Manila, May 9 (EFE).- Millions of Filipinos headed to the polls on Monday to choose their next president after a polarizing campaign around the frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the late dictator’s son.
Polling stations opened at 6 am and will remain active for 13 hours to guarantee 67 million eligible voters, many of whom are young, a chance to exercise their democratic right amid social distancing measures because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Opinion surveys have predicted a clear victory for Marcos Jr, a human rights lawyer known as ‘Bongbong.’
Marcos is ahead of his closest rival Leni Robredo, the current vice-president, and a former pro bono human rights lawyer, despite his dictator father’s notorious history of human rights abuses, corruption, plunder, and oppression.
One of the earliest voters was Marcos, who deposited his ballot in the provincial capital of Ilocos del Norte, the family’s traditional stronghold.
Marcos is running in tandem with the daughter of incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte, Sara, contesting for the vice presidency.
Duterte is nearing the end of his six-year term. Law does not allow him to run for re-election.
His tenure has deeply polarized the country and left scars from its bloody anti-drug campaign.
The violent drive against drugs has left 6,200 dead, official figures show.
However, human rights groups say security forces killed between 27,000 and 30,000 in the war against drugs, many of them executed in extrajudicial killings.
Despite a massive popularity gap with Marcos, some analysts say Robredo could cause a surprise and that the results could be closer than expected.
Robredo, who has promised good and competent governance, has mobilized hundreds of thousands of people in her campaign and brought together a more progressive and urban electorate.
She has been President Duterte’s bitter critic and has often condemned his drive against drugs.
A widespread disinformation net spread over social media channels through fake news, and personal and vile attacks marred the three-month campaign for the presidential race, which ended on Saturday.
Nobel Peace awardee journalist María Ressa had, for years, warned against the dangers of a disinformation campaign on Facebook and other social media networks.
Having harnessed the power of social media, the Marcoses have successfully rebranded the family name, downplaying or denying the atrocities of the dictator who ruled from 1965 to 1986.
The Marcoses were ousted from power after a peaceful and popular revolution that saw the execution of 3,257 people besides thousands tortured and some $10 billion looted from the public treasury.
However, many Filipinos today regard the Marcoses as modernizers of the country, patriotic, compassionate, and see those years as the golden age of the Philippines.
The polarizing figure of Bongbong Marcos has relegated economic problems stemming from the pandemic to the background during the campaign. The Philippines suffered one of the longest lockdowns in the world.
The country is battling fast-rising inflation that has made fuel costlier and has resulted in a 10 percent hike in transport prices in the first quarter of the year.