Manila, Philippines (AFP) – A clear crushing victory for Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The Philippine presidential election raises immediate concerns about the further erosion of democracy in Asia and could complicate US efforts to curb China’s growing influence and power in the Pacific.
Marcos, the son of longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos, received more than twice the votes of his closest challenger in Monday’s election, according to unofficial results.
If the results hold, he will take office at the end of June for a six-year term with Sarah DuterteDaughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, as Vice President.
Duterte – who left office with a 67% approval rating – has fostered closer ties with China and Russia, while occasionally criticizing the United States.
However, he backed away from many of his threats against Washington, including a move to scrap a defense pact, and the luster of China’s promise to invest in infrastructure faded, with many failing to deliver.
Whether the recent trend in relations with the United States will continue has a lot to do with how President Joe Biden’s administration responds to Marcos’ return to power in the Philippines. Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.
“On the one hand you have Biden in terms of geostrategic interests in the Philippines, and on the other he has to balance promoting American democratic ideals and human rights,” she said.
“If he chooses to do that, he may have to isolate the Marcos administration, so this will certainly be a delicate balancing act for the Philippines, and Marcos’ approach to the United States will depend very much on how Biden deals with him.”
His election comes at a time when the United States is increasingly focused on the region, as it embarked on a strategy unveiled in February to significantly expand US involvement by strengthening a network of security alliances and partnerships, with a focus on addressing China’s growing influence and ambitions.
Thousands of American and Filipino troops recently concluded one of their largest combat exercises in years, which displayed US firepower in the northern Philippines, near its maritime border with Taiwan.
Marcos was lacking in specifics about foreign policy, but in interviews he said he wanted closer ties with China, including perhaps setting aside a 2016 ruling by a court in The Hague that invalidated nearly all of China’s historic claims over the South China Sea. .
A former Philippine administration took the case to court, but China refused to acknowledge the ruling and Marcos said it would not help settle differences with Beijing, “so this option is not available to us.”
Allowing the United States to play a role in trying to settle regional differences with China would be a “recipe for disaster,” Marcus said in an interview with DZRH radio in January. He said Duterte’s policy of diplomatic engagement with China is “really our only option”.
Marcus also said he would maintain his nation’s alliance with the United States, but the relationship is complicated by American support for the administrations that took power after his father was impeached, and a 2011 U.S. District Court ruling in Hawaii that he and his mother found in contempt. An order to provide information on assets in connection with a 1995 human rights class action suit against Marcus Sr.
The court fined them $353.6 million, an amount that was never paid and could complicate any potential travel to the United States.
The United States has a long history with the Philippines, which was an American colony for most of the early 20th century before gaining independence in 1946.
Its location between the South China Sea and the Western Pacific is strategically important. While the United States closed its last military bases in the Philippines in 1992, the 1951 Collective Defense Treaty guarantees U.S. support in the event of an attack on the Philippines.
The United States noted their common history in its election observations. “We look forward to renewing our special partnership and working with the incoming administration on key human rights and regional priorities,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington.
Although the Biden administration may have preferred to work with Marcos’ main opponent, Lenny Robredo, Gregory B. Pauling is director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“Unlike Linyi, with her coherent program of good governance and development at home and standing up to China abroad, Marcus is an icon of politics,” Pauling said in a research note. “He avoided presidential debates, avoided interviews, and was silent on most issues.”
Pauling said Marcus was clear, however, that he would like to try once again to improve relations with Beijing.
“But when it comes to foreign policy, Marcos will not have the same leeway that Duterte had,” he said. “The Philippines tried to reach out and China bit it. This is why the Duterte government has re-adopted the US alliance and gotten tougher with Beijing over the past two years.”
Marcos Sr. was overthrown in 1986 after millions took to the streets, ending his corrupt dictatorship and a return to democracy. But Duterte’s election as president in 2016 restored a strongman-like leader, something that voters have now doubled down on with Marcos Jr.
Domestically, Marcos, dubbed his childhood nickname “Pong Pong,” is widely expected to pick up where Duterte left off, stifling a free press and suppressing dissent with less than the outgoing leader’s rambunctious style, while winding down attempts to recover. Some of the billions of dollars his father stole from state coffers.
Julio Tehanque, a professor of political science at De La Salle University in Manila, said a return to his father’s hard-line rule, who declared martial law for most of his rule, is unlikely.
“He doesn’t have the guts or the intelligence, or even the cruelty to become a dictator, so I think what we’re going to see is some form of mild authoritarianism or Marcus Light,” Tehanke said.
Pauling said the new Marcos government would not mean the end of Philippine democracy, “although it may hasten its decay”.
“The country’s democratic institutions have already been battered by six years of Duterte’s presidency and the rise of online disinformation, combined with long decades of oligarchy, graft and mismanagement,” he said.
“It would be better for the United States to participate than to criticize the headwinds of democracy plaguing the Philippines.”
Wong said Marcos’ approach at home could have a spillover effect in other countries in the region, where democratic freedoms are increasingly eroded in many places, and the Philippines has been seen as a positive influence.
“This will have an impact on the Philippines’ foreign policy when it comes to promoting its democratic values, freedoms and human rights, particularly in Southeast Asia,” she said. “The Philippines is seen as a bastion of democracy in the region, with a strong civil society and a roaring media, and with Pong Pong Marcos’ presidency, our credibility will be lower.”
Rising reports from Bangkok.
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