The prospect of Ferdinand Marcos Jr moving into the presidential palace has alarmed human rights activists and church leaders.
The son of the late Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos closed his presidential election campaign on Saturday with a rowdy rally of hundreds of thousands of supporters, as polls show he is on track for a landslide election victory.
Monday’s election victory would end a decades-long effort to rehabilitate Marcos’ legacy after the patriarch was deposed and the disgraced family driven into exile in the US.
The prospect of Ferdinand Marcos Jr returning to the presidential palace in Manila has alarmed human rights activists, church leaders and political analysts who fear Marcos Jr could rule “without coercion”.
Hundreds of thousands of red-clad Marcos supporters gathered on a dusty wasteland overlooked by a gleaming luxury casino resort on Saturday — a stark reminder of the country’s vast income gap. They waved national flags and gathered in front of a stage with a huge screen of the laughing candidate as Filipino reggae, hip-hop and pop played to a deafening level.
“We will win as long as you stay awake on Monday so that there will be no new tragedy,” Marcos told the crowd, referring to his claims that he was denied victory in the 2016 vice presidential race.
The Marcos family’s remarkable return from pariahs to the pinnacle of political power in the Philippines has been fueled by public anger over corruption and poverty that persisted under governments that followed his father’s dictatorship.
Marcos Jr has run a tightly controlled campaign, skipping televised debates with rivals and largely eschewing media interviews to avoid owning goals before Election Day.
A massive and well-funded social media disinformation campaign targeting a predominantly young electorate with no memory of his father’s violent dictatorship and corrupt rule has also attempted to rewrite family history.
‘Six years of hell’
Human rights defenders and many Catholic priests have publicly urged Marcos Jr to prevent his return to the seat of power in the Malacanang Palace, where he grew up.
“It will be six more years of hell,” warned political satirist and activist Mae Paner, 58, who was part of a popular uprising that ended the previous Marcos regime.
Ten candidates are vying to replace current President Rodrigo Duterte in the landmark election that many see as a make-or-break moment for Philippine democracy.
Polls have shown Marcos Jr. will win more than half of the vote, making him the first presidential candidate to gain an absolute majority since his father was ousted by a people power movement in 1986.
Analysts have warned that such a result would lead to weaker democratic checks and balances, more corruption and another attempt to revise the 1987 constitution, which could lead to the removal of the one-term limit for presidents.
Previous administrations, including Duterte’s, have tried to change the constitution, but have not had enough support in Congress to make changes.
The latest Pulse Asia Research poll showed Marcos Jr. 56 percent – 33 percentage points ahead of his closest rival Leni Robredo, who narrowly beat him in the 2016 vice presidential race.
Such a winning margin would give Marcos Jr the power to “govern as Duterte wanted,” a longtime observer of Philippine politics told AFP.
“That is, without limitation,” he said.
Robredo’s recent poll has sparked hopes among progressive supporters that their volunteer-driven campaign could deliver another shock.
But pollster Ana Maria Tabunda of Pulse Asia Research gave Robredo little hope.
“Our margin of error is only plus or minus two percentage points – given the large difference, this will not affect the results,” Tabunda said.