Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. inaugurated as President of the Philippines

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MANILA — Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator Ferdinand Emmanuel Marcos, was sworn into office Thursday, sealing a decades-long family comeback.

Marcos Jr., 64, won a landslide victory in May’s general election. More than 30 million votes were cast for him, making Marcos the first presidential candidate to win a majority since the revolution that ousted his father 36 years ago. His election indicates an enduring preference for populist leaders among Filipinos – who have been ruled for the past six years by the hard-line Rodrigo Duterte, best known internationally for a war on drugs that has left thousands dead.

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Marcos Jr., known as “Bongbong,” takes office as the Philippines’ economy begins to recover from the pandemic. It is one of the fastest growing nations in Southeast Asia and many Covid restrictions have been lifted. But inflation remains a threat and poor infrastructure is an impediment to growth. The president must also balance relations between a confident China, the regional giant, and the United States, a treaty ally.

Washington was represented at the ceremony, held at the capital’s National Museum, by a delegation led by Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff.

Hundreds of supporters spread out on the lawn of the golf course in front of the museum. Sheryl Patalinhog Velez, 25, donned a red dress given to her by her mother, which she matched with green accents to match the colors of the Marcos campaign. She said it took her a month to make the dress, using recycled material such as bottle caps arranged to look like “a sun for Sir BBM,” she said, using Marco’s nickname. She also wore a makeshift ring, which she says symbolizes a “cute” Imelda, his mother.

She added that she dressed up hoping to get noticed “so they can adopt me or give me a job.”

There were no fears of clashes between supporters and opponents or brutal police action, and Thursday’s protests for and against Marcos were non-violent.

Survivors of the elder Marcos’ autocratic regime — including an estimated 70,000 incarcerated and tens of thousands tortured — held a separate ceremony outside the capital in Quezon City, pledged to “protect themselves from tyranny.”

“The survivors are a vanishing race, if not an endangered species, and now is the time to correct untruths and expose the truth,” said Tina Bawagan, a spokeswoman for the survivors. “Most of us that are left are in the last quarter of our lives. We are appalled at how the Marcoses have attempted to deny this dark and cruel period of history.”

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At another anti-Marcos demonstration, this time in Plaza Miranda, near the inauguration site, 200 people gathered to protest. They were temporarily reassured by a flyby of three military jets from the nearby ceremony and then booed.

“There is no difference between Marcos and Duterte,” the crowd chanted. “They are both lap dogs, dictators and fascists!”

In his inaugural address, Marcos Jr. reiterated the unity message he gave during the campaign that he was here to bring all Filipinos together, citing his father’s years in power.

“He made it,” Marcos Jr. said. “It will be the same with his son.” Shortly after, however, the president said he “won’t talk about the past.”

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The Marcos family is estimated to have looted around $10 billion in two decades in power marked by rights abuses. But the new president benefited from an elaborate disinformation and rebranding campaign on social media.

The Philippine political system is dominated by family dynasties and a tradition of patronage. Marcos’ mother, Imelda, now 92, attended the dedication. She was convicted of bribery but never imprisoned. His sister Imee is a senator and his eldest son Ferdinand Alexander will serve as legislator.

The new Vice President is Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of the outgoing President. She was sworn in earlier this month, but didn’t assume the vice presidency until Thursday.

On the campaign trail, Marcos skipped debates and interviews. He offered few policy details, instead issuing a vague promise of unity. Several of the senior economic officials he named served in the administration of liberal former President Benigno Aquino III, whose family was a political rival to the Marcoses.

So far in the cabinet, there has been “almost a head-to-head balance between political and technocratic appointments,” said economist Ronald Mendoza, dean of the Ateneo School of Government.

The Marcos family can calm critics by actively promoting reform, he added. “Otherwise they would have missed… a golden opportunity to try to revive her [Marcos reputation],” he said. “I don’t think you’ll get that opportunity for the entire clan again.”

But critics fear that a Marcos presidency will spell a setback for institutional reform in a fledgling democracy rife with corruption. Human rights activists are noting that the president has promised to continue his predecessor’s war on drugs, despite saying he would do so legally. Duterte-Carpio’s position of high office also means that the new government will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation into her father’s deadly policies.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/06/29/philippines-ferdinand-bongbong-marcos-inauguration-president/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_world Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. inaugurated as President of the Philippines

Dustin Huang

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