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Philippines: army, police and concern on the eve of the elections


According to officials, around 48,000 soldiers and 16,000 police officers surround the archipelago. We are confident that we will have a safe and orderly electionsaid the spokesman of the armed forces, Colonel Ramon Zagala.

More than 18,000 positions ranging from president to municipal councilors are up for election. And it is the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos who should win the presidential election hands down, according to the polls.

A victory in Monday’s poll would cap decades of efforts to rehabilitate the legacy of his father, dictator Marcos, who was overthrown in 1986 and died in exile in the United States.

Ferdinand Marcos junior raises his hand to greet the crowd.

Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at his final public campaign rally on May 7, 2022

Photo: Reuters/ELOISA LOPEZ

During his two decades in power, Ferdinand Marcos’ security forces killed, tortured, sexually assaulted, maimed or arbitrarily detained around 70,000 opponents, Amnesty International estimates.

Under the Marcos regime, more than $10 billion was stolen from state coffers. Upon their return to the country, no member of the family was ever imprisoned and some still hold political office.

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And now the polls, which predict that Marcos’ son will win with an absolute majority, are worrying many.

In other countries, dictators have ended up with their backs to the wall. This never happened [aux Philippines]said Bonifacio Ilagan, a former political prisoner who was held for two years in Marcos jails and tortured repeatedly.

On the side of rights groups, leaders of the Catholic Church and opponents see these elections as a decisive moment for the country’s democracy and fear that Marcos junior will rule with an iron fist.

A frightening return

Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s reluctance to admit his family’s controversial history and his refusal to acknowledge the crimes that were committed under his father’s rule raise fears that he will repeat them.

His campaign aired countless historical lies about what happened in the Philippines between 1965 and 1986, said Cristina Palabay, general secretary of the human rights group Karapatan.

The current election campaign has been bolstered by a massive disinformation campaign on social media that has portrayed the dictatorship as a Golden age of peace and economic growth, which convinced millions of people, especially a population too young to have known the Marcos regime.

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It is not enough to change the person who is in the presidential palace. The important thing is to have substantial changes for the majority of the peoplesaid Judy Taguiwalo, an anti-Marcos activist who was arrested and tortured twice.

Elections, synonymous with violence

Elections are usually a volatile time in this country where gun laws are lax and the political culture is violent. Despite the 16 incidents, including four shootings, that have occurred since January 9 in connection with the elections, the national police judged that this election campaign had been relatively peaceful.

By comparison, during the 2016 and 2019 election campaigns, there were 133 and 60 violent incidents respectively.

Police spokesman Colonel Jean Fajardo attributed the steep decline to an increased presence of security services as well as military and police operations that targeted firearms and private armed groups.

The electoral commission largely bans the carrying of weapons during the election period, which lasts until June 8.

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