An alliance between two families with a history of human-rights abuses is poised to oversee a populous East Asian nation.
Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, is seeking the presidency of the Philippines in the May 9 election. His running mate is Sara Zimmerman Duterte-Carpio, a.k.a. Inday Sara, daughter of current president Rodrigo Duterte.
A Publicus Asia poll of 1,500 voters between May 2 and 5 had Marcos Jr. at 54 percent support. The last Pulse Asia poll put Marcos Jr. at 56 percent.
His nearest rival, Leni Robredo, is well back, polling at lower than 30 percent.
Marcos Jr. has denied that human-rights abuses occurred under his father's rule from 1965 to 1986. That claim has been scoffed at by his critics.
In 2016, the Manila Times reported that 3,257 people were killed by the military during his father's rule, mostly from 1975 to 1985 after he had imposed martial law.
Historians have concluded that more than 2,500 of these people were tortured and mutilated. In many instances, their bodies were left in public places to send a message to opponents of the dictator.
In addition, historians have estimated that 35,000 people were tortured under Marcos's rule.
One of those torture victims, Vancouver resident Christopher "Perry" Sorio, spoke about his experiences with the Georgia Straight last year. He was 21 years old when he was taken into custody in Manila in 1982 and held for two years.
“I was repeatedly electrocuted through my genitals,” Sorio recalled in a mostly Tagalog-language interview.
Sorio was one of 10 plaintiffs in a class-action suit against Marcos filed in Hawaii. The judge, Manuel Real, awarded US$1.9 billion to the families of nearly 10,000 human rights victims.
According to Sorio, the Marcos family never paid any damages nor did they ask for forgiveness.
Duterte, who's sometimes referred to as "Trump of the East", has overseen unlawful killings and other human-rights violations in his war on drugs, according to Amnesty International.
"The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced an investigation into crimes against humanity," the group stated in its 2021 country report on the Philippines. "Human rights defenders, political activists and politicians were subjected to unlawful killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, and harassment. Indigenous peoples were the target of attacks by the authorities and unknown assailants."
The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands with a population of more than 112 million.
Family oligarchies have long had a disproportionate impact on its politics, controlling capital and dominating the country, according to the 2009 book An Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines.
Marcos Jr. enjoys a great deal of support from business elites in the northern part of the country, including on the largest and most populous island of Luzon.
Sara Duterte has been mayor of Davao City, which is the country's third most-populous city. It's on the large southern island of Mindanao, which is slightly smaller than Luzon.
Robredo, the current vice president of the Philippines, is leading a "pink revolution" to try to thwart the Marcos family's return to power. Her rallies, which include pop concerts, have attracted thousands of followers.
She's a former human-rights lawyer and the only woman running for president.