Philippines presidency frontrunner praises ‘genius’ dictator father

The frontrunner in the Philippines presidential race, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, has praised his father – the country’s late dictator – as a “political genius”, and his mother as the dynasty’s “supreme politician”, less than two weeks before an election that could return the Marcos family to power.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, known as Bongbong, has a clear lead in the polls ahead of an election on 9 May, despite his father’s notorious history.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Marcos Jr praised the political skill of his father and his mother, Imelda: “Even my father I don’t think would object if I say [Imelda] is the supreme politician in the family. My father is the statesman, he is the political genius.

“My mother can connect with anyone – from her classmates from I don’t know how many years ago, to the person working in the palengke [wet market], to the queen of England. Everyone becomes her friend,” he said.

Marcos was ousted from power in the 1986 People Power Revolution, but the family returned from exile in the 1990s and has over the decades sought to re-establish their place in politics, including by using social media to rebuild their reputation.

His son’s campaign and supporters have been accused of seeking to rewrite history, and of coordinated efforts to spread online misinformation and attack opponents. In January, Twitter suspended hundreds of accounts that were promoting Marcos Jr’s campaign for violating its rules on spam and manipulation. Marcos Jr denied the existence of any such organised social media networks.

Marcos Jr has denied or downplayed allegations related to his father’s rule. It’s estimated that as much as $10bn was plundered by the family. Under martial law, which was imposed by Marcos in 1972, 34,000 people were tortured, 3,240 people were killed and 70,000 were imprisoned, according to Amnesty International.

Imelda Marcos, whose infamous shoe collection became a symbol of the family’s excess, has previously said it was her son’s destiny to become president. However, Marcos Jr said that, while he had consulted his mother over whether to run for president, it was his own decision.

Bonifacio Ilagan, who was detained during the rule of Marcos Sr, and who is a convener of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law, said it was the Marcos family’s dream “to reclaim their lost glory”.

“I will be the last one to believe that the Marcos family is not involved in the scheme to get the Marcoses back in power,” he said.

Should Marcos become president, there would be little hope of achieving justice, said Ilagan. “So much of what has happened will be negated in terms of the [People Power Revolution] uprising … It will also mean the victims of the violations of human rights during his father’s dictatorship will never be able to find justice.”

While a law has been passed to provide compensation to victims of martial law, funds amassed by the family are yet to be fully recovered. “We still want the Marcoses to return the billions of dollars that they stole from government,” he said.

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