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Son of dictator Marcos has big lead in Philippine presidential vote count

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Son of dictator Marcos has big lead in Philippine presidential vote count
Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. cast a ballot in the town of Batac, Ilocos Norte province, on Monday, ahead of what appears to be a resounding victory in the race for the Philippine presidency. Photo by Bernie Sipin Dela Cruz/EPA-EFE

MANILA, May 9 (UPI) -- Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the 64-year-old son and namesake of the infamous dictator who ruled for the Philippines for 20 years, appeared headed to a landslide victory in the country's presidential election on Monday evening with an enormous lead over main challenger Leni Robredo in an early unofficial tally.

As of 10 p.m. local time, Marcos Jr. led Vice President Robredo by almost 12 million votes, according to data shared with local media by the Philippines Commissions on Election. Marcos had captured 59.66% of the vote to Robredo's 28.25% with over 68% of precincts reporting.

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Philippine voters turned out in large numbers Monday to choose the country's successor to strongman President Rodrigo Duterte, whose checkered, controversial -- and highly popular -- six years in office is coming to an end after a constitutionally mandated single term.

Marcos Jr., widely known as Bongbong, is running on a unified ticket with vice presidential candidate Sara Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing president.

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Long lines were found at polling stations around the country, with vote-counting machine malfunctions and reports of sporadic violence at election centers adding to a tense air after a deeply divisive campaign season.

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Marcos Jr. was boosted by a widespread online disinformation campaign, fact checkers and media watchdogs said, which spun his father's brutal period of martial law and plunder as a golden era for the Philippines. At the same time, Robredo was attacked with everything from red-baiting to accusations of electoral fraud in her 2016 vice presidential victory over Marcos Jr.

Nobel laureate Maria Ressa, who co-founded Philippine news site Rappler, told UPI in an interview that the Philippines has been "ground zero" for political disinformation campaigns dating back to the 2016 election of Duterte and said the results of Monday's election would resonate around the world.

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"[This election] is existential for the Philippines," she said. "It is emblematic of the corrosive impact of disinformation, how it tears a democracy apart by going person to person and literally making people believe lies."

Lines snaked down the street at one polling station in central Manila, with some voters saying it had taken over an hour to cast a ballot.

Red Dela Pena, 38, said the wait was worth it to cast the first vote of his life Monday -- for Bongbong Marcos.

RELATED Ferdinand Marcos Jr. favored to win pivotal Philippines election

"He sounds so genuine when he speaks," Dela Pena said. "He genuinely wants to help the Philippines. I can hear it in his voice, I can see it in his eyes."

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