Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the ousted dictator who ruled the Philippines for two decades has a huge lead in polls over incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo

MANILA – Philippine presidential candidates were in the provinces on Tuesday to drum up more support as the campaign entered its home stretch, in an election that has shaped into a two-way race between Ferdinand Marcos Jr and old rival Leni Robredo, Reuters reported.

Marcos, the son and namesake of the ousted dictator who ruled the Philippines for two decades has a huge lead in polls over incumbent Vice President, Robredo, ahead of the 09 May ballot.

The 64-year-old frontrunner repeated his message of unity before supporters in central Iloilo province at the first of three large rallies this week before campaigning ends on Saturday, urging them to carry his “Uniteam” to victory.

“We have travelled around the USA to rally support behind our unity movement,” stated Marcos, who appears on the verge of completing a once-unthinkable rebranding of the Marcos name, 36 years after a “people power” uprising toppled his father and drove his household into exile.

Political analysts say Marcos has been aided by a decades-long public relations effort to alter the perception of his family, even as critics accuse the Marcoses of trying to rewrite history. read more

“They have… the advantage of crafting an appealing narrative, which we are aware of distorts the historical fact and yet has somehow appealed to many voters,” said retired political science professor Temario Rivera.

In Negros Occidental province, what was supposed to be a small assembly grew to become a campaign rally for Robredo, 57, after dozens of supporters showed up. There, she promised an honest and obvious government if elected president.

The latest Pulse Asia survey conducted in mid-April confirmed that 56 per cent of 2,400 respondents supported Marcos, 23 per cent backed Robredo and former boxer Manny Pacquiao and Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso on 7% and 4% respectively.

Also, a boon for Marcos is his running mate, Sara Duterte-Carpio, who has been riding on the massive popularity of her father, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, who on Monday reiterated he would endorse no presidential candidate.

At the Marcos rally on Tuesday, crowds emphatically chanted “Duterte, Duterte,” before she spoke.

Marcos and Robredo have a bitter rivalry, with Robredo’s affiliation firmly with the motion that ousted his father after years of authoritarianism and martial law.

Despite Marcos’s commanding lead, Robredo has attracted key endorsements and big crowds in recent rallies, support that some analysts say the trendy survey may not have captured.

Robredo last week challenged Marcos to a debate, however, he declined, saying he preferred to speak immediately to the public. read more

Critics have accused Marcos of ducking debates to mask weaknesses and complained he has been inaccessible to media, with some foreign journalists reporting being denied accreditation for his marketing campaign events.

“All these restrictive actions undermine a critical and free press in an Asian bulwark of democracy and have sparked fears of how independent media would be dealt with under another possible Marcos presidency,” the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines stated in a statement.

His team did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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