Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son, and namesake of the former Filipino dictator, took a huge lead in the unofficial vote count on Tuesday, paving the way for the once-unthinkable return to power of the country’s notorious political dynasty.
Former senator Marcos Jr., popularly known as “Bongbong,” garnered 30.6 million possible votes on Tuesday morning, double that of his closest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo, who had 14.6 million votes.
Philippine boxer icon-turned-presidential candidate Manny Pacquiao placed third in the presidential race with 3,558,999 votes, followed by Manila Mayor Isko Moreno with 1,864,761, according to the unofficial vote result released by GMA News.
Marcos Jr.’s running-mate Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of sitting President Rodrigo Duterte, was also leading the country’s vice-presidential election, with more than 926,000 possible votes as of Monday morning.
Marcos Jr. expressed on Monday his gratitude to his supporters and volunteers for “casting their lot with us” and asked for their continued support if he were elected president, local media Inquirer.net reported.
“We know that the count is not yet done, is not yet over, we still need to be vigilant, but I want to issue a statement of gratitude to all of those who have been with us in this long and sometimes very difficult journey for the last six months,” he said.
His late father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., was elected president in 1965. He ruled the Philippines for two decades, placing the country under martial law in 1972, during which time thousands of opponents were jailed, killed, or disappeared.
The dictator was overthrown in the 1986 “people power revolution” and was accused of amassing more than $10 billion while in office. He died in exile in 1989. The Marcos family returned from exile in the 1990s and has remained a powerful force in Philippine politics.
In an April interview with CNN Philippines, Marcos Jr. defended his late father’s ruling and his declaration of martial law, describing him as a “political genius.”
Marcos Jr. also praised his mother, Imelda, calling her the “supreme politician in the family.” Imelda was found guilty of seven counts of corruption during her late husband’s ruling, she was sentenced to serve six to 11 years imprisonment for each count of graft.
“We were fighting a war on two fronts. We had the secessionist movement in the south. We had dissident [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army] in the countryside. And these were people who wanted to bring down the government, and the government had to defend itself,” he said.
Marcos Jr. has presented no real policy platform, campaigning on a simple but ambiguous message of unity. He has served as a governor, congressman, and senator. His sister, Imee, is currently a senator, while his mother served four terms in congress.
His six-year presidency is expected to provide continuity from outgoing leader Duterte, whose ruthless, strongman approach proved popular and helped him to consolidate power rapidly.
The official election result is expected to be announced around the end of the month.
Reuters contributed to this report.