Marcos Jr. finishes decades-long effort to restore family name

John Bechtel
Marcos Jr. finishes decades-long effort to restore family name Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (seated) signs a document after being sworn in as Philippine president, as his family (right) and Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo (left) look on, in Manila, June 30, 2022.
[Aaron Favila/AP]

Announcing he is ready to lead the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took the presidential oath of office on Thursday before returning to his boyhood home, the Malacañang Palace.

The son and namesake of the nation’s notorious dictator, Ferdinand E. Marcos, he campaigned on uniting the country. After being sworn in, the new president, who was 28 when his family exiled to Hawaii, spoke to millions of Filipinos who have not accepted his landslide victory in the May 9 election.

“We are here to repair a house divided, to make it whole and to stand strong again in a bayanihan way, expressive of our nature as Filipinos,” he said during his inaugural address, referring to the Filipino practice of solving challenges together.

“I fully understand the gravity of the responsibility that you’ve put on my shoulders. I do not take it lightly, but I’m ready for the task.”

In the months leading up to the vote, Marcos shunned public debates with other contenders and kept his distance from reporters, even as his main platform plank focused on “unity.”

Throughout the campaign, critics said Marcos managed to whitewash the perception of his father’s brutal legacy by employing legions of social media posters to paint his father as the country’s best-ever president. Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and his family fled the Philippines in 1986 following a people’s power uprising.

On Election Day, 31 million people voted for Marcos including many who bought into the unity call – proving a message once delivered by his mother, Imelda Marcos: “Perception is real and the truth is not.”

“When my call for unity started to resonate with you, it did so because it echoed your yearning, mirrored your sentiments and expressed your hopes for your family, the country and a better future,” he said in his inaugural address.

One of his supporters, Ernesto Lomuntad said he expected Marcos’ rivals would soon reconcile with him.

“I think it’s divinely orchestrated. God has a plan for this,” Lomuntad told BenarNews at the inauguration. “I hope forgiveness among political rivals will come soon for the country’s benefit.”

On Thursday, some of those rivals were not ready to forgive and forget as thousands gathered in Manila to protest. A video posted on Twitter showed demonstrators in New York’s Times Square as well.

Also on Thursday, the chairman of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines issued a statement saying the inauguration and the “diplomatic congratulations of some heads of states cannot mask the deeply flawed recent election process and the premonitions of deeper crisis for the Filipino people.

“Marcos Jr. is the dictator’s son who lived luxuriously while the Filipino people languished in poverty and repression back then. He has expressed zero remorse for the horrors of martial law but rather has spent millions to try to erase that record through paid dis- and misinformation,” Peter Murphy said in a news release on the coalition’s website.

“It is Marcos Jr. who has been co-sponsored into the presidency by the outgoing Duterte who has surpassed the crimes of Marcos Sr. and sanitized his image,” Marcos Jr.’s running mate, Vice President Sara Duterte, is the daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte,” the statement added.

Earlier this week, the coalition’s International Observer Mission issued its final report on the May 9 vote, concluding it failed to meet the international standard “for a free, honest and fair election.”

“Vote counting was neither transparent nor reliable because of the failure of so many VCMs [vote counting machines]. Nor was the declared vote count credible because of the unbelievable speed in the transmission of election returns, the extraordinary loss of almost 900,000 votes by the Bayan Muna Partylist, and the election of only one opposition Senate candidate, Risa Hontiveros, out of 12 Senate positions up for election,” it said in the executive summary.

Marcos’ victory avenged his loss to Leni Robredo in the 2016 race for vice president who finished a distant second and has been seen as the culmination of a three-decade effort by the family to regain political power.


Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and his wife, Imelda, pose for a family portrait with their children Ferdinand Jr., Irene and Imee in Manila, November 1969. [AP file photo]

The senior Marcos instituted martial law as president before fleeing the country with about $10 billion from the nation’s coffers. Following his death in Hawaii in 1989, family members returned to the Philippines and began their political journey that led to Thursday’s inauguration.

Diary entry

Marcos’ parents wanted him to follow in his father’s footsteps but expressed concerns, according to a diary entry 50 years ago

“Bongbong is our principal worry. He is too carefree and lazy,” Marcos Sr. wrote, using his son’s nickname. “[T]he boy must get character. … The boy must realize his weakness – the carefree wayward ways that may have been bred in him.”

As he campaigned, Marcos Jr. refused to apologize for alleged widespread abuses committed by his father and instead portrayed the elder’s reign as a golden age in Philippine history.

The new president, who previously served as a local governor and in congress and the senate, did not graduate from college but has a “special diploma” in social studies from Oxford University. He also attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in the 1970s.

Outgoing Sen. Leila de Lima, a leading opposition politician who lost her bid for re-election even though she was jailed, called Marcos’ victory a sign of bad things to come.

“This is bad for the country. There would be no good governance as we know it. Cronyism and dynasty will thrive,” said de Lima, who has been jailed on what she calls trumped up charges that she received funds from illegal drug syndicates.

Journalists also raised concerns about the incoming Marcos administration.

“All these restrictive actions undermine a critical and free press in an Asian bulwark of democracy and have sparked fears on how independent media would be treated under another possible Marcos presidency,” the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines said following the vote.


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