Marcos Jnr sworn in as Philippine president decades after father was ousted from power
- Marcos Jnr pledged education reforms, to improve food sufficiency, infrastructure, and to give full support for millions of overseas Filipino workers
- ‘Bongbong’ succeeds the popular Rodrigo Duterte, who gained infamy for his deadly drug war and has threatened to kill suspected dealers after he leaves office
“I once knew a man who saw what little had been achieved since independence … He got it done,” Marcos Jnr said after being sworn into office, claiming his father built more roads and produced more rice than all of his predecessors combined.
“So will it be with his son. You will get no excuses from me.” He added: “No looking back in anger or nostalgia.”
The elder Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines from 1965 for two decades, almost half of it under martial law, helping him to extend his grip on power until his overthrow and his family’s retreat into exile during a 1986 “people power” revolution.
Thousands of Marcos opponents were jailed, killed or disappeared during his rule, and the family name became synonymous with cronyism, extravagance and the disappearance of billions of dollars from state coffers. The Marcos family has rejected accusations of embezzlement.
“Bongbong” won last month’s elections by a landslide, securing the biggest victory since his father.
Marcos Jnr took the oath at midday in a public ceremony at the National Museum in Manila in front of hundreds of local and foreign dignitaries, and journalists and supporters.
With his 92-year-old mother Imelda sitting metres away, Marcos Jnr praised the late patriarch’s regime, which critics describe as a dark period of human rights abuses and corruption.
Ahead of the swearing-in, Duterte received Marcos Jnr at the Malacanang presidential palace – which the Marcos family fled into exile 36 years ago.
Duterte, 77, wore a mask and his traditional formal shirt, characteristically unbuttoned at the top and with sleeves rolled up, for the meeting with Marcos Jnr, who he once described as “weak”.
The ceremony comes days after the Supreme Court dismissed final attempts to have Marcos Jnr disqualified from the election and prevent him taking office.
He has taken the rare step of appointing himself agriculture secretary to lead the overhaul of the problem-plagued sector.
But he has offered scant detail on how he will achieve his goals and few hints about his leadership style after largely shunning media interviews.
Pro-Duterte commentator Rigoberto Tiglao wrote recently that he was optimistic for an “economic boom” under Marcos junior
Tiglao pointed to the “accomplished academicians” on Marcos Jr’s economic team and the support of “powerful magnates” who will be able to provide him with advice and financial support.
Marcos Jnr, who appears to be more polite and businesslike than Duterte, was swept to power with the help of a massive social media misinformation campaign.
Pro-Marcos groups bombarded Filipinos with fake or misleading posts portraying the family in a positive light while ignoring the brutality and corruption 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 backing of rival dynasties.
Many expect Marcos Jnr will be less violent and more predictable than the elder Duterte, but activists and clergy fear he could use his victory to entrench himself in power.
“Marcos Jr’s refusal to recognise the abuses and wrongdoings of the past, in fact lauding the dictatorship as ‘golden years’, makes him very likely to continue its dark legacy during his term,” leftist alliance Bayan warned.
Marcos Jnr, who has distanced himself from his father’s rule but not criticised it, last month pledged to “always strive to perfection”.
He has filled most cabinet positions. But the most influential adviser during his six-year term 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 had a “big chance that we can be moving forward and ahead of the pack” under Marcos junior
“We are very optimistic on the quality of the leadership that we have now,” Ortiz-Luis said.
Marcos Jnr said last month he would adopt a “friends to all, enemy to none” foreign policy.
But unlike Duterte, he insisted he would uphold an international ruling against Beijing over the resource-rich South China Sea.
While he has backed Duterte’s drug war, which has killed thousands of mostly poor men, he is not likely to enforce it as aggressively.
“I think the Philippine political elite are ready to move on from a violence-led drug war,” said Greg Wyatt of PSA Philippines Consultancy.
“The drug war attracted enough negative attention.”
Additional reporting by Reuters