MANILA (Reuters) – Philippines presidential frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr heaped praise on the country’s ousted former first family in an interview on Tuesday, calling his father and late dictator a “political genius” and mother Imelda, the Marcos dynasty’s “supreme politician”.
Marcos Jr is the clear favourite for the May 9 election, where victory would cap off a three-decade political fightback for a family driven from power in a 1986 uprising against its notorious 20-year rule.
The 64-year-old former senator and congressman told CNN Philippines he would not let his commanding lead in opinion polls distract him from work needed to be done to ensure victory.
“I am not confident that I’m going to be president yet, because I do not allow myself to be confident,” said Marcos, who was 32 points ahead of nearest rival, incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo, in the most recent survey.
“It doesn’t matter to me what numbers you show me, we’re not there yet. So we don’t stop, we will keep going.”
Despite being driven into exile in the “people power” revolution, the Marcos family remains one of the wealthiest and most influential in Philippine politics.
His campaign has been helped by what political analysts say has been a decades-long public relations effort to alter perception of the Marcoses, who were accused of living lavishly at the helm of one of Asia’s most notorious kleptocracies.
The family’s rivals say the presidential run is an attempt to rewrite history, and change a narrative of corruption and authoritarianism.
Marcos in the interview acknowledged his privileged life but said his parents reminded him and his siblings that “everything we have, all the advantages that we have gained, any successes that we have achieved, and any comfort or privilege that we enjoy comes from the people. And that is why you have to serve.”
His priorities if elected, he said, were “prices and jobs”.
He also said his father and namesake, whom he has called his “idol”, would not object if he called his mother the “supreme politician in the family”.
“My father is the statesman, he is the political genius, he is all that,” Marcos said.
Marcos senior ruled for two decades, almost half of it under martial law during which thousands of his opponents were beaten and tortured, and disappeared or were killed.
He and his wife, Imelda, 92, a four-time congresswoman, were accused of stealing billions from state coffers, allegations they refuted.
They remain parties to dozens of cases filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), an agency created in 1986 to recover billions in missing Marcos wealth.
If elected, Marcos said he would strengthen the PCGG, so it can go after new targets.
“Instead of directing themselves against the Marcoses only, if I have a relative who is corrupt, then that person’s name will come out, not only us, everyone” he said.
(Reporting by Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty)