Strong voter turnout in the Philippines as Marcos focuses on the presidency

  • Voting underway, polling official says early turnout encouraging
  • No reports of major mood disturbance – poll body
  • Election is a rematch between leader Marcos, VP Robredo
  • An unofficial count can be an indication of the winner hours after the polls have closed

BATAC CITY/NAGA CITY, Philippines May 9 (Reuters) – Philippine voters flocked to polling stations Monday, anticipating a once-unthinkable return to rule by a member of the Marcos family, 36 years after strongman Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in a “popular power” revolt.

In the presidential election, Vice President Leni Robredo will face former Senator and Congresswoman Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the dictator’s son and namesake whose two-decade rule ended in public uprising and the humiliating retreat of his family into exile.

Some 18,000 posts, from the vice-presidency, seats in the Senate and House of Representatives to mayors, governors and councilors, are also up for grabs.

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According to polls, Marcos, popularly known as “Bongbong,” led his rival by more than 30 percentage points in the presidential race, and topped every poll this year. That means Robredo needs a late peak or low turnout to win.

Voters started queuing long before polls opened at 6 a.m. (2200 GMT Sunday), with polling stations set to operate longer than usual due to COVID-19 precautions.

Polling stations close at 7pm and an unofficial counting of the votes could give an indication of the winner within hours.

Marcos, 64, cast his vote in his home province of Ilocos Norte, surrounded by bodyguards and accompanied by family members, including his son who is running for Congress.

When asked by a reporter how the vote went, he said, “It was fine,” before leaving the polling station.

Marcos has not presented a real policy platform, but his presidency is expected to provide continuity for outgoing leader Rodrigo Duterte, whose ruthless, strong approach proved popular and helped him quickly consolidate power.

His daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is tipped to win the vice presidency. Although the president and vice president are elected separately, Marcos and Duterte-Carpio are aligned.

Election Commissioner George Erwin Garcia said he was “overwhelmed” by the number of voters flocking to polls despite the pandemic threat.

The Election Commission (Comelec) said it has received no reports of major problems on the ground so far, but there have been minor delays in voting in some districts in Mindanao’s troubled southern region.

Separately, police said three members of a local peacekeeping force were shot dead by unidentified assailants near a polling station in Mindanao’s Maguindanao province.

In some cases, long queues were also due to faulty vote counting machines, according to media reports.

Robredo, who voted in her home province of Camarines Sur, expressed concern after the reports.

“I hope the authorities will show that they are on top of it,” she told reporters.

The polling station will announce a ruling Tuesday on appeals to overturn previous decisions rejecting four disqualification requests against Marcos.

One of the early voters, Thelma Manansala, expressed hope that her compatriots will be critical in choosing the next leaders.

“We Filipinos are facing a lot of hardship and we really need a change of leadership,” said Manansala, 58.

Marcos is buoyed by the support of many younger Filipinos born after the 1986 revolution, who have launched a massive social media offensive in an optimistic campaign with an undertone of historical revisionism. read more

His supporters have dismissed stories of looting, favoritism and brutality under his late father’s martial law as lies spread by opponents, presenting what his critics say is another version of history. The Marcos camp has denied conducting any disinformation campaigns.

Despite falling from grace, the Marcos family returned from exile in the 1990s and has been a powerful force in politics ever since, retaining its influence with vast wealth and far-reaching connections.

The vote will also give Marcos the chance to avenge his loss to Robredo in the 2016 vice presidential election, a narrow defeat by just 200,000 votes that he unsuccessfully tried to undo.

Marcos has avoided debate and campaigned for a message of optimism and unity.

Robredo, 57, a former human rights lawyer and staunch liberal, has pledged to improve education and well-being, fight poverty and improve market competition if elected.

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Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz, Karen Lema, Peter Blaza in Manila, Adrian Portugal and Eloisa Lopez in Ilocos Norte, and Jay Ereno and Lisa Marie David in Camarines Sur; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Ed Davies and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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