By JIM GOMEZ – Associated Press
MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was named the next president of the Philippines by a joint session of Congress on Wednesday after a landslide election victory 36 years after his dictator father was ousted in a pro-democracy uprising.
The Senate and House of Representatives also declared that his separately elected vice presidential running mate, Sara Duterte, had won by a wide margin. She is the daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, whose turbulent six-year term ends on June 30.
They will lead a nation ravaged by COVID-19 lockdowns, crushing poverty, gaping inequalities, Muslim and Communist uprisings, crime and political divisions further fueled by the May 9 elections.
With his 92-year-old mother, Imelda Marcos, his wife, family and siblings beside him, Marcos Jr.’s hands were raised by the Senate Speaker and Speaker of the House in a plenary hall decorated with a huge Philippine flag to celebrate applause from the audience, including diplomats.
“I am humbled,” he later told reporters. “I thank our people and I promise you that we may not be perfect, but we will always strive for perfection.”
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“I ask you all to pray for me, to wish me the best. I want to do it right, because if the president does it right, the country is doing well,” he said without questioning.
Marcos Jr., a 64-year-old former governor, congressman and senator, has refused to acknowledge or apologize for massive human rights violations and looting under his father’s rule and has defended his legacy.
When they take office, Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte are likely to face demands to prosecute her father for thousands of murders of mostly poor suspects during his years of crackdown on illegal drugs. The dead are currently under investigation by the International Criminal Court.
Marcos Jr. received more than 31 million votes and Sara Duterte more than 32 million of the more than 55 million votes cast in the election. It was the first majority presidential victory in Asian democracy in decades.
During the campaign, they avoided controversial issues and focused on a call for national unity, even though their fathers’ presidents sparked some of the most fleeting divisions in the country’s history. Marcos Jr. appealed to be judged “not by my ancestors, but by my actions.”
sen. Imee Marcos, his sister, thanked those who voted for him after what she described as decades of “mockery and oppression.”
“We are very grateful for a second chance,” she told reporters before the proclamation. “Our family has been through a lot and after 1986 we have faced all kinds of affairs, ridicule and oppression for almost four decades.
At the campaign headquarters of Marcos Jr. supporters waved Philippine flags, flashed the victory sign and held a garland to congratulate him and Sara Duterte.
Yet both are haunted by their father’s reputation.
Riot police used a water cannon and shields to prevent several hundred activists from marching to Congress to oppose Wednesday’s proclamations, which injured at least 14 protesters, the left-wing group Bayan said.
“Ferdinand Sr. has tortured many people, many have been killed and many are still missing. There is no justice for their families. Many died of starvation and that was also the case in Duterte’s period,” protester Mimi Domingo said.
Last week, human rights activists filed a petition with the Supreme Court against Marcos Jr.’s eligibility, citing his previous tax conviction. They asked the court to block his proclamation, but no such order was issued. The complaint was previously rejected by the Elections Commission.
His father was ousted from power in a largely peaceful “People Power” uprising in 1986 and died in 1989 while in exile in Hawaii without admitting wrongdoing, including charges that he, his family and cronies cost an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion while he was in power.
A Hawaii court later found him liable for human rights violations and awarded $2 billion from his estate to compensate more than 9,000 Filipinos who filed lawsuits against him for torture, incarceration, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
Imelda Marcos and her children were allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991 and have worked on a stunning political comeback, aided by a well-funded social media campaign to revive the family name.
Along the main street of metropolitan Manila are the democracy shrines and monuments erected after the demise of Marcos. The anniversary of his impeachment is celebrated every year as a special national holiday, and a presidential commission still exists that has worked for decades to recover ill-gotten wealth.
Marcos Jr. has not explained how he will deal with such relics from the past.
“What happens to all the monuments that commemorate all those lost lives? What happens to all those monuments that celebrate our collective victories?” asked Pio Abad, a Filipino artist who opened an art exhibition last month that focused on the extravagant lifestyle of the Marcoses when they were in power amid the country’s appalling poverty.
“History is at stake and that is probably one of the biggest risks for me,” said Abad, whose activist father was detained after the dictator imposed martial law in 1972.
Associated Press journalists Joeal Calupitan and Aaron Favila contributed to this report.
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