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The son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. won Philippine’s presidential elections this week, a victory that has raised questions about the future of the Southeast Asian nation’s democratic values and its stance against China’s increasing influence in the region, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. – also known as Bongbong – secured nearly 31 million votes in early returns, more than double those of his closest rival.
Marcos will take office in June for a six-year term with Sara Duterte – the daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte – as his vice president.
Political analysts believe the newcomer will continue the policies of his predecessor: Duterte attempted to foster closer relations with China and Russia while clashing with the United States, the Philippines’ traditional ally. Still, he maintained close ties with Washington and walked back previous efforts to break a defense pact between the two countries.
However, analysts added that it’s unclear whether this trend with the US will continue. They say it will depend on how the Biden administration responds to Marcos. Washington has been trying to counter China’s increasing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Observers added that Marcos himself has not been transparent about his foreign policy stance: While he said he would continue the Philippines’ alliance with the US, Marcos has also expressed interest in pursuing closer ties with China.
The situation is complicated due to the US’ support for the administration that took power after his father was deposed in the 1980s. In 2011, a US District Court fined Marcos Jr. and his mother roughly $354 million for failing to provide information on assets in connection with a 1995 human rights class action suit against Marcos Sr.
The amount has never been paid and could make it difficult for him to visit the US in the future.
Others have also expressed concerns about eroding democratic values in the Philippines, a situation exacerbated by Duterte. Some believe Marcos will crack down on dissent and curb press freedoms while others say it’s unlikely the country will return to the brutal, kleptocratic rule of his late father.