Former first lady Imelda Marcos smiles with her son and newly-elected President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., during the inauguration ceremony at the National Museum in Manila, Philippines, June 30, 2022. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has been sworn in as the 17th President of the Philippines. Thousands of supporters gathered for the ceremony in front of the National Museum in Manila on Thursday. The 64-year-old Marcos Jr. clearly won the presidential election on May 9th.

This marks the return of the infamous Marcos dynasty to the Malacañang Palace in the capital, 36 years after their expulsion from the island nation.

The Marcos regime under Ferdinand (1917-1989) and his eccentric wife Imelda – who attended the inauguration at the age of 92 – once made a name for itself with murder, torture and the disappearance of political opponents without a trace. In 1986, the family was expelled from the island nation and fled to Hawaii. After the dictator’s death in 1989, she returned to the Philippines in the early 1990s.

Marcos boasted the achievements of his father’s long reign. “I once knew a man who realized how little had been accomplished since independence… He did it,” he said. His father built more roads and planted more rice than all his predecessors combined. “So it will be with his son. You won’t hear any apologies from me,” Marcos said. Sara Duterte, the daughter of the previous incumbent Rodrigo Duterte, was elected Vice President.

After six years of an authoritarian Duterte government, human rights activists, representatives of the Catholic Church and political pundits fear that Marcos Jr. could be even more autocratic as president.

The Marcos clan also owes its comeback to the disillusionment with the continuing gap between rich and poor and allegations of bribery, which accompanied all governments after the end of the dictatorship. Marcos Jr. also benefited from an alliance with Duterte daughter Sara Duterte. In addition, the dictator’s son is supported by powerful families who have enormous influence in the feudal and corrupt Filipino politics.

Opponents had tried in vain to have Marcos Jr. banned from the presidential election because of his prior convictions for tax evasion. They also accused him of doctoring his academic credentials.

Marcos Jr. himself avoided debates with his competitors during the campaign to avoid questions about his family’s past. In the few interviews he gave, he seemed awkward and tense. He describes his father as a “political genius”.