The Philippine Congress has officially proclaimed Ferdinand Marcos Jr. the country’s 17th president, completing his family’s remarkable rehabilitation nearly four decades after it was driven into exile following an army-backed popular uprising.
In a joint session yesterday, the Senate and House of Representatives declared that Marcos and vice presidential running mate, Sara Duterte, the daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, had both won by a wide margin.
“I’m humbled,” he later told reporters, the Associated Press reported. “I thank our people and, beyond that, I promise you that we may not be perfect but we will always strive to perfection.”
“I ask you all pray for me, wish me well. I want to do well because when the president does well, the country does well,” he said.
The proclamation followed presidential elections on May 9 that were the most lopsided since the overthrow of Marcos Sr. in 1986. According to provisional results from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Marcos won 31.6 million votes, or 58.8 percent of the total, against his main rival, Vice President Leni Robredo who garnered just over 15 million votes. Duterte received 32.2 million votes (61.3 percent), more than triple that of Senator Francis Pangilinan, who won 9.3 million.
Last week, human rights activists asked the Philippine Supreme Court to block the proclamation, over a 1995 conviction for tax evasion. The petition, echoing a number of complaints filed during the three-month election campaign, claims that Marcos should have been barred from running for president because he was convicted of failing to file tax returns in the 1980s and then failing to declare the conviction. The complaint was earlier dismissed by Comelec. However, the Supreme Court is not currently in session, and was unable to rule prior to yesterday’s proclamation.
Acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar described the proclamation as “another historic milestone in our political life as a nation underscoring that we are, indeed, a showcase and beacon of democracy in this part of the world.”
The reality is obviously a good deal more ambiguous. The event marked the final triumph of the Marcos clan 36 years after the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, the son of the president-elect, was driven from power amid a popular uprising that forced the family into exile in Hawaii.
During yesterday’s congressional session, Marcos was accompanied by his wife and three sons, as well as his 92-year-old mother Imelda, the family’s matriarch, who has masterminded the family’s return to the heights of Philippine politics. Since the early 1990s, when the family returned from exile, it has consolidated its control in the clan’s home province of Ilocos Norte, and then branched into other elected offices out via pacts with other powerful political dynasties and the leveraging of its vast masses of pilfered wealth. According to Reuters, Imelda received loud applause from the assembled lawmakers as she posed for pictures.
“We’re very, very grateful for a second chance,” Senator Imee Marcos, his sister, told reporters before the proclamation. “Our family went through a lot and after 1986, we faced all sorts of cases, ridicule and oppression.”
Marcos himself has stepped steadily upward through the political system. In the early 1990s, he was elected congressman representing Ilocos Norte’s second district, after which he served as the province’s governor for three successive terms. He was then elected to the Senate in 2010, before narrowly losing the vice presidential race to Leni Robredo in 2016.
Despite the scope of their victory, the leaders of the new administration will preside over a deeply divided electorate, and face a nearly insuperable host of economic and foreign policy challenges. Critics also worry that they will almost certainly spell an end to the investigations into the fathers of the new president in vice president. In the former case, this is the long-standing (and already weakened) effort to track down the billions pilfered by the Marcoses during Ferdinand Sr.’s years in power. In the latter, it involves a probe of President Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs,” which has killed more people than died during the most repressive years of Martial Law.
Outside, several hundred demonstrators gathered to protest the proclamation, burning large effigies of the new president and vice president. According to the Associated Press, police used a water cannon and riot shields to prevent them from marching to Congress.
“The proclamation of Marcos, Jr. is the culmination of one of the dirtiest campaigns we have witnessed in recent history,” Renato Reyes Jr., the head of the left-wing political coalition Bayan, tweeted yesterday, pointing to the massive campaign of disinformation and red-tagging that accompanied Marcos’ election. (This led one election monitoring group to conclude that this month’s polls, “took place in the most repressive atmosphere seen since the time of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.”)
“The Marcos Restoration and Duterte Extension are now complete,” he wrote, adding, “The people must now continue to fight for genuine freedom and democracy under a second Marcos regime.”