US to work with incoming PH gov’t on human rights

May 12 ------ As presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is poised to return to Malacañang, the United States said it looked forward to renewing its “special partnership” with the Philippines and working with the incoming administration on “key human rights and regional priorities.”

Partial unofficial results from the Philippine poll body’s transparency server showed the late dictator’s son capturing nearly 59% of the vote – an insurmountable lead that was more than double that of Vice President Leni Robredo, his closest challenger, who was trailing with nearly 28%. “We’re monitoring the election results, and we look forward to renewing our special partnership and to working with the next administration on key human rights and regional priorities,” US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters during a press conference on May 11 (Manila time).

Marcos Jr.’s landslide win in the 2022 elections brings full circle his family’s decades-long project to rehabilitate its image and reclaim Malacañang. Nearly four decades ago, Bongbong’s father the dictator was ousted in 1986 by a peaceful people power revolution that was driven by discontent of both the people and the armed forces over widespread corruption, human rights abuses, and poverty. An incoming Marcos presidency likewise comes after six turbulent years between Manila and Washington, during which President Rodrigo Duterte often expressed his dislike for the US and railed against American lawmakers’ statements criticizing his bloody anti-illegal drug campaign.

Asked specifically if the US had concerns over a Marcos presidency and its potential impact on efforts to keep in check Chinese influence in the region, Price told reporters in Washington DC that it would wait until a president-elect is officially named. Marcos Jr. has a standing contempt order in the United States – among other cases that he and his mother Imelda are facing. On the campaign trail, Marcos Jr. has also expressed preference for continuing the Duterte administration’s warm ties with Beijing. “The counting is still underway. It is not for us to declare a winner. We’ll wait for the Philippines election authorities to do that,” he said. “What I can say from a technical standpoint is that we understand the casting and counting of votes to have been conducted in line with international standards and without significant incident.”

Once that takes place, Price said the US will work to “strengthen the enduring alliance” between Manila and Washington. “We’ll continue to collaborate closely to advance a free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient Indo-Pacific region. We’ll also continue, as I said before, to promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, which is fundamental to US relations with the Philippines and in other bilateral contexts as well,” he said. Price added, “We look forward to working with the president-elect on the shared values and the shared interests that have united our countries across generations.” He continued: “It’s an enduring alliance that is rooted in a long and deeply interwoven history, shared democratic values and interests, and strong people-to-people ties between our countries as friends, as partners, as allies.”

Recent elections in the Philippines have been framed as existential. After the weaponization of law, rampant spread of disinformation, and human rights abuses seen during the Duterte administration, Marcos Jr.’s win raised concern over the further erosion of Philippine democracy, one of the oldest in Asia. Marcos Jr.’s spokesperson Vic Rodriguez said in statement that results of the recent election exercise were a “victory for all Filipinos, and for democracy.”