A New Leader in the Philippines …
In 1986, Philippine ruler Ferdinand Marcos Sr. fled to Hawaii with his wife and kids, 90 of his closest friends, and a few essentials: jeweled cufflinks, gold bricks, tiaras, and crates of cash. (His wife Imelda’s 3,000-pair shoe collection stayed behind.) A military-backed, pro-democracy uprising had ended a decades-long rule characterized by human rights abuses and corruption that earned the family as much as $10 billion.
Marcos Sr. died three years into his self-exile, but his family has spent years working its way back into power in the Philippines—his son Ferdinand “BongBong” Marcos Jr. served as a provincial governor and senator and in 2016 lost a bid for vice president. This week, Marcos Jr. was elected president of the Philippines by about a 15 million vote margin, as public polling predicted. He’ll take office June 30, and President Joe Biden called Wednesday to congratulate him on the win.
“To the world: Judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions,” Marcos Jr. said in a statement delivered by his spokesman this week. He campaigned on national unity and—with the help of social media—portrayed his father’s rule as a golden age. Fact check group Tsek.ph found 92 percent of false posts it checked about Marcos Jr. were favorable toward him, while 96 percent of posts with misinformation about his primary competitor were negative toward her. The independent news outlet Rappler—founded by journalist Maria Ressa, whom Charlotte profiled last year—has suggested Marcos Jr. conducted a disinformation campaign on social media to launder his family’s reputation, beginning as early as 2014.
Critics worry he’ll shut down efforts to investigate his family’s crimes. Amnesty International estimates Marcos Sr.’s security forces imprisoned more than 70,000 people, torturing many of them. The Presidential Commission on Good Government has recovered less than $4 billion of the wealth the Marcos family and associates accrued. Imelda Marcos, 92, was found guilty of graft in 2018 but posted bail and has appealed the conviction. As president, Marcos Jr. could close the commission and scrap the case against his mother.
Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” killed more than 7,000 people, according to Human Rights Watch, and he promised after leaving office to “search for drug peddlers, shoot them, and kill them.” Filipinos elected Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, as Marcos Jr.’s vice president, and he says he’ll allow International Criminal Court officials investigating Duterte’s killings into the country—“but only as tourists.”
… and in Hong Kong
A hop, skip, and a two-hour plane ride from the Philippines, Hong Kong also chose a new leader this week.
Britain returned Hong Kong to China’s sovereignty in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” agreement, under which Hong Kong could keep its political freedoms and market economy for 50 years. But this agreement has come under pressure in recent years as Beijing exerts more control over the “special administrative region’s” governance. Many critics regard the city’s new leader as a further departure from Hong Kong’s promised freedoms.
Beijing loyalist and former Deputy Secretary for Security John Lee is best known for leading the brutal police crackdown on Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy protests. He has also helped implement the city’s new National Security Law, which outlaws “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces” and has led to the arrests of more than 150 people and squashed most pro-democracy political groups and independent news outlets. (The city’s foreign correspondents club recently suspended its human rights award for fear of violating the new laws.) The U.S. sanctioned Lee in 2020 for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and its citizens’ freedom of expression.
Lee’s election Sunday is the first since changes to Hong Kong’s election laws last year that Beijing implemented to ensure only “patriots” hold office. In his role as chief secretary last year, Lee led the vetting of members of the approximately 1,500-person committee that, this year, was responsible for electing him. The only candidate in Sunday’s election, he won 99 percent of the vote and will be sworn in on July 1 when his predecessor, Carrie Lam, steps down after a five-year term marked by crackdowns on pro-democracy protests and a tumultuous COVID-19 situation.
“[The election result] fully demonstrates the new vitality of the democratic practice in Hong Kong and the true democratic spirit,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Tuesday. After all, a full 1,416 of Hong Kong’s approximately 7.5 million residents voted for Lee.
Other countries pointed out the disconnect. In a joint statement on Sunday, the G7 nations expressed “grave concern” over “a continued assault on political pluralism and fundamental freedoms.” Days after the election, Hong Kong national security officers arrested four prominent pro-democracy activists—including 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen—under the national security law. They’ve since been released on bail pending investigation.
“I look forward to all of us starting a new chapter together, building a Hong Kong that is caring, open and vibrant, and a Hong Kong that is full of opportunities and harmony,” Lee said in a victory speech. He’s pledged to improve Hong Kong’s governance and housing, as well as enact laws fighting treason, secession, sedition, and subversion.
“In Lee, Beijing gets its ‘designated enforcer,’” said Samuel Chu, founder of pro-democracy advocacy group The Campaign for Hong Kong. “Lee is a puppet elected through a sham process who will face no political opposition, no independent and free press, and no freedom of speech, assembly, or expression. Today, John Lee won and the people of Hong Kong lost.”
Capital Tensions High After Draft Supreme Court Opinion Leak
When Politico published a leaked draft opinion from Justice Samuel Alito showing the Supreme Court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, it wasn’t just Washington, D.C. that was turned upside down. A couple of quiet neighborhoods in Maryland and Virginia, were too.
Abortion-access activists have organized a handful of protests outside conservatives justices’ homes in recent days, hoping to use public pressure to influence the court’s final ruling. Harvest and Audrey observed some protests outside Alito’s home in Alexandria and Brett Kavanaugh’s in Chevy Chase, and they report what they saw in