The Philippines Votes

Elections will take place at the national, provincial and municipal levels across the archipelago nation on May 9, but all eyes are on the race to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte.

Sixty-five million registered voters go to the polls in the Philippines on May 9 to elect their next president, congressional officials, provincial governors and mayors.

The slate to succeed Rodrigo Duterte at the Malacañang palace includes a late dictator’s son, a retired international boxing champ, a former action film star who serves as mayor of Manila, an ex-chief of national police, and the female vice president who has led opposition to the 77-year-old president during their six years in office.

Filipino voters will also elect a vice president separately from the president, half of the 24-member Senate, all 316 members of the House of Representatives, and more than 17,700 officials across this archipelago nation, ranging from town and city mayors to provincial governors.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. [Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews]

Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., 64, did not graduate from college but has a “special diploma” in social studies from Oxford University, and in the 1970s attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

His father and namesake ruled the country with an iron fist, leading to reported deaths of thousands during his regime. Authorities believe that Marcos Sr. plundered as much as U.S. $10 billion from the nation’s coffers.

A people’s power revolt in 1986 led to the Marcos family fleeing the country – Bongbong’s father died in Hawaii three years later. The elder Marcos’ widow, Imelda, and their children were allowed to return home and have since restored their political power.

Marcos Jr. is married to Louise Cacho-Araneta, a lawyer and who is believed to have engineered his return to power in what analysts said was a move to clear the family name. He has served in the House and Senate, and as a governor as well.

His eldest of three sons, Ferdinand Alexander, 28, is carrying on the family’s political tradition by running for a House seat this year.

Marcos Jr. has said he plans to “unify” the country if he wins.

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo [Jun Santiago III/BenarNews]

Vice President Leni Robredo

Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, 57, is a lawyer who served in the House of Representatives member before being elected vice president in 2016 – defeating Marcos Jr. She hopes to become only the third woman to be elected as leader of the Southeast Asian nation.

Robredo initially expressed reluctance to join the race, but was persuaded by an opposition coalition as the only candidate who could beat what is seen as an extension of the Duterte administration in Marcos. She has portrayed herself as the stabilizing candidate and the preferred choice of the business community.

She first ran for public office in 2013 after the death of her husband, an interior secretary under Duterte’s predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III.

Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao [Courtesy Pacquiao campaign]

Sen. Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Pacquiao

“Manny” Pacquiao, 43, is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. He is the only man in boxing history to hold world titles in eight different divisions and he is on a first-name basis with Hollywood stars and other global celebrities.

The 5-foot 5-inch athlete grew up poor in southern General Santos city before stowing away on a boat to Manila, where he started his boxing career, earning less than 100 pesos a fight. He was rejected in his attempt to represent the Philippines as an Olympics boxer.

Despite his early setback, Pacquiao’s power and speed in the ring saw him defeat some of the world’s top boxers in major money-making matches.

As Pacquiao’s fame and wealth grew, so did his profile. He parlayed his fame into politics, but failed on his first attempt to be elected to Congress in 2007. He would later win a seat at the House of Representatives, before securing a Senate seat in 2016.

Pacquiao remains one of the most popular politicians in recent memory and allied himself with Duterte over the drug war, but differed with the president over the South China Sea. In addition, he has accused the Duterte government of corruption.

He and his wife, Jinkee, have five children.

Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso [Courtesy Domagoso campaign]

Mayor Francisco Domagoso

Born in Manila’s impoverished Tondo district, Francisco Domagoso, 47, has served as the mayor of the Philippines’ capital city since July 2019. A son of a stevedore and a housewife, Domagoso as a child scavenged for food that his mother prepared for family meals.

A talent scout spotted Domagoso attending a wake in 1993, an encounter that led to him hosting a daily variety show and launching his career in show business. From there, he won a seat on the city council for three consecutive terms through 2004 and was elected to his first term as vice mayor in 2007.

Domagoso studied local legislation at the University of the Philippines and law at the Arellano University in Manila. He also took courses at the executive education programs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.

He lost his Senate race in 2016, but Duterte appointed him to several government posts. Campaigning in 2019, he won his race for Manila mayor, defeating his idol, former President Joseph Estrada, who had also starred in movies.

Pundits have given Domagoso little chance of winning, but he has said that he wanted to strike while the iron was hot.

He has promised to build hospitals and housing units for the poor.

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson [Courtesy Lacson campaign]

Sen. Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson

At 73, Lacson, a former national police chief, is one of the most experienced candidates.

As the country’s former top cop, he endeared himself to the Filipino-Chinese community by taking on kidnapping syndicates who preyed on them. He would later win a seat in the Senate, where he has been seen as a maverick politician.

Some critics have called him a Duterte enabler, but also note that he has called out the president on issues. Lacson portrays himself as a politician who speaks out against corruption.

Lacson authored the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 that was signed by Duterte. Human rights groups have questioned the law, calling it a tool that could be used to stifle dissent.

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Editing: Jason Gutierrez and Imran Vittachi
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