MANILA: The son and namesake of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos came under attack over his father’s record of corruption and rights abuse during a vice-presidential debate on Sunday.
Surveys show that Ferdinand Marcos Jr., popularly known by his nickname “Bong-bong,” is running either first or second in the race for the vice-presidency in the May 9 elections.
But he came under fire from both the audience and rival vice-presidential candidates in the debate.
Even before he could speak, a group of protesters had to be escorted out of the auditorium because they refused to stop jeering him.
Marcos Jr. touted more than two decades of experience in government, calling himself dedicated to the people.
But rival candidates and moderators raised the massive corruption and human rights violations during his father’s rule. Members of the audience booed Marcos Jr. as he answered some questions.
Marcos Sr. ruled the Philippines for 20 years, much of the time under martial law, until a military-backed popular revolt sent him and his family fleeing into exile in 1986.
The family was allowed to return home after he died in Hawaii in 1989 and has made a remarkable political comeback.
Marcos Jr. has been at the forefront, getting elected to the House of Representatives and then the powerful Senate before mounting his bid for the vice-presidency.
The Marcos family has never admitted any wrongdoing and Bong-bong Marcos has depicted his father’s rule as a virtual golden age, angering the many victims of the regime who are still alive.
Challenged during the debate about charges his family stole $10 billion during his father’s term, Marcos Jr. responded: “I can say that I have never been touched by corruption.”
Asked if he would apologize for his father’s human rights abuses, he replied, “I can only apologize for myself. I cannot apologize for anyone else.”
He brushed aside allegations of massive corruption, saying that “all those big numbers came out of nowhere.”
If Marcos Jr, 58, wins the vice presidency, he would be well positioned for a run at the top post at the next elections in 2022.
In the Philippines, President and Vice-President are elected separately for a single six-year term and are sometimes from different political parties.
The dictator’s flamboyant widow Imelda has said she hopes her son will eventually run for the presidency. AFP