Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, became the 17th president of the Philippines Thursday, successfully fulfilling his family’s mission to return to power 36 years after a people’s uprising toppled his father.
With more than 31 million votes, Bongbong – as he is popularly known – snatched the presidency in the country’s most consequential election in May.
Marcos, 64, ran on a campaign of national unity, which was an invitation to forget the atrocities of his father’s dictatorial regime while propagating a collective nostalgia for the supposed “golden era” of the country.
Critics say his victory can be attributed to decades-long historical revisionism efforts by the family and massive disinformation on social media platforms.
President Rodrigo Duterte skipped the inauguration, held at the steps of the National Museum, where past presidents were also sworn in, but the two met inside the palace before the noon swearing in.
In what his camp touted as a simple and solemn inaugural rite, Marcos promised the Philippine people he would deliver.
“You picked me to be your servant to enable changes to benefit all. I fully understand the gravity of the responsibility that you’ve put on my shoulders. I do not take it lightly but I’m ready for the task,” he said in his first speech as president.
Marcos also praised his father, while saying he was not there to talk about the past, which his family has tried hard to whitewash and to avoid during the heated campaign.
“I once knew a man who saw what little had been achieved since independence in a land filled with people with the greatest potential for achievement, and yet they were poor. But he got it done. Sometimes, with the needed support. Sometimes, without,” Marcos said.
“So, will it be with his son. You will get no excuses from me,” he added.
Marcos leads his family in returning to Malacañang Palace, the seat of power in the Philippines and the official residence of the president, which they left three decades ago to escape the angry mob of Filipinos.
His election sealed the deal for the family’s return to power, which they have worked on since Marcos Sr. died in September 1989 while in exile in Hawaii. His mother, former first lady Imelda Marcos, who became synonymous with extravagance, made two attempts at the presidency.
It is estimated that the Marcos family plundered $10 billion from the public’s coffers during their 21-year rule in the Philippines. Subsequent administrations elected after the restoration of democracy recovered only half of it.
Jina Godoy, 56, joined fellow Marcos supporters in rejoicing at the victory of Marcos Jr. at a satellite celebration in the capital, Manila.
“I hope corruption will be removed or lessened,” Godoy told VOA. “I hope he will fulfill his promises, but I think he will do it because his father did it.”
When asked about the Marcos family’s corruption issues, Godoy said, “I don’t believe that.”
Some Filipinos are concerned that the Marcos family, now in control of the Philippines, wil abuse their power to unlock cash and assets they have stashed in offshore accounts. It is also feared that the second Marcos presidency will be as brutal as the first.
Bonifacio Ilagan, a martial law survivor, led other activists who survived torture and human rights abuses during the Marcos regime in taking an oath to "guard against tyranny, falsehoods, and the trampling of people's rights and livelihood."
“It’s a nightmare,” Ilagan said before a group of aging activists and their young supporters at a shrine for martial law victims, “But this is our reality now. We need to accept it. Can you imagine we were young when we fought Marcos Sr.? Now I’m 70 and we’re facing Marcos Jr. It’s hard to accept.”
The group vowed to resist all forms of historical revisionism and called on Marcos to recognize and atone for the human rights violations during his father’s regime.
A U.S. federal court found Marcos Sr. was responsible for human rights abuses in the Philippines and has ordered the compensation of some 7,500 victims.
At another anti-Marcos protest in a historic public plaza, activists denounced the political alliance between Marcos and Duterte, and vowed to resist what they expect will become an extension of Duterte’s tyrannical rule that saw killings of some 30,000 people in the name of a war on drugs.
“I don't think that Macos is the legitimate president of the Philippines,” Charm Maranan, an activist with Defend Southern Tagalog, told VOA. “The last election has been muddled with electoral fraud, there have been accounts of cheating, of widespread corruption and of widespread voter disenfranchisement.”
The Commission on Elections has denied there was cheating during the election despite reports of irregularities from international observers.
“In the next six years, we plan on continuing to fight, continuing to resist all attacks against the people and hopefully, a lot more Filipinos and a lot more of our fellow countrymen will be joining our fight and our struggle,” she added.