcos has promised “unifying leadership” and to prioritise pandemic recovery and the economy. He also has pledged to aid the farm sector, de-congest the capital Manila’s roads, push renewables and continue fighting a long-running communist insurgency.

Meanwhile, there is concern that public efforts to hold the Marcoses accountable and to recover ill-gotten wealth will stop if Marcos wins.

5. How did he win?

Marcos family members have been in politics and government for decades in their home province, which includes a village named Ferdinand in a municipality called Marcos.

Their power didn’t initially translate nationally after their return; along with Marcos’ Senate loss, Imelda failed in two presidential bids. But in a country where dynastic politics is common and embraced, the Marcoses rebuilt their political capital by forging alliances with other politicians including Duterte, who allowed a hero’s burial for the late dictator.

Despite avoiding clashes with his rivals by declining multiple television debates, Marcos’ influence was bolstered by social media like Facebook and YouTube, where posts rewriting history about the Marcos dictatorship, painting it as a golden era, have spread widely, boosting Marcos’ campaign. He has denied any connection to the posts.

While there was a late surge in support for his main competitor Robredo, she struggled to overcome a barrage of disinformation on social media, including fake claims that she is having affairs, an ally of the communists, and of her eldest daughter appearing in a sex video.

6. What’s his foreign policy?

While the Philippines has been a staunch ally of the US in the Pacific, ties became strained under Duterte, as he repeatedly threatened to end a key military deal with the US, before deciding in 2021 to keep it.

Marcos Jr. meanwhile has committed to maintaining the nation’s alliance with the superpower. He told a virtual forum earlier this year that the alliance is “a special relationship,” and the US “can do many things” to help the Philippines.”

At the same time, Marcos has said he plans to negotiate a deal with China to resolve a longstanding territorial dispute in the South China Sea. His stance is similar to that of Duterte, who courted Beijing, while tapping Chinese funding for infrastructure projects.

While he has also talked about improving ties with Russia, Marcos, who previously declined to take a stance on its war in Ukraine, said in a subsequent statement that Russia should “respect Ukraine’s freedom.”