Philippines election 2022: what you need to know about the vote for president

Show caption On 9 May, the Philippines presidential election will determine who will replace the populist leader Rodrigo Duterte. He has reached the end of his six-year term and is constitutionally barred from running again. Photograph: George Buid/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock Philippines Philippines election 2022: what you need to know about the vote for president Ferdinand Marcos Jr, known as Bongbong Marcos, frontrunner in race to replace populist president Rodrigo Duterte Rebecca Ratcliffe in Manila Thu 5 May 2022 04.09 BST Share on Facebook

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What’s happening?

On 9 May about 67.5 million Filipinos will go to the polls to decide who should replace the populist president Rodrigo Duterte. He has reached the end of his six-year term and is constitutionally barred from running again.

It’s not just the presidential post that will be decided on 9 May. Thousands of positions are being contested across the country – from the vice presidency and Senate seats, to 18,000 local positions, including city mayors and provincial governors.

Election posters are almost inescapable: they are pinned to the front of homes, along walkways and are plastered on billboards.

How will people vote?

Most ballots will be cast on election day. More than 1.6 million Filipinos who work overseas began voting for national candidates on 10 April.

When will we know the results?

Voting is due to close at 7pm on Monday, though the Commission on Elections has said it may extend voting hours if people are still waiting outside polling stations.

Vote counting will begin as soon as the ballots close, and the winner could be apparent within hours. However, in 2016, Duterte was not officially declared the winner until almost three weeks later.

Who is the frontrunner for president?

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, 64, known as Bongbong Marcos, the namesake and only son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, is leading the opinion polls. His family’s name and history is deeply divisive. The family plundered billions of dollars from the state, and the imposition of martial law by Marcos Sr in 1972 marked one of the darkest periods in the country’s history.

Marcos Jr was 28 years old when his father was toppled by the 1986 People Power Revolution. The family was forced to flee the Malacañang Palace and went into exile. Observers say that, ever since, the Marcoses have been intent on returning to the country’s highest office. Marcos Jr’s mother, Imelda, has previously described the presidency as her son’s “destiny”.

Marcos Sr died in exile, but the family were allowed to return to the Philippines during the 1990s, when they began to rebuild their presence in public life. Marcos Jr was subsequently elected Ilocos Norte governor, a congressman and a senator. In 2016, he ran for vice president, but lost to Leni Robredo, a human rights lawyer who is now running against him in the presidential race.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr leads the polls ahead of the 9 May vote for president in the Philippines. Photograph: Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

Marcos Jr has downplayed or denied abuses committed under his father, and has developed a large social media presence that has allowed the family to rebrand itself. Accounts linked to or supportive of the family have spread disinformation about Marcos regime, portraying it as a golden era.

He has campaigned with the slogan “together we will rise again”, promising unity and hope, while also stating he will prioritise the cost of living and jobs. However, he has not taken part in presidential debates and has dodged tough media questions, including over his father’s legacy, his family’s ill-gotten wealth (estimated to be as much as US$10bn) and his own unpaid tax bill.

Who are the other candidates?

Second in the polls is vice-president Leni Robredo, who has presented herself as a true alternative to the likes of Marcos and Duterte.

The daughter of a judge and an English professor, Robredo previously worked for nongovernment organisations providing legal assistance to marginalised groups. She entered politics after the death of her husband, interior secretary Jesse Robredo, who was killed in a plane crash in 2012.

Robredo was elected vice president in 2016, and has had a frosty relationship with Duterte, criticising his “war on drugs”, and speaking out about human rights issues. She has warned of the risks of populist leaders, condemned the legal charges against Nobel prize-winning journalist Maria Ressa, and the decision to grant Marcos Sr a hero’s burial. In the Philippines, the vice president and president are elected separately.

Leni Robredo speaks during a campaign rally in Quezon City in February. Photograph: Lisa Marie David/Reuters

Robredo has promised to tackle corruption in politics, and her campaign slogan is “Honest government, a better life for all”. The only woman presidential candidate, she has been labelled as weak by critics and been targeted by online smears and misinformation, according to fact-checker group

Marcos has a significant lead in polling, however Robredo has been boosted by huge turnouts at recent rallies, and by her army of passionate volunteers – 2 million in total – who have been going house to house to persuade undecided voters.

Further behind Robredo is Manny Pacquiao, a champion boxer and national hero. Pacquiao, a former street kid who rose to become a sports star, began his political career in 2010, becoming a member of the House of Representatives and then a senator in 2016. He was once an ally of Duterte, but relations between the two have since soured. He has accused Duterte of being too close to China, and has promised to tackle corruption.

Also running is Isko Moreno, a former actor and current Manila mayor. He grew up in one of Manila’s poorest neighbourhoods before he was talent spotted and began a career in TV and film. Duterte has mocked him over his showbiz past, likening him to “a call boy” for having posed for racy photos.

Moreno has pledged to take a tough stance on Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, to continue infrastructure projects started under Duterte, and has presented himself as a “healing” candidate.

Manila city mayor and presidential candidate Isko Moreno. Photograph: Maria Tan/AFP/Getty Images

Trailing behind in the polls is Panfilo Lacson, a senator and former police chief. He is known for having a touch stance on crime and for backing a controversial anti-terror law, which permits warrantless arrests and allows authorities to hold individuals for weeks without charge.

What legacy will Duterte leave?

Duterte’s presidency has been tumultuous and attracted strong criticism from rights groups but he remains popular at home. Many supporters believe he has delivered what he promised at the start of his term, including taking a tough stance on crime and corruption.

His straight-talking, strong man image appears to still resonate with many, and his popularity has endured even after the Philippines faced one of the world’s toughest Covid lockdowns. His daughter, Sara Duterte, who is the frontrunner in the race for the vice presidency, has benefited from the popularity of the family name.

But rights experts at home and abroad have criticised Duterte’s authoritarian style of leadership, including his approach to drugs-related crime and his intolerance of dissent. Last year the international criminal court announced it was investigating his so-called “war on drugs”, in which as many as 30,000 people are estimated to have been killed.