However, it may take weeks for official results to be confirmed†
The rise of Marcos Jr, known in the Philippines as “Bongbong,” is the culmination of a decades-long effort to change the name and image of the Marcos family, most recently via social media, analysts say.
Marcos Jr is the son and namesake of former authoritarian leader Ferdinand Marcos Sr, whose 21-year rule was marked by human rights abuses and looting of the state treasury.
The former senator thanked his supporters for their faith in him late in a speech on Monday.
“Even though the counting isn’t over yet, I can’t wait to thank you all… to those who helped, to those who joined our fight, to those who sacrificed,” he said.
During campaigns, Marcos Jr. walked on a platform of “unity” and has promised more jobs, lower prices and more investment in agriculture and infrastructure. Political analysts say Marcos Jr is appealing to Filipinos tired of the political bickering and promises of progress and economic reform from successive governments that many feel have failed to help ordinary people.
He led by more than 30 percentage points ahead of Monday’s vote, according to opinion polls.
Marcos Jr’s running mate for vice president is Sara Duterte Carpio, the daughter of populist outgoing leader Rodrigo Duterte. Many of their supporters are voting for a continuation of Duterte’s policies, including his controversial “war on drugs.”
Partial and unofficial results show that Duterte Carpio is also leading the race for the vice presidency. The Vice President is elected separately from the President in the Philippines.
Robredo, who has positioned herself as an advocate for good governance, transparency and human rights throughout her campaigns, told her supporters on Monday: “We’re not done yet, we’re just getting started.”
Her grassroots campaign was driven by an army of civilian volunteers going from house to house to solicit votes, and her rallies consistently drew hundreds of thousands of people.
Marcos Jr linked his campaign to his father’s legacy, with his “rise again” slogan tapping into the nostalgia of some who saw the period under Marcos Sr. as a golden age for the country.
Supporters of the Marcos family say the period was a time of progress and prosperity, marked by the construction of major infrastructure such as hospitals, roads and bridges. Critics say that was an illusion and that those projects were driven by widespread corruption, foreign borrowing and mounting debt.
According to human rights groups, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured or killed during the martial law from 1972 to 1981. The Philippines’ Presidential Commission on Good Governance (PCGG), tasked with recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the family and their associates, estimates that approximately $10 billion has been stolen from the Philippine people. Dozens of businesses are still active.
The Marcos family has repeatedly denied abuses under martial law and used state funds for personal use. Campaigners say the Marcoses have never been held fully accountable and victims of martial law are still fighting for justice.
Marcos Jr was 29 when his family was driven into exile in Hawaii following a People Power revolution that overthrew his father’s regime in 1986. Marcos Sr. died in exile three years later, but his family returned in 1991 and became wealthy, influential politicians, with successive relatives representing their dynastic stronghold of Ilocos Norte.
Journalist Maria Ressa, winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize and president and chief executive of local media outlet Rappler, told CNN that a Marcos victory would “shine not just Filipinos, but the world, the impact of disinformation on a democracy.” shows.
“He will determine the future of this country, but at the same time its past.”
Marcos Jr appears to be replacing President Duterte, who is known internationally for his crackdown on civil society and the media and a bloody war on drugs that police say has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people. Despite his human rights record and the Covid-19 pandemic, which exacerbated the hunger crisis in the country, Duterte remains hugely popular domestically.
Analysts say there is an opportunity for a reset of the Philippines’ relations with both superpowers — and the outcome of the vote could shift the balance of power in Asia.
CNN’s Yasmin Coles and Simone McCarthy contributed coverage.