A dictator’s son. A former actor. A champion boxer

A dictator’s son. A former actor. A champion boxer.
A diverse field of candidates have put up their hands to succeed Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who is stepping down after a single six-year term in line with the Philippines constitution.
Although the 2022 presidential election campaign is yet to begin, the machinations and drama are well underway.
Friday was the final day for candidates to announce their intention to run. Among those who officially filed are Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son of a former Philippines dictator; Manny Pacquiao, a senator and former boxing champion; Vice President and Duterte critic Leni Robredo; and Isko Moreno, the mayor of Manila and a former actor.
Richard Heydarian, professor of history and political science at the Philippines’ Polytechnic University, says there is no clear frontrunner. “It is going to be highly, highly competitive,” he added.
The Philippines has only one round of voting, unlike many countries such as France, where there is a second ballot between the two most popular candidates. This means that whoever is in front at the end of counting will become president - no matter how small their total share of votes.
In a tight race, the prize could go to anyone. And the stakes are high.
With China and the US increasingly treating the Indo-Pacific as a staging ground for their global showdown, the Philippines will likely come under growing economic and geopolitical pressure, particularly as a claimant to part of the South China Sea.
During his time in office, Duterte aligned the Philippines closer to Beijing, publicly stating his “love” for President Xi Jinping as the leaders explored the possibility of joint resource contracts in the South China Sea.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during the annual state of the nation address at the House of Representatives in Manila on July 26.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during the annual state of the nation address at the House of Representatives in Manila on July 26.
At home, he has cracked down on civil society and sparked a bloody war on drugs that has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people, according to police.

And there are signs he may not be willing to let his influence go so easily. After accepting his party’s candidacy for vice president, Duterte announced last week he would be retiring from politics. Critics have pointed out Duterte also announced his retirement in 2015 before he changed his mind and ran for president.
Not only that, but his daughter - Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio - still has a month to decide if she’ll run for president as a substitute candidate.
Duterte has a personal incentive to retain some control over the future government: he’s facing an investigation by the International Criminal Court into his war on drugs and his successor could influence how much access they get to the Philippines.
Journalist Maria Ressa, the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner and president and chief executive of local media outlet Rappler, said the 2022 elections were “existential for democracy.”
“We’re at the edge of a cliff … whoever wins will determine whether we’ll have rule of law, whether our economy can grow, whether we can survive the virus, whether our society can heal,” she said.
The dictator’s son
In a post to his official Facebook page on Tuesday, the son of the man accused of imprisoning, torturing and impoverishing the Filipino people asked his supporters to join him in “the noblest of causes.”
Marcos Jr., known colloquially as “Bongbong,” announced he would run for president in the 2022 election, pitching himself as a unifying candidate who could bring the country together after the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The date of his announcement was inauspicious - it came just after the 49th anniversary of his father, Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, imposing martial law on the country.
Former Philippine senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, speaks after filing his candidacy in Pasay on October 6.
Former Philippine senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, speaks after filing his candidacy in Pasay on October 6.
Marcos ruled the country with an iron fist for two-and-a-half decades before he was deposed by a popular protest in 1986.
The Marcos family profited greatly from its time in power, with some experts estimating a net gain of more than $10 billion during the patriarch’s dictatorship. Marcos Jr. has claimed many of the allegations against his family are slanderous.
But human rights groups in the Philippines are horrified at the prospect of a member of the Marcos family running for the country’s highest position. Protesters rallied outside the Commission on Human Rights building in Manila on Wednesday to show their disgust.
Philippines rights groups decry presidential bid of late dictator's son
Philippines rights groups decry presidential bid of late dictator’s son
“The Marcoses remain scot-free from jail, they haven’t returned all the money that they got from the nation’s coffers, and now they are making a comeback for the highest position in the land. That is just plain, shameless gall,” Cristina Palabay of rights group Karapatan told Reuters.
Duterte has not been ashamed to tie himself to the Marcos family. There were even suggestions he might join Marcos Jr.’s ticket as candidate for vice president. “That’s the plan!” Marcos Jr. said Wednesday, according to ABS-CBN.
Ressa said Duterte’s popularity in the south of the Philippines, combined with Marcos’ popularity in the north, would create a formidable force.
Heydarian added the Marcos family had “grassroots support, resources and message discipline,” but their history would not play well with a population concerned about corruption.
“The issue of corruption is very, very sensitive for a lot of people,” he said.
Journalist speaks after being convicted by Duterte government 01:29
The boxer
Pacquiao’s skill as a boxer is unquestionable. After a 26-year career, he is considered one of the greatest boxers of all time, the only man to hold world titles in eight different divisions.
But the 42-year-old’s skill as a politician is far less clear - and something he will have to prove if he is going to be successful when he runs for president.
Highly charismatic and proudly Christian, Pacquiao was first elected to the Philippines senate in 2016, saying he wanted to help the country’s underprivileged. Pacquiao has said he lived in extreme poverty when he was young, selling candy and cigarettes to make ends meet. As a teenager he worked as a laborer to help his family - now he is a multimillionaire.
Retired Filipino boxing hero and senator Manny Pacquiao, center, talks to police beside wife Jinkee, left, before filing his certificate of candidacy on October 1 in Manila.
Retired Filipino boxing hero and senator Manny Pacquiao, center, talks to police beside wife Jinkee, left, before filing his certificate of candidacy on October 1 in Manila.
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