Dictator’s son Marcos Jr sworn in as new Philippines president

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Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was sworn in as Philippines president on Thursday, in a return of the country's most notoriously famous political dynasties.

Mr Marcos Jr, popularly known as "Bongbong," won last month's election with a landslide mandate, 36 years after his father was thrown out of power by an army-backed “People Power” revolution.

His running mate Sara Duterte, the daughter of outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte, also secured a thumping victory in the vice-presidential race.

Mr Marcos Jr received over 31 million votes, while Ms Duterte garnered more than 32 million of the 55 million votes cast in the 9 May election, which marked the first majority presidential victory in the Philippines in decades.

The duo's rise to office was marked by months of social media-based campaigns, which critics have accused of whitewashing the brutalities associated with their fathers’ administrations while focusing on the populist slogan of “unity”.

The choreographed campaign made deft use of social media, primarily TikTok and YouTube, to push the idea of “Uniteam”, while unleashing an army of trolls on the opposition candidate.

In a speech following his swearing-in ceremony in the capital Manila, Mr Marcos Jr, 64, vowed to take the island nation country far on his watch with policies benefiting everyone. He thanked the public for delivering what he called "the biggest electoral mandate in the history of Philippine democracy".

"You will not be disappointed, so do not be afraid," he said.

Mr Marcos Jr also praised his father's rule, during which thousands were jailed, killed or disappeared, but said his presidency was not about the past, but a better future.

"I once knew a man who saw what little had been achieved since independence ....but he got it done sometimes with the needed support, sometimes without," he said.

"So will it be with his son. You will get no excuses from me. No looking back in anger or nostalgia."

Mr Marcos Jr has refused to acknowledge or apologise for his father’s regime from 1965 to 1986, which was characterised by corruption, years of martial law and a harsh crackdown on dissent.

Chinese vice president Wang Qishan and United States vice president Kamala Harris’s husband Doug Emhoff were among the foreign dignitaries present at the ceremony.

Activists hold signs against the inauguration ceremony of president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr (AP)
Activists hold signs against the inauguration ceremony of president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr (AP)

Thousands of activists and survivors of the martial law-era under the former dictator's regime protested his son's inauguration in presence of heavy police deployment, including anti-riot contingents, SWAT commandos and snipers.

“Wow is this really happening," asked Bonifacio Ilagan, a 70-year-old activist who was detained and severely tortured during the dictator's rule. “For victims of martial law like me, this is a nightmare," he told the Associated Press.

The dictator died in 1989 while in exile in Hawaii without admitting to any abuse, including the accusations that his family and cronies amassed an estimated $5bn to $10bn while in office.

Meanwhile, the newly-elected president vowed to bring education reforms, improve food sufficiency, infrastructure and energy supply to uplift the country battered by two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I fully understand the gravity of the responsibility you put on my shoulders. I do not take it lightly but I am ready for the task," he said. "I will get it done."

Earlier last week, Mr Marcos Jr announced he would serve as secretary of agriculture temporarily after taking over the office to prepare for possible food supply emergencies.

“I think the problem is severe enough,” he said and added he has asked his key advisers to brace for “emergency situations, especially when it comes to food supply.”

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