Dictator Marcos’ son emerges as front-runner for Philippines presidency

Presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son of late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, waves to supporters next to vice-presidential aspirant Sara Duterte, daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, during a caravan ride in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, Dec 8.

HANOI — A familiar name is seemingly the front-runner to be the next president of the Philippines ahead of the election scheduled for May.

The presidential campaign of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the 64-year-old ex-senator who is the son of the former Philippine president and dictator, is gaining traction, especially among the younger generation.

The eldest son of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. (1917-1989), whose dictatorship lasted from the 1970s through the 1980s, has made skillful use of social media to attract young people who know little about his father’s reign.

Critics have decried how he has avoided discussing his father’s tyranny.

In October, Marcos announced his intention to run for president. That same month, in a video posted on Marcos’ YouTube channel that has been viewed more than 2.6 million times, Marcos appears with his eldest son, Sandro, who is 27. The two watch videos of supporters dancing and Marcos says he gets a warm feeling from seeing these images.

Much of the channel’s content is aimed at appealing to young people, such as scenes of Marcos and his children playing games together.

Marcos is seen as one of the leading contenders in the presidential election. One poll shows Marcos being supported by 47% of respondents, well ahead of Vice President Leni Robredo, 56, who is in second place with 18%.

His campaign’s ability to reach out to young people is seen as a major factor behind his popularity.

He has made much use of YouTube, where young people spend lots of time. Marcos’ channel has 1.69 million subscribers, more than double the number of the other candidates.

Marcos has poured energy into his youth strategy because that generation did not experience his father’s dictatorship.

Marcos Sr. ruled until his government was overthrown in the 1986 People Power Revolution.

His regime imprisoned and executed numerous dissidents, terrible memories for the middle-aged and elderly people who lived through those times.

Romanticizing the past

From 2010, Marcos spent six years as a senator. He has also served in the lower house and as governor of Ilocos Norte in northern Luzon Island. The Marcos family is powerful in the province and has a strong following in Luzon.

In the presidential race, Marcos is working with Sara Duterte, the 43-year-old vice presidential candidate who is the eldest daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, 76. Marcos hopes to win votes from Duterte’s base on the southern island of Mindanao.

However, he has faced criticism for failing to address the sins of his father. Some of Marcos social media posts have romanticized his father.

Claims that former first lady Imelda Marcos, 92, who was sentenced to prison, is actually innocent have also spread. The involvement of Marcos’ supporters is suspected in some cases.

Dennis Coronacion, assistant professor at the University of Santo Tomas and an expert on Philippine politics, expressed concerns that much of the information related to Marcos on social media is not factual and may influence public opinion.