Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the late Philippine dictator, has announced that he will run for president in next year’s elections, entering an already crowded race and upending an expected alliance with the ruling party’s candidate.
Marcos, who lost his bid for vice president in 2016, said in a statement on Tuesday that he “will bring that form of unifying leadership back to our country”, discounting memories of his father’s divisive legacy.
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The 64-year-old also offered his candidacy as an answer to the “crisis” following the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said is “one of the greatest tests” in the country’s history.
“The global pandemic has razed through our country destroying the lives of people, of families, of entire communities,” he said.
There have been more than 2.6 million coronavirus cases in the Philippines, including some 38,000 deaths.
Popularly known as “Bongbong”, Marcos had been touted as a potential candidate for either the presidency or the vice presidency, having been involved in politics since his return in 1991 from exile following his father’s overthrow in 1986. He has previously served as provincial governor, congressman and senator.
Ever since he lost the 2016 race, a defeat he challenged in the courts, Marcos has kept a high-profile presence on social media attracting more than three million followers on his Facebook page alone.
“Join me in this noblest of causes and we will succeed. Together, we will rise again,” he said.
Before his announcement on Tuesday, there had been speculation that he would run in a unified ticket with the candidate backed by his ally, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte.
He is the fourth candidate to officially announce a run for the presidency.
Manila City Mayor Francisco Domagoso registered on Monday, following newly retired boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former police chief, also intends to run in the contest to replace Duterte, who is not permitted to run for a second term under the constitution, and has decided to retire from politics.
Marcos’s run for the top post would be a big step in a country where many are still healing from the 1970s martial rule era of the elder Marcos.
His family, one of the most famous in the Philippines, has long sought to rebuild its image and has repeatedly denied allegations of human rights abuses and plunder of billions of dollars of state wealth when in power, which ended in a People’s Power uprising in 1986.
His sister Imee is a senator and mother Imelda a former congresswoman who also ran for president in 1992. His son, Ferdinand Alexander, is also seeking a seat in Congress.
In a statement on Tuesday following the announcement, the human rights group Karapatan said Marcos “is spitting on the graves of the dead and on the faces of the victims of the Marcos dictatorship”.
“Not a trace of remorse, nor any worthwhile compensation has been given by the Marcos family for the billions worth of treasure and gold that they plundered from the Philippine economy,” the group added.