Based on a partial and unofficial count, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. won the elections on May 9 with a majority of the votes cast, the first time in more than six decades and duplicating the feat of his late father.

The late dictator first won the presidency in 1965 and in his re-election in 1969, he won 61 percent of the votes. It was the last democratic election.

He imposed martial law in 1972 and scrapped the scheduled elections in 1973. The 1981 elections, where he won more than 80 percent of the votes, was a sham.

In 1986, he was ousted after his defense minister and a top general accused him of cheating in the snap presidential elections, sweeping the widow of a martyred senator into power.

All candidates in the succeeding presidential polls from 1992 to 2016 won with only 23 percent to 42 percent of the votes cast. 

Bongbong made history, capturing the hearts of the majority of the people—the poor Filipinos who made up more than 70 percent of the voters.

It was unthinkable how Marcos, the former senator, who ran on a platform of a vague promise of uniting the country, would win the elections.

In other countries, it would be difficult for a tainted politician to return to power. Marcos’ father ruled with an iron fist the Philippines for 20 years, torturing and killing thousands and siphoning off billions of dollars for his personal use.

Marcos Jr. kept his father’s massive hidden wealth and did not acknowledge the dictator’s abuses and excesses, calling him a “genius” and a role model. 

Bongbong Marcos won in a democratic election through deception and lies spread through social media platforms.

He had a vague platform. He used propaganda to revise history and tell people about the golden years of his father’s rule. At the same time, he demonizes his rivals.

The populist Rodrigo Duterte aided him by painting his main rival, Vice President Leonor Robredo, as a weak, unqualified and incompetent leader who has connections with the communist rebel movement.

Many people bought Duterte’s propaganda even if he did not substantiate his attacks on Robredo, who did an excellent job as a spare tire, helping the poor and people affected by disasters and coronavirus pandemic.

Bongbong also made use of the family’s ill-gotten wealth to buy the loyalties of ordinary people and local officials, building a network of politicians with vested interests to remain in power.

Like his father, Bongbong exploited the loopholes of the country’s flawed democratic system to gain power. 

Moving forward, there is uncertainty under a Bongbong Marcos presidency. Business sentiment is down with the equities markets falling 3 percent on the day after the elections. 

Businessmen would probably wait until Bongbong forms his government and put confidence back by appointing credible technocrats in his economic team. He should avoid getting Marcos’ cronies back in position to control the economy and appointing greedy and corrupt politicians to shake down the business community.

Foreign embassies are muted, with some worrying there could be a backslide in democracy.  Foreign embassies are willing to work with the new government to bring stability and prosperity in the country and in the region.

Democracy would definitely take a backseat under a Bongbong Marcos presidency in the next six years.

There will be a lack of transparency and accountability.

He failed to file income tax returns as a local official in the 1980s and refused to pay billions of pesos of estate taxes. He continuously denies the rights abuses under his father’s brutal regime.

During the election campaign, he had shunned mainstream media, favoring vloggers and social media influencers who spread propaganda and disinformation. They had easy access to him while the legacy media had a hard time getting comments and statements from him. He deals with the media selectively, granting interviews with “friendly” broadcast networks.

Amid controversies, only his spokesman answered tough questions through social media platforms and rarely faced the media for interaction. It has been a one-way street in dealing with the nosy press.

Duterte’s media template for six years had suited Bongbong Marcos, shoring up his popularity.

Disinformation catapulted Marcos Jr to power.

Under a Bongbong Marcos presidency, the media, particularly the foreign press, would continue to have a hard time dealing with him. The critical press will be marked and shunned. The critical press will be discredited.

The lies and untruth will be spread continuously, taking a cue from the Duterte administration which never gave a decent news conference and never appeared before the foreign press.

The press will be under constant threat, with the government attacking its credibility and eroding the public’s trust. Bongbong Marcos would favor a controlled press.

Without a free press, democracy will be under threat. Authoritarianism can take root. Martial law may be reimposed without openly declaring it.

Bongbong Marcos’ victory is a big drawback to the press. Without a vibrant and free press, democracy takes a step backward.