By Neil Jerome Morales
(Reuters) – Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator whose rule defined the Philippines’ recent history, is leading opinion polls on the race to become president, three months ahead of a May 9 election.
Below are some facts about the controversial frontrunner and his famous family.
WHO IS FERDINAND MARCOS JR.?
Marcos, known as “Bongbong”, is the namesake and only son of the late strongman who ruled for almost two decades until overthrown in 1986 by a peaceful popular revolt. The family fled into exile in Hawaii, where the elder Marcos died.
Since their 1990s return, the younger Marcos has been elected governor and congressman of Ilocos Norte, his father’s bailiwick, and in 2010, a senator.
He narrowly lost a 2016 vice presidential election and the Supreme Court ruled against his challenge.
He is married to lawyer Louise Araneta-Marcos and has three sons, one running for congress.
WHY IS HE RUNNING?
The family has sought to rebuild its image and denies allegations it plundered a vast amount of wealth while in power, estimated in 1987 at $10 billion.
Political analysts say at 64, his run could be the family’s last chance to return to the Presidential Palace. Mother Imelda, a formidable force behind the Marcos political machinery, is 92.
Marcos when filing his candidacy said he would be a unifying leader, but history could make that difficult. His critics argue his family has neither apologised for, nor properly addressed events of the past. He recently said he would not discuss it.
WHAT ARE HIS CHANCES?
He’s the clear favourite, with a 20-point lead in a poll published in December.
Having as running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte, will be a boon. Her strong backing in the south – where the Marcos family historically has lacked support – could be a game-changer.
Another advantage, political analysts say, is his strong social media presence aimed at young people born after his father’s rule.
The family also has influence, as one of the Philippines’ most famous dynasties. Despite its fall from grace, it has retained far-reaching and powerful connections, and steadfast support in its Ilocos Norte stronghold.
Sister Imee is a senator and former governor, and mother Imelda, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1992, was a four-term congresswoman.
ALLEGATIONS AGAINST THE MARCOS FAMILY
“There are many positive things to talk about from during that time,” Marcos told Reuters in 2016, when asked about his father’s rule.
But later governments have documented 75,000 cases of torture, illegal detention and disappearances after martial law was declared, a time when Marcos Jr. was at school in England. His parents’ rule has been called a kleptocratic “conjugal dictatorship”.
Thousands of martial law victims received compensation using about $600 million recovered from Swiss bank accounts.
A government agency created to recover missing Marcos-era wealth, much via courts, has so far only recovered $3.41 billion in 33 years. Marcos has said his family respects court decisions on the matter.
RESISTANCE TO MARCOS
Opponents to the Marcos family have vowed to stop him from becoming president by whatever means possible.
Some sought to disqualify him because of a tax evasion conviction three decades ago, which complainants said should have meant a lifetime election ban. However, in January, a division of the election commission rejected one such complaint.
He faces at least four more over the tax offence, however, and it is unclear when those would be decided on. Losing parties can also appeal to the Supreme Court.
(Compiled by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty, Raju Gopalakrishnan)