Marcos Jr leads unofficial count to be next Philippine president
People queue to vote outside a school used as a polling station during the presidential elections in Quezon City. Basilio Sepe/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
People queue to vote outside a school used as a polling station during the presidential elections in Quezon City. Basilio Sepe/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

The son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was leading an unofficial count of votes cast on Monday to be the next Philippine president, 36 years after his father was ousted over widespread corruption and human rights abuses.

Former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr received more than 23 million votes to replace President Rodrigo Duterte, based on a partial count of election returns sent to a separate official server for transparency reasons.

Vice President Leni Robredo, a human rights lawyer who beat Marcos Jr in 2016, was in second place with more than 10.9 million votes. In third place is boxing icon and senator Manny Pacquiao with more than 2.1 million votes.

Marcos Jr’s running mate, Sara Duterte-Caprio, daughter of the outgoing president, was also leading the vice presidential race, with 22.7 million votes. Robredo’s running mate, Senator Francisco Pangilinan, was at a distance second with some 6.8 million votes.

Under the Philippine electoral process, the official tallying of votes cast for president and vice president will be done by the Senate and the House of Representatives, when they resume session on May 23. The new government officials will be sworn in on June 30.

Marcos Jr’s family was chased out of the country by a "people power" revolt in 1986 and their family fled to the United States in self-imposed exile.

They were allowed to return to the Philippines in 1992, three years after Marcos Jr's father died in Hawaii.

Members of the family have since been elected in various government positions, and a presidential win for Marcos Jr would complete the Marcos family’s return to power in the Philippines.

Victims of human rights abuses under the dictator's rule have vowed to continue the fight.

"It’s really unthinkable that Marcos Jr could become the Philippines’ 17th president," said Bonifacio Ilagan, 71, a student leader who was tortured after being arrested in 1974 while the country was under martial law. "But if this is the reality, this is going to be another phase in our struggle."

Marcos Jr has never acknowledged the abuses that took place while his father was in power. Ilagan believes he is likely to take steps to "erase the memory of those who have fallen during the fight against the dictatorship" in a "full-scale revision of history."

Marcos Jr voted early in his hometown of Batac City in Ilocos Norte province, 386 kilometres north of Manila.

He then went to a Catholic church to meet his mother, former first lady Imelda Marcos, notorious for having a lavish lifestyle and amassing more than 3,000 pairs of shoes during her husband’s rule.

Duterte-Carpio voted separately in the southern city of Davao. She wrote "love the Philippines" on the armchair she used and signed her name and the date.

The president and vice president are elected separately.

More than 67 million Filipinos, including 1.8 million based overseas, were registered to vote for a president, vice president, half of the 24-member Senate, more than 250 congressional representatives and thousands of local officials.

Turnout was high, with long lines outside polling stations throughout the 13-hour window to cast votes.

Delays were caused by the malfunctioning of some 2,000 vote-counting machines, power outages, missing names on voters’ list and other problems in various parts of the country.

“Despite some glitches and some violence, generally, the elections went well,” said George Garcia of the Commission on Elections.

At least 15 violent incidents, which left six people dead, were recorded by the military, according to Colonel Ramon Zagala, spokesman for the armed forces of the Philippines. The cases were down from about 60 in the 2019 mid-term elections, officials said.

People help an elderly woman on a wheel chair to reach a polling station in Sarangani during the Philippines presidential elections. Oliver Haynes/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
People cast their votes for the Philippines presidential elections at a polling station in Sarangani. Oliver Haynes/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
Philippine Boxing legend and presidential candidate, senator Manny Pacquiao, arrives to cast his vote during the Philippines presidential elections at a polling station in Sarangani. Maverick Asio/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa