Marcos heir says will run for Philippines presidency

Manila (AFP) –


The son and namesake of the Philippines' former dictator Ferdinand Marcos said Tuesday he will run for president in the 2022 election, as the controversial clan seeks the ultimate political revival.

Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr -- who has defended President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial drug war and supported the death penalty for traffickers -- declared his candidacy in a Facebook Live broadcast.

"I am today announcing my intention to run for the presidency of the Philipines in the upcoming May 2022 elections," the 64-year-old political scion said, joining a growing field of contenders seeking to replace Duterte.

"I will bring... unifying leadership back to our country."

Marcos Jr was in second place behind Duterte's daughter, Sara, in a recent PulseAsia Research survey of voter preference for president, though she has denied plans to run.

Boxing great Manny Pacquiao and celebrity mayor Francisco Domagoso have confirmed they will seek the top job.

A tilt for the country's highest office comes after Marcos Jr's failed bid for the vice presidency in 2016, which he narrowly lost to Leni Robredo.

Losing the election was a blow for the Marcos family, which had gone into exile in the United States after the patriarch's humiliating downfall in 1986.

He and his wife Imelda were accused of massive corruption while in power.

- Political comeback -

Marcos Jr accused Robredo of electoral fraud and spent nearly five years waging a legal battle challenging the vote.

The country's top court dismissed the protest in February.

"Let us bring Filipinos back to one another in service of our country, facing the crisis and the challenges of the future together," Marcos Jr said Tuesday.

"Join me in this noblest of causes, and we will succeed."

If Marcos Jr's presidential bid succeeds, it would be a remarkable political comeback for the family.

Imelda has said previously she dreams of her son -- a senator from 2010 to 2016 -- becoming the country's leader.

The family matriarch served three straight terms in the lower House of Representatives before being succeeded by her nephew.

Marcos Jr's sister Imee is a senator.

- Duterte ally -

Duterte is an ally of the Marcos family, which got a boost from his 2016 election victory.

His government gave the ex-dictator's remains a hero's burial and publicly floated the idea of winding down the hunt for his hidden wealth.

Analysts predict a possible Marcos Jr-Sara Duterte alliance for the 2022 election, which they say would be a formidable combination attracting votes from their respective strongholds in the north, centre and south of the country.

The Philippines' election season kicked off Friday as celebrities and political scions flocked to the offices of the elections commission to file their nominations.

The process launches a typically noisy and deadly seven months of campaigning for more than 18,000 positions.

But the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic downturn caused by lockdowns is expected to dampen the atmosphere.