A group of Southeast Asian parliamentarians has expressed concern over the upcoming administration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the Philippines following the former senator’s apparent victory in the May 9 presidential election.
In a statement, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) alleged that Marcos has “systematically whitewashed the appalling human rights record” of his father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“This whitewashing has been part of massive disinformation campaigns, particularly online, that have enormously influenced the election results,” read the legislators’ statement.
It noted that social media has become “a powerful political tool” in the Philippines with over 92 million recorded social media users, making the country a fertile ground for online campaigns of disinformation.
“The generalized spread of disinformation has created an environment which has made it difficult for many voters to make informed decisions at the polling station,” said Charles Santiago, Member of Parliament from Malaysia, and APHR chairperson.
He said that although the electoral process has been conducted in a “formally correct manner,” his group is concerned that “voting choices based on lies and harmful narratives could have seriously undermined the integrity of the elections and democracy itself.”
Initial election results show that Marcos is set to win the presidency by a landslide, while his running mate, Sara Duterte, is leading in the run for the vice presidency.
Duterte is the daughter of current President Rodrigo Duterte, who is responsible for the infamous “war on drugs” that resulted in killings of hundreds of suspected drug users and peddlers.
APHR called on the incoming administration to protect the Philippine Constitution and “ensure that the government abides to all its international human rights obligations.”
“Marcos, Jr. should also return to the Philippine people the ill-gotten wealth in his family’s possession, as ruled by the Supreme Court, and ensure that all his tax obligations are fulfilled,” read the group’s statement.
The Southeast Asian legislators called on Marcos “to honor and provide reparations to the victims of human rights abuses committed during his father’s regime,” as prescribed by the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.
“He should also cooperate with the [International Criminal Court] and allow a full investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity committed during Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency,” it added.
The legislators also called for the release of jailed Senator Leila de Lima unconditionally “for the unjust detention she has suffered over the last five years, and drop all the trumped-up charges against her.”
De Lima was arrested in February 2017 shortly after she had launched a Senate investigation on the extrajudicial killings committed in Duterte’s “war on drugs.”
“We urge the incoming administration to also allow fundamental freedoms to thrive and put an end to the practice of baseless ‘red-tagging’ or ‘narco-tagging’ of critics and members of the political opposition,” read the APHR statement.