MANILA >> A former rights lawyer narrowly defeated the son of a dictator to become vice president-elect of the Philippines, following a vote count in Congress Monday.
Rep. Leni Robredo finished only about 260,000 votes ahead of second-place candidate Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Marcos, son of late former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has raised suspicions of election fraud and has sought an investigation.
Robredo, 52, is a former rights lawyer who helped defend the rural poor in her home province of Camarines Sur southeast of Manila. A year after her husband, a popular reformist politician, died in a plane crash in 2012, she was reluctantly thrust into politics with a successful run for a seat in the House of Representatives.
The Philippine Congress also confirmed crime-busting Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as president-elect of the country that has been posting high growth rates but remains saddled with poverty, corruption and insurgencies.
Duterte did not attend the ceremony at the House of Representatives, telling reporters earlier he shuns such ceremonial proclamations. He has stayed in southern Davao city, where ambassadors, well-wishers and potential Cabinet members have met him, since the May 9 elections.
Robredo’s three daughters joined her on stage for the brief ceremony. The House speaker and Senate president raised her hands to proclaim her victory as legislators applauded.
“There’s a tinge of nervousness,” Robredo told reporters earlier. “But maybe it’s more of excitement that I’m being given a rare chance to make a difference.”
Monday’s proclamation cements the stunning political rise of Duterte, 71, who won on an audacious promise to eradicate crime and corruption within six months as president. The pledge resonated among many crime-weary Filipinos, although police officials have said it is impossible to accomplish, noting that crime continues to hound Davao city, where the president-elect has served as mayor on and off for more than 22 years.
Human rights groups have expressed alarm over Duterte, who they suspect instigated extrajudicial killings of many crime suspects by motorcycle-riding gunmen dubbed the Davao death squads. The suspicions have been bolstered by Duterte’s public threats to kill drug dealers and other criminals.
In the Philippines, presidents and vice presidents are elected separately, and Duterte and Robredo come from rival parties.
Duterte and Robredo have different styles. The president-elect says his working hours may start at 1 p.m. and run late into the night, while his future vice president has been known as early riser, visiting far-flung rural villages to check on residents.
They also differ on some key issues, including a long-hanging proposal to bury the elder Marcos in a heroes’ cemetery, which Duterte says he will allow but Robredo opposes.
“Even if I may disagree with some of his views, I will always assure him that he will have 100 percent of my support,” Robredo said.
Star-Advertiser web producer Craig Gima contributed to this story.