The son of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos will be sworn in as president on Thursday, completing a decades-long effort to restore the clan to the country’s highest office.
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, 64, won last month’s election by a landslide, securing the biggest win since his father was ousted in a popular uprising in 1986.
He succeeds the hugely popular Rodrigo Duterte, who gained international fame for his murderous war on drugs and threatened to kill suspected traffickers after leaving office.
Marcos Jr will be sworn in at noon in a public ceremony at the National Museum in Manila in front of hundreds of local and foreign dignitaries and journalists.
More than 15,000 police, soldiers and coastguards were deployed in the capital for the inauguration.
It comes days after the Supreme Court rejected latest attempts to disqualify Marcos Jr from the election and bar him from taking office.
As rising prices squeeze an economy already ravaged by Covid-19, Marcos Jr has made fighting inflation, boosting growth and increasing food production his top priorities.
He took the rare step of appointing himself agriculture secretary to lead the overhaul of the troubled sector.
Marcos Jr has also pledged to defend the rights of the Philippines to the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely.
But he offered few details on how he will achieve his goals or any clues about his leadership style after largely avoiding media interviews.
Pro-Duterte commentator Rigoberto Tiglao wrote recently that he was “optimistic” for an “economic boom” under Marcos Jr.
Tiglao highlighted the “accomplished academics” of Marcos Jr’s economic team and the support of “powerful tycoons” who can provide him with advice and financial support.
Marcos Jr, who appears to be more polite and professional than Duterte, was brought to power through a massive disinformation campaign on social media.
Pro-Marcos groups have bombarded Filipinos with false or misleading messages portraying the family in a positive light, while ignoring the corruption and rights abuses of the patriarch’s 20-year rule.
Crucial to Marcos Jr’s success was an alliance with Duterte’s daughter Sara, who secured the vice-presidential post with more votes than him, and the support of rival dynasties.
Many expect Marcos Jr to be less violent and more predictable than the elder Duterte, but activists and religious clergy fear he could use his victory to entrench himself in power.
“Marcos Jr’s refusal to acknowledge past abuses and misdeeds, in effect praising the dictatorship as ‘golden years,’ makes him highly likely to continue his dark legacy while in office,” the left-wing Bayan alliance has warned. .
Marcos Jr, who distanced himself from his father’s rule but did not criticize it, pledged last month to “always aim for perfection”.
He held most ministerial posts. But the most influential adviser during his six-year tenure is likely to be his wife, Louise, who claims to have no interest in joining his government but is widely believed to have run his campaign.
Sergio Ortiz-Luis, president of the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines, said the country has “a great chance that we can move forward and lead the pack” under Marcos Jr.
“We are very optimistic about the quality of leadership that we currently have,” Ortiz-Luis told AFP.
Unlike Duterte, who moved away from the United States towards China, Marcos Jr has indicated that he will pursue a more balanced relationship with the two superpowers.
Marcos Jr said last month that he would adopt a “friends of all, enemy of no one” foreign policy.
But unlike Duterte, he insisted he would stick to an international decision against Beijing over the resource-rich South China Sea.
Although he supported Duterte’s war on drugs, which killed thousands of mostly poor men, he is unlikely to pursue it so aggressively.
“I think the Filipino political elite is ready to emerge from a violent war on drugs,” said Greg Wyatt, director of business intelligence at PSA Philippines Consultancy.
“The War on Drugs has attracted enough negative attention.”