Former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the late Philippine dictator, won a landslide victory in Monday's presidential election to become the country's next president, according to early returns and local media.
The 64-year-old has vowed to continue President Rodrigo Duterte's policies such as the "war on drugs," which has left thousands of civilians dead, and the Philippines' friendly ties with China despite a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
Marcos Jr. garnered 25.9 million votes, with 80 percent of the votes cast, against leading opposition candidate and democracy icon Vice President Leni Robredo's 12.3 million votes.
Former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. exits a polling station in Batac in the Philippines on May 9, 2022. (Kyodo)
Sara Duterte-Carpio, Duterte's daughter and Marcos's running mate, is also projected to win with 25.8 million votes against Sen. Kiko Pangilinan with 7.7 million votes. The 43-year-old Duterte-Carpio was considered a shoo-in as vice president.
While the Marcos-Duterte alliance has had plenty of support, some victims of the atrocities committed while the late Marcos was in power have expressed concerns.
His 21-year rule was marked by rampant rights abuses, torture, killings and embezzlement of public funds. The 1986 pro-democracy "people power" revolution toppled his dictatorship and sent the Marcos family into exile.
The elections were held amid hopes that new Philippine leaders will guide Southeast Asia's third-largest economy as it navigates a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
During the election campaign, Marcos Jr. said he would focus on promoting small and medium-sized businesses and agriculture as well as accelerating industrialization, areas his father's government had worked on in the 1970s.
Although the Philippines faces its deepest economic downturn since the 1980s and a record-high debt of 12.68 trillion pesos ($242 billion), Marcos Jr. has said the Philippines is in a "relatively good position" in terms of the ratio between debt and gross domestic product.
Robredo, a human rights lawyer, ran her campaign criticizing the so-called war on drugs. As an economist, she pledged to work for more efficient tax collection and provide a three-month subsidy as well as vocational training for the unemployed.
But she consistently trailed Marcos Jr. in pre-election opinion surveys.
Other presidential candidates included retired boxing star Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief.
By law, Congress should canvass the votes and formally declare the winners in the presidential and vice presidential races. It said the earliest it could proclaim the winner is on May 27.
Duterte will exit the presidency on June 30 after six years in office. The Constitution prevents a president from seeking re-election.
Around 68 million people were registered to vote at home and abroad to choose Duterte's successor, as well as the vice president, 12 senators, 316 congress members and over 17,000 local officials.