Ferdinand Marcos Jr sworn in as President of the Philippines

The son of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos was sworn in as president on Thursday, ending years of efforts to restore the clan to the country’s top office.

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., 64, won a landslide victory last month, securing the biggest victory since his father was ousted in a popular uprising in 1986.

He succeeded the hugely popular Rodrigo Duterte, who gained international infamy for his deadly war on drugs and threatened to kill suspected traffickers after he left office.

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Marcos Jr. took the oath at noon (04:00 GMT) in a public ceremony at the National Museum in Manila in front of hundreds of local and foreign dignitaries, including Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and Second US Gentleman Douglas Emhoff.

More than 15,000 police officers, soldiers and coast guards were deployed throughout the capital for the inauguration.

Ahead of the swearing in, Duterte received Marcos Jr. at the Malacañang presidential palace, from where the Marcos family fled into exile 36 years ago.

Duterte, 77, donned a mask and his traditional formal shirt, usually unbuttoned at the top and with rolled up sleeves, to meet Marcos Jr., whom he once called “weak”.

The ceremony comes days after the Supreme Court rejected recent attempts to remove Marcos Jr. from the election and prevent him from taking office.

As rising prices squeeze an economy already devastated by Covid-19, Marcos Jr has made fighting inflation, accelerating growth and boosting food production his top priorities.

He took the rare step of appointing himself Minister of Agriculture to spearhead a restructuring of the troubled sector.

Marcos Jr. has also vowed to defend the Philippines’ rights to the disputed South China Sea, which is almost entirely claimed by Beijing.

But he provided scant details about how he would achieve his goals and gave little hint about his leadership style after largely avoiding media interviews.

Duterte supporter commentator Rigoberto Tiglao recently wrote that he is optimistic about the “economic boom” under Marcos Jr.

Tiglao pointed to the “outstanding academics” on Marcos Jr.’s economic team and the support of “powerful tycoons” who would be able to advise and financially support him.

“Friends to all, enemies to no one”

Marcos Jr., who seems more polite and businesslike than Duterte, came to power with a massive social media disinformation campaign.

Marcos supporter groups have bombarded Filipinos with fake or misleading posts that portray the family in a positive light while ignoring corruption and violations of the patriarch’s rights for 20 years.

The decisive factor in the success of Marcos Jr. was an alliance with Duterte’s daughter Sarah, who won the vice presidency with more votes than him, and the support of rival dynasties.

Many expect Marcos Jr. to be less violent and more predictable than Duterte Sr., but activists and clergy fear he could use his victory to gain a foothold in power.

“Marcos Jr.’s refusal to recognize the abuses and wrongdoings of the past, effectively praising the dictatorship as ‘golden years’, is very likely that he will continue his dark legacy during his term,” Bayan warned.

Marcos Jr., who has distanced himself from his father’s rule but has not been critical of it, vowed last month to “always strive for excellence.”

He held most of the cabinet positions. But the most powerful adviser during his six-year term is likely to be his wife Louise, who claims she has no interest in joining his government but is widely believed to have led his campaign.

Sergio Ortiz-Luis, president of the Philippine Employers’ Confederation, said the country has “a big chance that we can move ahead and get ahead of the rest” under Marcos Jr.’s leadership.

“We are very optimistic about the quality of the leadership we have now,” said Ortiz-Luis. AFP.

Unlike Duterte, who switched from the United States to China, Marcos Jr. has signaled that he will seek a more balanced relationship with the two superpowers.

Last month, Marcos Jr. said he would pursue a foreign policy of “friends to all and enemies to none.”

But unlike Duterte, he insisted that he would support an international solution against Beijing over the resource-rich South China Sea.

Although he supported Duterte’s war on drugs, which killed thousands of people, mostly the poor, he is unlikely to wage it so aggressively.

“I think the Philippine political elite is ready to move on from the violent war on drugs,” said Greg Wyatt, director of business intelligence for PSA Philippines Consultancy.

“The drug has received quite a bit of negative attention.”

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