Dictator’s son Marcos Jr sworn in as Philippine president

His landslide victory was proclaimed last month.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the namesake son of an ousted dictator, has been sworn in as Philippine president.

His rise to power, 36 years after an army-backed People Power revolt booted his father to global infamy, upends politics in the Asian democracy, where a public holiday, monuments and the Philippine Constitution stand as reminders of his father’s tyrannical rule.

Activists and survivors of the martial law-era under his father protested Mr Marcos Jr’s inauguration, which took place at a noontime ceremony at the steps of the National Museum in Manila.

Thousands of police officers, including anti-riot contingents, SWAT commandos and snipers, were deployed in the bayside tourist district for security.

Philippines Marcos
Mr Marcos Jr, left, with outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, right, at Mr Marcos’ inauguration ceremony (Francis R Malasig/Pool Photo via AP)

Chinese vice president Wang Qishan and US vice president Kamala Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, were among foreign dignitaries attending.

The Philippines has been among the worst-hit countries in Asia by the two-year coronavirus pandemic, after more than 60,000 deaths and extended lockdowns sent the economy to its worst recession since the Second World War and worsened poverty, unemployment and hunger.

As the pandemic was easing early this year, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent global inflation soaring and sparked fears of food shortages.

Last week, Mr Marcos Jr announced he would serve as secretary of agriculture temporarily after he takes office to prepare for possible food supply emergencies.

“I think the problem is severe enough”, he said, adding he has asked his key advisers to brace for “emergency situations, especially when it comes to food supply”.

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

Congress last month proclaimed his landslide victory, as well as that of his running mate Sara Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing president, in the vice- presidential race.

“I ask you all pray for me, wish me well. I want to do well because when the president does well, the country does well,” he said after his congressional proclamation without taking any questions.

Mr 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 May 9 election — massive victories that will provide them robust political capital as they face tremendous challenges as well as doubts arising from their fathers’ reputations.

It was the first majority presidential victory in the Philippines in decades.

Outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte presided over a brutal anti-drugs campaign that left thousands of mostly poor suspects dead in an unprecedented scale of killings the International Criminal Court (ICC) was investigating as a possible crime against humanity.

The probe was suspended in November, but the ICC chief prosecutor has asked that it be resumed immediately.

Philippines Vice President
Philippine vice president Sara Duterte (Manman Dejeto/AP)

Mr Marcos Jr and Sara Duterte have faced calls to help prosecute her father and cooperate with the international court when they take office, a looming political dilemma.

Mr Marcos Jr, a former governor, congressman and senator, has refused to acknowledge or apologise for massive human rights violations and plunder under his father’s rule and has defended his legacy.

During the campaign, he and Sara Duterte avoided controversial issues and focused on a call for national unity, although their fathers’ presidencies opened some of the most volatile divisions in the country’s history.

His father was forced from power by a largely peaceful pro-democracy uprising in 1986 and died in 1989 while in exile in Hawaii without admitting any wrongdoing, including accusations that he, his family and cronies amassed an estimated 5 billion to 10 billion US dollars (£4.1 billion to £8.2 billion) while in office.

A Hawaii court later found him liable for human rights violations and awarded 2 billion dollars to more than 9,000 Filipinos who filed a lawsuit against him for torture, incarceration, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.

Along metropolitan Manila’s main avenue, democracy shrines and monuments erected after Mr Marcos’ 1986 downfall stand prominently.

The anniversary of his ouster is celebrated each year as a special national holiday, and a presidential commission that has worked for decades to recover ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses still exists.

Mr Marcos Jr has not explained how he will deal with such stark reminders of the past.

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