Filipinos Elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to Be Their Next President

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    Marcos Jr. secured 58.74 percent of the votes cast in 2022's Philippine presidential election as of May 11, with 98.32 percent of the precincts reporting, in an unofficial count from the Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC). Marcos Jr.'s votes on Wednesday were twice the total of his nearest competitor, current Philippine Vice-President Leni Robredo. This year's Philippine presidential election, part of a general election, was held on May 9.

    Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is also known as “Bongbong,” delivered an unofficial acceptance speech on May 11 live on his Facebook page. His campaign team described him as the “presumptive [Philippine] president Bongbong Marcos.”

    Marcos Jr. revealed during his speech that he'd already taken a few preliminary steps in connection with his presumed victory on May 11 and nominated his vice president running partner, Sara Duterte, to oversee the responsibility for the Philippine Education Secretary. “[O]ur incoming vice president has agreed to take the brief of the Department of Education,” Marcos Jr. told a crowd of local and foreign media reporters on the streets of Manila in his address.

    Sara Duterte, the daughter of current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, secured 61.28 percent of the votes counted in the election for the 2022 Philippine vice-presidential term and was elected independently from the new president on May 11. Both the governments of China and the United States on May 10 and May 11, respectively, released statements expressing their appreciation for Marcos Jr.'s presumed presidency of the Philippines.

    Marcos Jr., aged 64, is the son of deceased Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, who occupied the position of Philippine president from 1965 until 1986 in what some have called a “dictatorial” or “autocratic” period. Marcos Sr. was himself a partner to the U.S. government in staving off the spread of communism across the Philippines and the Pacific region during the 1980s. A popularly referred to “People Power” revolution ousted Marcos Sr. from the Philippine presidency in 1986. Washington assisted in his exile to the U.S. state of Hawaii immediately following his deposal through granting Marcos “adequate capacity” to use U.S. military aircraft at Clark Air Force Base, an American military base located on the Philippine Island of Luzon, in order to flee from Manila in the early part of 1986, as the Chicago Tribune reported at the time. Marcos Sr. was accompanied by his family members, including his son Marcos Jr., who was 28 at the time he accepted U.S. military assistance in flying from Clark Air Force Base to the U.S. territory of Guam and then on to the U.S. state of Hawaii in the latter part of February 1986.

    The story of Marcos Sr.'s exile to Hawaii highlights the close relations between Manila and Washington under his long-lasting administration. Clark Air Force base was one of two important U.S. military bases in the Philippines, together with the U.S. Naval Station Subic Bay, that bolstered the American presence not just within the Philippines but also in the strategic South China Sea region for most of the 20th century. Two bases, both situated on Luzon island, are almost completely gone, yet they remain utilized by visitors to U.S. military forces. The Philippine government under the leadership of the current Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, announced plans in January to cooperate with the Chinese government to rebuild Clark Air Force Base and U.S. Naval Station Subic Bay, in part by constructing a railway connecting both sites, a project expected to cost $940 million. As China's state-run press agency Xinhua reported on January 22, “negotiations between the two countries over a loan to finance the project would soon begin,” the U.S. military website Stripes confirmed. “Once completed, the railway will build a resilient linkage between ports, railways, and airports along the Subic-Clark corridor, which will improve the logistic efficiency, trim the transportation cost and support the potential demand for freight services and economic activities in the region,” the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines announced in a press release.

    Marcos Sr. established diplomatic relations with China in 1975. Marcos Jr.'s choice to align in partnership with Sara Duterte, the daughter of the pro-China Philippine Vice President Rodrigo Duterte, indicates that Marcos Jr. will likely keep up his recent efforts in Manila to extend a more open hand towards Beijing. “Marcos [Jr.] has already said he wants to pursue closer ties with China, including disregarding a 2016 ruling from The Hague invalidating China's massive territorial claims to the South China Sea,” Radio Free Asia (RFA) noted in May 10. The U.S. government-funded television station has referred to a lawsuit brought by Manila before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague that successfully disputed Beijing's claims for around 90 percent of the South China Sea. “Marcos has sought to distance himself from the ruling, which has been rejected by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing, and said he will likely continue to develop Duterte's policy of closer ties with China,” RFA reported on Tuesday.

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