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Dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr sworn in as Philippines president

The son of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos was sworn in as president on Thursday, cementing his family’s decades-long effort to re-establish itself as the country’s leader after being ousted from power by a popular revolt in 1986.

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, 64, who won the election last month in a landslide, succeeds Rodrigo Duterte, who is internationally renowned for his deadly war on drugs.

He was sworn in at a public ceremony at the National Museum in Manila, in front of hundreds of local and foreign dignitaries, including Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan.

As his 92-year-old mother Imelda sat a few feet away, Marcos Jr praised the rule of his father, the former dictator who ruled the archipelago for nearly three decades.

“I once knew a man who saw how little had been accomplished since independence. He achieved them,” Marcos Jr said, claiming that his father built more roads and produced more rice than all his predecessors combined. “The same will be true of his son. I will not make excuses,” he said.

Legal challenge to Marcos fails

More than 15,000 police, soldiers and coastguards were deployed in the capital for the inauguration. In recent weeks there had been demonstrations in Manila as protesters alleged electoral fraud.

The latest attempts to disqualify Marcos Jr from the election and prevent him from taking office were rejected by the Supreme Court a few days ago.

With rising prices squeezing an economy already ravaged by Covid-19, Marcos Jr has made fighting inflation, boosting growth and increasing food production his priorities.

He took the initiative of appointing himself Secretary of Agriculture to lead the reform of this troubled sector.

But he has given few details on how he intends to achieve his goals and few clues about his style of governance, having largely avoided media interviews.

He has made no secret of his admiration for his father and his stewardship of the country, portraying the era as a kind of golden age for the Philippines, raising fears that he is seeking a similar regime.

Corruption and abuses ignored

Pro-Duterte commentator Rigoberto Tiglao recently wrote that he was optimistic about an “economic boom” under Marcos Jr, pointing to the presence of “accomplished academics” in the new president’s economic team and the support of “powerful tycoons” who will be able to advise him and provide financial backing.

Marcos Jr was brought to power through a massive disinformation campaign on social networks, portraying the family in a favourable light and ignoring the corruption and human rights abuses committed during his father’s 20-year rule.

The alliance with Duterte’s daughter, Sara, who won the post of vice president, has been key to Marcos Jr’s success, as has his wife, Louise.

Marcos Jr has also pledged to defend the Philippines’ rights over the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely. Unlike his predecessor, who moved away from the United States to China, Marcos Jr has indicated that he will pursue a more balanced relationship with the two superpowers.

He said last month that he would adopt a “friends of all, enemies of none” foreign policy, but insisted that he would enforce an international ruling against Beijing over the resource-rich South China Sea.

Although he has supported Duterte’s war on drugs, which has killed thousands of mostly poor men, he is unlikely to implement it as aggressively.

“I think the Philippine political elite is ready to abandon the violence-driven drug war,” said Greg Wyatt, director of business intelligence at PSA Philippines Consultancy, adding that it had “attracted enough negative attention”.


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