The Philippine peso rebounded from a three-year low and stocks dropped as Ferdinand Marcos Jr. headed for a landslide victory in the country’s presidential election that will return his family to power more than three decades after his late dictator father was ousted in a bloodless people’s revolt.
The former senator won 30.76 million votes, while his closest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo received 14.68 million votes, according to the latest unofficial tally by local broadcaster ABS-CBN. With about 97% of election returns already in, Marcos Jr. has yet to claim victory. “Let’s wait until the 100% of votes have been counted and the victory is very clear before we celebrate,” he said in a televised speech late Monday.
Marcos ran on a message of unity that offered few specific policy proposals, except to say that he will continue President Rodrigo Duterte’s infrastructure building program if he wins. Most pre-election polls showed him well ahead of Robredo, a human rights lawyer and staunch critic of Duterte’s violent crackdown on suspected drug traffickers. Marcos’ running mate, Duterte’s daughter Sara Duterte, is also poised to win the vice presidential race with an even wider margin against her closest rival.
“The surveys have already flagged this outcome and the market will take this result as credible,” Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank, told Forbes Asia via Viber chat. “Investors will stay on the sidelines until the new president provides a clear and concrete plan to tackle rising poverty, strengthen healthcare, deal with inflation and manage debt. Investors would like to see his economic team.”
The peso traded at 52.40 against the dollar as of 11:20 am in Manila, rebounding from a fresh three-year low seen last week after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by the most in more than two decades. Analysts attributed the currency’s recent weakness to the Philippines’ widening trade deficit and a stronger U.S. dollar, which has been bolstered by aggressive monetary tightening by policymakers who are grappling with the worst inflation in 40 years.
While the Philippine Stock Exchange Index fell 1.2% after slipping more than 3% earlier, the decline could be short-lived.
“Historically, election results have not had much of an impact on the performance of the stock market,” said April Lee-Tan, head of research at COL Financial. “It is more of the policies of the new president which at this point, we still don’t know.”
Marcos Jr.’s impending victory follows years of efforts to rehabilitate his family’s image. His father Ferdinand Marcos was elected to the presidency in 1965 and remained in office for 21 years, much of it under a martial law regime that was tied to thousands of arrests, disappearances and killings, according to Amnesty International.
The elder Marcos—who in 1986 fled to Hawaii amid protests and died there three years later—was also accused of stealing billions of dollars from the nation’s coffers, fueling a lavish lifestyle in a debt-ridden country. His wife Imelda Marcos—whose massive collection of shoes and jewelry is often cited as a symbol of the family’s alleged excesses—was convicted of corruption in 2018.
Despite the family’s legacy, Marcos Jr.’s social media-driven presidential campaign has sought to reframe his father’s time in office as an era of robust economic growth, denying widespread reports of corruption and human rights abuses during the 21-year Marcos rule.
The incoming president will inherit an economy that’s among the fastest growing in Southeast Asia, with Duterte’s infrastructure projects helping to shore up the economy that’s been upended by the Covid-19 pandemic in the past two years.
“Infrastructure is something that we really need and that is something all the candidates talked about,” COL Financial’s Tan said. “So if Marcos also pursues the development of infrastructure, then it should benefit the economy.”