About 65.7 million registered voters across the country voted to replace populist leader Rodrigo Duterte, who resigned after six years.
Voters are also deciding the vice presidency – in a separate race from the presidency – and an additional 18,000 positions among senators and local representatives.
Ahead of the polls on Monday, opinion polls had Marcos Jr, known in the Philippines as Bongbong, as a clear favorite ahead of closest rival Robredo.
The rising cost of living and the fight against corruption are among the issues on which the candidates have campaigned.
Nicolas Saban, who cast his vote in Manila, said these elections are an opportunity for “peace”.
“Our situation is not good now, the prices of goods are too high. Perhaps the next leader will be able to control it,” he told CNN. He said he is voting for “someone who can control poverty in our country and that corruption finally disappears”.
Julie, who only gave one name, said she is voting for a candidate who is “smart”, strong and “someone who is ready to help people”.
“For me, it’s about dealing with crime, people’s safety and the country’s security. These are important to me. Besides people’s lives, every place in the country should be peaceful. And people should be sure to eat something. , “Julie said.
A victory for Marcos Jr would bring the Marcos dynasty back to the Malacañang Palace, more than three decades after the family fled a mass revolt in 1986.
Marcos Jr is the son and namesake of former authoritarian leader Ferdinand Marcos Sr, whose 21 years of rule have been marked by human rights violations and looting of the state coffers.
Tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured or killed during a period of martial law imposed by Marcos Sr 1972 to 1981, according to human rights groups. The Philippine Presidential Commission for Good Governance (PCGG) charged with recovering the family and estimates on the illicit wealth of their associates about 10 billion dollars have been stolen from the Filipino people.
The Marcos family has repeatedly denied abuses under martial law and the use of state funds for personal use.
Activists say the Marcos have never been held accountable. Martial law victims are still fighting for justice.
Analysts say there is an opportunity for a restoration of the Philippines’ relations with both major powers and the outcome of the vote could shift the balance of power in Asia.
Marcos Jr operated on a platform of “unity” and promised more jobs, lower prices and more investment in agriculture and infrastructure.
His running mate for vice president is Sara Duterte Carpio, the daughter of Rodrigo Duterte, and their supporters see them continuing his infrastructure policies and controversial war on drugs.
Marcos Jr, a former senator, tied his campaign to his father’s legacy, with his slogan “rise again” drawing on the nostalgia of those who see Marcos Sr’s time as a golden age for the country.
Supporters of the Marcos family claim that the period was a period of progress and prosperity, characterized by the construction of important infrastructures such as hospitals, roads and bridges. Critics say it was an illusion and those projects were driven by widespread corruption, foreign loans and rising debt.
Marcos Jr was 29 when his family was thrown into exile in Hawaii following the People Power revolution that won his father’s regime in 1986. Marcos Sr died in exile three years later, but his family returned in 1991 and became wealthy and influential politicians, with later those family members representing their dynastic stronghold of Ilocos Norte.
Marcos Jr’s rise to presidential favorite follows a decades-old rebranding campaign to revive the Marcos family name and image, a campaign that has recently been overloaded by social media, analysts say.
“They used a lot of influencers or content creators on YouTube, to peddle this made up narrative about the Marcos era that was the golden age of the Philippines, that there was peace and order throughout time,” said Gaw, who he is also an assistant professor of communication research at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication.
Other analysts have said that Marcos Jr appeals to Filipinos who are tired of the political wrangling and promises of economic progress and reform of successive administrations that many believe have not been to the benefit of ordinary people.
Robredo, 57, a former human rights lawyer who is running as an independent, has promised transparency to the government, to fight corruption, improve the education system and guarantee free access to doctors.
His campaign was supported by an army of volunteer citizens who go from house to house to gather votes, and his demonstrations have consistently attracted hundreds of thousands of people.
During the campaign it positioned itself as an alternative to the Marcos-Duterte partnership, promoting good governance and defending human rights.
Journalist Maria Ressa, a 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner and president and CEO of local media Rappler, told CNN that Robredo’s campaign sparked a movement.
“Whatever happens next, this country has never been here before. The kind of volunteer spirit that Leni Robredo has aroused, that to get out of social media, there are volunteers going from house to house, which has never happened. in the Philippines, “she said.
The run for the presidency bears some similarities to the 2016 election, when Marcos Jr hired Robredo for vice presidency. On that occasion he lost Marcos Jr, despite the fact that he was leading the polls for most of the race.