Dictator’s son Marcos sworn in as Philippine president

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the namesake son of an ousted dictator, was sworn in on Thursday as president of the Philippines in one of the greatest political comebacks in recent history. , but opponents say it was taken down by whitewashing his family image.

His rise to power, 36 years after an army-backed “people power” uprising brought his father into disrepute, upended the politics of Asian democracies, where public holidays, monuments and the Philippine constitution reminded him of his father’s tyranny.

Activists and survivors of the martial law era under his father protested against Marcos Jr.’s inauguration, which took place at noon on the steps of the National Museum of Manila. Thousands of police officers, including riot contingents, SWAT commandos and snipers, were deployed in the tourist area of ​​the Gulf to ensure safety.

Foreign dignitaries including Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and Doug Emhoff, husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, were present.

“Wow, did this really happen?” asked Bonifacio Ilagan, a 70-year-old activist who was detained and severely tortured by suppressing rebel forces during the rule of Marcos Sr. before his inauguration. “It’s been a nightmare for martial law victims like me.”

This historical baggage and confrontation will be plagued by serious crises during Marcos’ six-year presidency.

The Philippines has been one of the worst-hit countries in Asia by the two-year coronavirus pandemic after more than 60,000 deaths and an extended lockdown plunged the economy into its worst recession since World War II and exacerbated poverty, unemployment and hunger. Earlier this year, as the outbreak eased, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent global inflation soaring and raised fears of food shortages.

Last week, Marcos announced he would serve as agriculture secretary on an interim basis to prepare for a possible food supply emergency. “I think the problem is serious enough,” he said, adding that he had asked his key advisers to be prepared for “emergencies, especially with regard to food supplies.”

He also inherits decades-old Muslim and communist insurgencies, crime, gaping inequality and political divisions inflamed by his election.

Congress last month declared him and his running mate, Sarah Duterte, the outgoing president’s daughter, a landslide victory in the vice presidential race.

“I ask you to pray for me and wish me luck. I want to do well, because when the president does well, the country does well,” he said after a statement from Congress, without answering any questions.

Marcos got over 31 million votes and Sarah Duterte got over 32 million in the May 9 election – a huge victory that would provide them with strong political capital because They face enormous challenges and doubts from the following aspects. their father’s reputation. It was the Philippines’ first victory for a majority president in decades.

The International Criminal Court is investigating the possibility that outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte presided over a brutal anti-drug campaign that killed thousands of mostly poor suspects in unprecedented killings of crimes against humanity. The investigation was suspended in November, but the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has called for an immediate resumption.

Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte faced calls to help prosecute her father and cooperate with the International Court of Justice when they took office, a looming political dilemma.

The former governor, congressman and Senator Marcos Jr. has refused to admit or apologize for the massive human rights abuses and looting under his father and defend his legacy.

During the campaign, he and Sarah Duterte avoided contentious issues and focused on calls for national unity, even as their father’s presidency opened some of the most volatile divisions in the country’s history. Marcos called for “not to be judged by my ancestors, but by my actions.”

His father, who was ousted in 1986 by a largely peaceful democratic uprising and died in exile in Hawaii in 1989, has not admitted any wrongdoing, including accusations that he, his family and cronies were in office During this period, about 5 billion to 10 billion US dollars have been accumulated.

A Hawaii court later found him responsible for human rights violations and awarded $2 billion in restitution to more than 9,000 Filipinos who sued him for torture, imprisonment, extrajudicial executions and disappearances.

In 1991, Imelda Marcos and her children were allowed to return to the Philippines and reinvigorated the surname with the help of a well-funded social media campaign.

Marcos is allied with Sara Duterte, whose father remains popular despite his human rights record and a powerful member of one of the country’s most recognizable political dynasties. Name recall that helped him win the presidency. Many Filipinos are still poor and disenchanted with a post-Marcos government, said Manila-based analyst Richard Heydarian.

“These have allowed the Marcos family to present themselves as an alternative,” Heydarian said, adding that “the unregulated social media environment has allowed their disinformation network to rebrand the dark days of martial law as the so-called the imprint of the Philippine Golden Age.”

Along Metro Manila’s main avenues, the shrines and monuments of democracy erected after Marcos’ fall in 1986 are prominent. The anniversary of his ouster is celebrated every year as a special national holiday, and a presidential commission that has worked for decades to recover the Marcos family’s ill-gotten gains remains in place.

Marcos Jr. did not explain how he would deal with such stark reminders of the past.

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