‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Imelda’s obedient son who didn’t want to be president

Manila, May 8 (EFE).- He did not dream of being president, but his mother was clear since his childhood that he would become the country’s leader.

If “Bongbong”, son of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, whose rule came to be known as the “conjugal dictatorship,” wins the elections on Monday, as the polls predict, he will fulfill his mother’s wish of the family returning to the presidential palace having barely atoned for their past crimes.

The Philippines will elect current President Rodrigo Duterte’s successor on Monday and Bongbong, with a considerable margin of support, is poised to take the presidency from him if all goes as expected.

Imelda, who ruled alongside her husband from 1965 until a popular revolt forced them into exile in Hawaii in 1986, is the shadow behind the candidacy of Bongbong, an unlikely politician due to his lack of charisma and virtues apart from his illustrious surname.

The couple’s only son, Bongbong grew up with three sisters in luxury while his parents plundered between $5 billion and $10 billion from the public treasury, according to a probe conducted by a Philippine commission created after the toppling of a regime that imposed martial law and imprisoned, tortured and murdered thousands of Filipinos.

The 64-year-old, still known by his childhood nickname “Bongbong” because he used to climb onto his father’s back as a child, gained fame in his youth for throwing Manila’s best parties.

His hunting parties at Calauit, Imelda’s private animal sanctuary, which she stocked with dozens of exotic animals imported from Africa, led people to dub it the “Bongbong’s safari park.”

Unlike his father, who was a reputed lawyer before becoming president, Bongbong’s academic career is an accumulation of failures.

The dictator also described his son as “lazy and carefree” in his diary.

Marcos Jr. enrolled at Oxford University to study philosophy, politics, and economics but failed to graduate. He also did not finish his master’s degree at the Wharton Business school in the US.

But his future had already been planned out. Although Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in 2015 that he did not get up every morning thinking about politics, before running for vice-president that year — a position he lost to Leni Robredo, his opponent in the upcoming elections — he said then that Imelda had wanted him to be president since he was three years old.

“Bongbong Marcos is very dependent on his mother. I think it’s Imelda’s desire for him to run for president, but he’s very incompetent,” said Julius Trajano, a researcher on Philippine policy at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

This alleged incompetence has not prevented Bongbong from holding political positions since his return from exile in 1991 with his mother and sisters, two years after his father’s death.

Since then, he has served as a lawmaker in Congress, governor of Ilocos Norte, the family’s home province, and senator.

His 92-year-old mother also did not lie low upon her return from exile, unsuccessfully running for the presidency in 1992 and then serving as a lawmaker.

In recent years, however, she seems to have focused her energies on bringing her son to the Malacanang Palace, the presidential residence.

Behind Bongbong, who has kept a low profile during the campaign, hardly granting any interviews or participating in debates that could expose his lack of eloquence, are more women besides Imelda.

They are his sister Imee, a senator and with a reputation as a political animal, and his wife, Louise Araneta, whom those close to him describe as more shrewd and professional than her husband.

His marriage to Araneta, with whom he has three children — one of them in politics — seems to be one of his few gestures of rebellion as she is related to former President Corazon Aquino, arch-enemy of the Marcos for her prominent role in the protests that overthrew their regime.

Bongbong, convicted of tax evasion in 1995, has always remained loyal to his family and claimed his innocence, despite at least 40 court cases investigating his fortune.

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