The son of the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos has claimed victory in the presidential election

Manila (AFP) - The son of the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos on Wednesday claimed victory in the presidential election, vowing to be a leader “for all Filipinos”, his spokesman said.

With an initial count almost complete, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, popularly known as “Bongbong”, has secured over 56 percent of the vote and more than double the tally of his nearest rival, liberal Leni Robredo.

The win is an astonishing reversal in the fortunes of the Marcos family, who have gone from the presidential palace to pariahs and back again in the space of a few decades.

“To the world, he says: Judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions,” spokesman Vic Rodriguez said in a statement.

Voters had been predicted to back Marcos by a landslide in Monday’s election, after relentless online whitewashing of the family’s past, the backing of powerful political dynasties and public disenchantment with post-dictatorship governments.

For years pro-Marcos accounts have flooded social media, leaving many young Facebook-educated Filipinos believing his father’s rule was a golden period of peace and prosperity.

In reality, Marcos senior left the Philippines bankrupt, and killed, tortured and jailed tens of thousands of opponents during his corrupt dictatorship.

Hours after his thumping victory Marcos Jr visited his father’s grave at the national heroes’ cemetery in Manila.

Photos posted on official Marcos social media accounts on Wednesday showed him standing before the oversized tomb with his head slightly bowed and covering his eyes with his right hand, as if crying.

“This is a victory for all Filipinos, and for democracy,” Rodriguez said in the statement.

“To those who voted for Bongbong, and those who did not, it is his promise to be a President for all Filipinos. To seek common ground across political divides, and to work together to unite the nation.”

Marcos is waiting for the vote count to finish before he fronts the media to declare victory, Rodriguez told reporters at Marcos’s campaign headquarters in Manila.

Marcos arrived at the building a short time later and was greeted by a crush of supporters outside.

The crowd erupted in cheers when he grabbed a cardboard sign from a fan that read “Thank you 31 million”, referring to the number of votes he won.

“I am so happy, so overwhelmed,” said Joseph Bugayong, a 30-year-old gardener standing outside the headquarters.

“I saw him in person and even shook his hand. My wait was worth it.”

- Questions over leadership style -

The Marcos family’s astounding journey from ignominy back to political favour has overshadowed questions about what Marcos Jr’s administration would do.

For years pro-Marcos accounts have flooded social media, leaving many young Facebook-educated Filipinos believing his father's rule was a golden period of peace and prosperity

There were few hints on the campaign trail after Marcos snubbed televised debates and largely avoided media interviews as he sought to avoid own goals.

Rights groups, Catholic church leaders and political analysts fear the huge win could embolden Marcos to rule with a heavy fist and push through constitutional changes that could entrench his rule.

Marcos’s running mate Sara Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing president, also won the vice presidency, which is elected separately, in a landslide.

Their success at the ballot box means the two offspring of authoritarian leaders will hold the highest elected positions for the next six years.

The overwhelming win has devastated Robredo’s supporters, who saw the election as a make-or-break moment for the country’s fragile democracy.

Supporters of Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr celebrate outside his campaign headquarters

Many of them went door to door across the vast archipelago in a months-long effort to convince voters to support the liberal candidate for the top job.

Robredo, a 57-year-old lawyer and the current vice president, has admitted “clear disappointment” about the result but vowed to continue the fight against poor governance.

Marcos will have to contend with this opposition that could congeal into a potent pro-democracy movement.

“I think they could still be in a position to check the worst instincts of the incoming Marcos and Duterte administration,” said political analyst Richard Heydarian.