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The dynasty of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos is on the cusp of regaining power

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is the presumptive winner of the Philippines' presidential election. The son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos won 31 million votes, which puts him on track for a historic margin of victory. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from Manila.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: The dynasty of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos is on the cusp of regaining power three decades after the family, mired in corruption and violations of human rights, fled in ignominy. Last night, Marcos Jr., popularly known as Bongbong, took note of the remarkable moment.

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FERDINAND MARCOS JR: Any endeavor as large as this does not involve one person. It involves many people working in very, very many different ways.

MCCARTHY: A small group of die-hard supporters rallied into the morning, singing patriotic songs popular in Marcos Sr.'s time.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing in Tagalog).

MCCARTHY: The generation that had confronted the Marcos dictatorship has long sought an apology for the upheaval it caused and fears the family's return. In the shadow of the presumptive president's campaign headquarters, 73-year-old Marcos loyalist Margarita Lopez told us there is nothing to be afraid of or apologize for.

MARGARITA LOPEZ: (Speaking Tagalog).

MCCARTHY: "How can Marcos apologize when he did nothing wrong? The people were brainwashed to believe the Marcoses were always bad," Lopez says. "And now they're awakened because there's social media and Facebook to explain and understand our history."

The Marcoses were early adherents to social media and the power of rebranding. They rewrote the family history, removing mention of their crimes and plunder, effectively burying the past and avoiding scrutiny. But political scientist Julio Teehankee says disinformation has proliferated so wildly in the Philippines, the country has become known as patient zero for the spread of misinformation on social media.

JULIO TEEHANKEE: This is the negative mirror image of democracy.

MCCARTHY: Marcos' archrival, Vice President Leni Robredo, the most trolled public official online, consoled supporters who clamored for her message of honest government.

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VICE PRESIDENT LENI ROBREDO: (Speaking Tagalog).

MCCARTHY: "We will continue to work to uplift the lives of those who are neglected. Don't let go," she told them. "Keep standing, and force the truth."

The Philippines Commission on Elections begins its official count of ballots in this landmark election today.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Manila.

(SOUNDBITE OF PORTICO QUARTET'S "ART IN THE AGE OF AUTOMATION" Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.