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Who is Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Philippines' new president?

Ana P. Santos | Leah Carter
June 30, 2022

Marcos Jr., the namesake son of an ousted dictator, has been sworn in as Philippine president. Experts say his newfound popularity is the result of a decades-long campaign to improve the family's public image.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. gestures to the crowd at a campaign rally in Paranaque city, Philippines
Marcos Jr. has seen widespread popularity among young people who do not remember his father's ruleImage: Aaron Favila/AP/picture alliance

Nearly 50 years after his father and late president declared martial law in the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. became president after his recent electoral triumph. 

Marcos Jr.'s ascension to the presidency makes for a stunning political comeback for his family, which has become synonymous with the massive accumulation of ill-gotten wealth and human rights violations.

His late father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., was toppled in a 1986 uprising after holding power with an iron fist for two decades.

In his inaugural speech on Thursday, Marcos Jr. defended the legacy of his late father, who he said accomplished many things that were not done since the country's independence, adding he would follow in his footsteps.

"He got it done, sometimes with the needed support, sometimes without. So will it be with his son," he said. "You will get no excuses from me."

He also praised the infrastructure projects by his equally controversial predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.

Marcos Jr.'s running mate in the election — Sara Duterte, the daughter of Duterte — was sworn in as vice president earlier this month.

Marcos Jr. wins Philippines presidency

A likely continuation of Duterte policies 

Marcos, 64, has not presented many details about his policies, but is expected to carry ahead the same approach as his predecessor Duterte, pursuing a ruthless consolidation of power.

Critics say Marcos is attempting to rewrite the family's controversial history for a youthful electorate, though they believe he is unlikely to replicate his father's authoritarian style of ruling.

"He made promises [in his campaign] that played well with the public but aren't particularly practicable. So his campaign has focused on gut issues, such as the rising cost of living, and lowering electricity [prices]. But he is providing a vague notion of what he is able to achieve, making it seem more straightforward than it actually is, and people seem to be buying it," said DW Correspondent Janelle Dumalaon.

"A historic moment for the Philippines": DW's Georg Mathes

"This is the battle of the heart and soul of the country," Nicole Curato, a sociologist and political analyst, told DW.

"I don't mean to suggest that Marcos Jr. will impose martial law like his father did, but he will have the executive power to undermine institutions that were created in response to his father's abuse of power," she added.

A deades-long public image revamp

Marcos Sr. ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986 and he ruled as dictator under martial law from 1972 until 1981. During those years, more than 60,000 people were detained, over 30,000 tortured, and an estimated 3,000 were killed, according to rights groups. He was overthrown in a peaceful revolution in 1986 and died in 1989 while living in exile in Hawaii.

After the Marcos family was allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991, Marcos Jr. and his mother Imelda quickly moved back into politics. Imelda Marcos was elected to congress for four terms.

Marcos Jr. spent 21 years in public office, serving in the legislature and as governor of the family's stronghold in the province of Ilocos Norte. He unsuccessfully ran for vice president in 2016.

Philippines heads to polls

Many have said that Marcos' rise to power is the result of a decades-long attempt to improve the image of the family, also through social media. An online campaign across YouTube and Facebook has attempted to frame the time under Marcos Sr. not as a period rife with human rights abuses and corruption, but rather as a time of low crime and prosperity.

A series of questionably edited videos has also sought to convince Filipinos that the stories of corruption on the part of the Marcos family were untrue. Marcos Jr. has also seen widespread popularity among young people who do not remember his father's rule. 

Edited by: Srinivas Mazumdaru