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Dictator's son far ahead in Philippine presidential vote

A picture of Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo is seen as supporters wave their mobile phones and flags during her presidential campaign rally in...
People vote during the opening of elections on Monday May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. About 67 million registered voters will pick a new pres...
Supporters of presidential candidate, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator cheer as they wait for the last campaign rally known as "Miti...
People fill out ballots as they vote during the opening of elections on Monday May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. About 67 million registered vo...
People rush to enter a school used as a polling center to vote during the opening of elections on Monday May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Abou...
A woman shows ink on her finger after voting at a school used as a polling center for the elections on Monday, May 9, 2022, in Quezon City, Philippine...
Voters cast their ballots on Monday, May 9, 2022, in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos began voting for a new president on Monday with the son of an...
Residents look for their precincts on a list posted at a polling center on Monday, May 9, 2022, in Manila, Philippines. Filipinos began voting for a n...
Raul Bragais, 64, shows the ink on his finger to mark that he has finished voting during the opening of elections on Monday May 9, 2022 in Quezon City...
A woman waits for a polling center to open with her baby on Monday, May 9, 2022, in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos began voting for a new preside...
Presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator, votes at a polling center in Batac City, Ilocos Norte, northern Philippines...
CORRECTS PLACE - Presidential candidate and incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo shows the ink on her finger to mark that she has finished voting at ...
Vice presidential candidate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, running mate of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. shows the ink on her finger to mark that she has fini...
An election worker checks the temperature of a voter at a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for a ...
A woman adjusts her eyeglasses as she votes at a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for a new presi...
People vote at a school used as a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for a new president Monday, wi...
Presidential candidate and boxing legend, Sen. Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao votes at a school used as a polling center at Sarangani province, southern Phil...
An election worker helps voters find their precinct at a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for a n...
Voters enter a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for a new president Monday, with the son of an ou...
An election worker places ink on the fingers of a man after he has finished voting at a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines...
An election worker places the voting receipt inside a box at a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting f...
Presidential candidate and incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo votes at a school used as a polling center at Camarines Sur, eastern Philippines on M...
Presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator, looks at the receipt after voting at a polling center in Batac City, Ilocos...
Presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator, votes at a polling center in Batac City, Ilocos Norte, northern Philippines...
Vice presidential candidate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, running mate of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. waves as she votes at a polling center in Davao City,...
Voters pass by campaign posters outside a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for a new president Mo...
Election workers check a paper jam on a voting machine at a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for ...
People wait in line to vote at a school used as a polling station in Tondo district of Manila, Philippines on Monday, May 9, 2022. About 67 million re...

A picture of Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo is seen as supporters wave their mobile phones and flags during her presidential campaign rally in...

People vote during the opening of elections on Monday May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. About 67 million registered voters will pick a new pres...

Supporters of presidential candidate, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator cheer as they wait for the last campaign rally known as "Miti...

People fill out ballots as they vote during the opening of elections on Monday May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. About 67 million registered vo...

People rush to enter a school used as a polling center to vote during the opening of elections on Monday May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Abou...

A woman shows ink on her finger after voting at a school used as a polling center for the elections on Monday, May 9, 2022, in Quezon City, Philippine...

Voters cast their ballots on Monday, May 9, 2022, in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos began voting for a new president on Monday with the son of an...

Residents look for their precincts on a list posted at a polling center on Monday, May 9, 2022, in Manila, Philippines. Filipinos began voting for a n...

Raul Bragais, 64, shows the ink on his finger to mark that he has finished voting during the opening of elections on Monday May 9, 2022 in Quezon City...

A woman waits for a polling center to open with her baby on Monday, May 9, 2022, in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos began voting for a new preside...

Presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator, votes at a polling center in Batac City, Ilocos Norte, northern Philippines...

CORRECTS PLACE - Presidential candidate and incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo shows the ink on her finger to mark that she has finished voting at ...

Vice presidential candidate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, running mate of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. shows the ink on her finger to mark that she has fini...

An election worker checks the temperature of a voter at a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for a ...

A woman adjusts her eyeglasses as she votes at a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for a new presi...

People vote at a school used as a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for a new president Monday, wi...

Presidential candidate and boxing legend, Sen. Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao votes at a school used as a polling center at Sarangani province, southern Phil...

An election worker helps voters find their precinct at a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for a n...

Voters enter a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for a new president Monday, with the son of an ou...

An election worker places ink on the fingers of a man after he has finished voting at a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines...

An election worker places the voting receipt inside a box at a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting f...

Presidential candidate and incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo votes at a school used as a polling center at Camarines Sur, eastern Philippines on M...

Presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator, looks at the receipt after voting at a polling center in Batac City, Ilocos...

Presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator, votes at a polling center in Batac City, Ilocos Norte, northern Philippines...

Vice presidential candidate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, running mate of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. waves as she votes at a polling center in Davao City,...

Voters pass by campaign posters outside a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for a new president Mo...

Election workers check a paper jam on a voting machine at a polling center Monday, May 9, 2022 in Quezon City, Philippines. Filipinos were voting for ...

People wait in line to vote at a school used as a polling station in Tondo district of Manila, Philippines on Monday, May 9, 2022. About 67 million re...

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The son and namesake of ousted Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos took a commanding lead in an unofficial vote count in Monday’s presidential election in the deeply divided Asian democracy.

With 80% of the votes tabulated, Marcos Jr. had 25.9 million, far ahead of his closest challenger, current Vice President Leni Robredo, a champion of human rights, who had 12.3 million.

The election winner will take office on June 30 for a single, six-year term as leader of a Southeast Asian nation hit hard by two years of COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns.

Still more challenging problems include deeper poverty and unemployment and decades-long Muslim and communist insurgencies. The next president is also likely to hear demands to prosecute outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte for thousands of killings during his anti-drug crackdown — deaths already under investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Duterte’s daughter, southern Davao city Mayor Sara Duterte, is Marcos Jr.’s vice presidential running mate in an alliance of the scions of two authoritarian leaders. Their partnership has combined the voting power of their northern and southern political strongholds, boosting their chances but compounding worries of human rights activists.

Sara Duterte also had a formidable lead with 25.8 million votes for vice president in the unofficial count from the Commission on Elections server. The president and vice president are elected separately in the Philippines.

“History may repeat itself if they win,” said Myles Sanchez, a 42-year-old human rights worker. “There may be a repeat of martial law and the drug killings that happened under their parents.”

In a late-night video statement, Marcos Jr. did not claim victory but thanked his supporters for accompanying him on “this sometimes very difficult journey” and urged them to keep up their guard until the vote count is completed.

“Let us keep watch on the vote,” he said. “If we’ll be fortunate, I’ll expect that your help will not wane, your trust will not wane because we have a lot of things to do in the times ahead.”

Marcos Jr., whose father was ousted in a 1986 army-backed “People Power” uprising, held a wide lead in pre-election surveys. But Robredo tapped into shock and outrage over the prospect of a Marcos recapturing the seat of power and harnessed a network of campaign volunteers to underpin her candidacy.

Officials said the election was relatively peaceful despite pockets of violence in the country’s volatile south. Thousands of police and military personnel were deployed to secure election precincts, especially in rural regions with a history of violent political rivalries.

Filipinos stood in long lines to cast their ballots, with the start of voting delayed by a few hours in a few areas due to malfunctioning vote machines, power outages, bad weather and other problems.

Eight others were in the presidential race, including former boxing star Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and former national police chief Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Sanchez said the violence and abuses that marked the martial-law era under Marcos, and Duterte’s drug war more than three decades later, victimized loved ones from two generations of her family. Her grandmother was sexually abused and her grandfather tortured by counterinsurgency troops under Marcos in the early 1980s in their impoverished farming village in Southern Leyte province.

Under Duterte’s crackdown, Sanchez’s brother, a sister and a sister-in-law were wrongfully linked to illegal drugs and separately killed, she told The Associated Press in an interview. She described the killings of her siblings as “a nightmare that has caused unspeakable pain.”

She begged Filipinos not to vote for politicians who either openly defended the widespread killings or conveniently looked away.

Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte avoided such volatile issues in the campaign and steadfastly stuck instead to a battle cry of national unity, even though their fathers’ presidencies opened some of the Philippines’ most turbulent divisions.

“I have learned in our campaign not to retaliate,” Sara Duterte told followers Saturday night on the final day of campaigning, where she and Marcos Jr. thanked a huge crowd in a night of rap music, dance shows and fireworks near Manila Bay.

At her own rally, Robredo thanked her supporters who jammed her star-studded sorties and waged a house-to-house battle to endorse her brand of clean and hands-on politics. She asked them to fight for patriotic ideals beyond the elections.

“We’ve learned that those who have awoken will never close their eyes again,” Robredo told a crowd that filled the main avenue in the capital’s Makati financial district. “It’s our right to have a future with dignity and it’s our responsibility to fight for it.”

In Maguindanao province, a security hot spot in the south, three village guards were killed by gunmen outside an elections center in Buluan town, briefly disrupting voting. Nine would-be voters and their companions were wounded separately Sunday night when unidentified men fired five rifle grenades in the Datu Unsay town hall, police said.

Aside from the presidency, more than 18,000 government posts are being contested, including half of the 24-member Senate, more than 300 seats in the House of Representatives, as well as provincial and local offices across the archipelago of more than 109 million Filipinos.

More than 67 million people were registered to vote, including about 1.6 million Filipinos overseas.

In the 2016 contest, Duterte emerged as the clear winner within a few hours after polls closed and his key challengers quickly conceded. The vice presidential race that year was won narrowly by Robredo over Marcos Jr., and the outcome was slower to become known.

___

Associated Press journalists Joeal Calupitan, Aaron Favila and Cecilia Forbes in Manila, Philippines, and Kiko Rosario in Bangkok contributed to this report.