Philippines presidential race tests Filipinos’ belief in democracy, but polls show one in two voters prefer dictator’s son

ILOCOS NORTE, Philippines: As a winding line of tourists wait their turn to sample the city’s famous orange pastry, a towering monument looms above them in front of the downtown open-air rotunda.

Welcome to Batac City, the birthplace of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand E Marcos Sr.

The former president was overthrown in a peaceful revolt in 1986 that restored democracy after years of brutal military rule when thousands were killed, tortured and detained without warrants by state forces.

During their 21-year reign, the Marcos family amassed ill-gotten wealth estimated at US$5 billion to US$10 billion from the Philippine government. He plunged the country into debt and efforts to recover state assets continue to this day.

Despite all its notoriety, the Batac monument, as well as a museum glorifying the late strongman, remains a major draw for visitors.


Nowadays, the Marcos effect is apparent even outside the museum. Holding presidential bet campaign paraphernalia, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr are tourists taking selfies. A large campaign poster of Marcos Jr featuring his vice presidential running mate and the current president’s daughter Sara Duterte hangs outside the building.

More than 67 million Filipinos have registered to vote in the May 9 national elections in the Philippines that will decide Rodrigo Duterte’s successor.

Analysts see the 10-man presidential race as a test of Filipino faith in democracy. Mr. Marcos Jr leads the pack by a long way, with an unprecedented one in two voters backing him, based on pre-election surveys that put reformist Vice President Leni Robredo far behind.

“We cannot simply blame the return of the Marcoses to the political forefront as simply being the product of manipulation or misinformation,” said sociologist Nicole Curato, who has conducted research on the preference of voters for Marcos Jr.

“A lot of people are upset with the way the Philippines celebrates democracy but doesn’t really deliver results in terms of improving employment, reducing poverty.

“So I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss Marcos Jr supporters as manipulated people, unthinking people, or people who are just taking intellectual shortcuts,” she told CNA.

The Marcos’ political comeback has riled rights groups, who fear a return to authoritarian and corrupt leadership under the son.

“Almost 35 years (of democracy) and nothing has changed. More and more Filipinos have become poor. We will vote for Marcos Jr. He will bring change to our country,” said one of the tourists from middle-aged came with his family.

Previous Oceaneering International - Consensus indicates upside potential of 51.2%
Next BBM and Leni top final surveys