Son of Filipino dictator likely to seize power – but did he once have a Tongan passport?

Bongbong  Marcos, the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, may be about to become the Philippines’ new president.

Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jnr is the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Photo: EPA

Marcos Snr, who was driven from power by a popular revolution, acquired a Tongan passport in 1986, as did his wife and two of his children.

Bongbong Marcos has allied himself with Sara Duterte daughter of current president Duterte, who has presided over a regime that has encouraged police to murder drug dealers, shut down opposition media and silenced his critics.

Marcos Jnr, 64, has a seemingly unstoppable lead in the elections, with 18 million votes against his rival’s 8.5 million. The threat of him gaining power seriously worries the country’s democrats.

He has worked overtime to whitewash his father’s dictatorship and persuade voters that Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda – famous for her enormous collection of shoes – did not steal billions of dollars, kill and torture opponents, leave millions of people starving and destroy the economy.

After he was overthrown, the Marcoses and at least two of their children acquired Tongan passports from King Tupou IV in July 1986. The king was running an illegal racket selling Tongan passports to mostly Chinese citizens. Two kinds of Tongan passport were for sale to foreigners: the Tonga Protected Persons Passport and the Tongan National Passport (issued to those who became naturalised).

Mrs Marcos initially denied that she had a Tongan passport, but then admitted she may have been given one, but claimed she had not applied for it or paid for it.

King Taufa’āhau Tupou IV. Photo/Wikipedia

It is not certain whether Bongbong was one of the children who acquired a Tongan passport.

The sale of an estimated 7000 passports raised about US$26 million, nearly all of which was lost when the king was conned by an American fraudster, Jesse Bogdonoff. The money had been shifted to a bank account in San Francisco. The king was reported as saying that if the money was left in Tonga it would be spent on roads.

The late ‘Akilisi Pohiva helped expose the king’s corrupt practices, forced it to admit the illegality of the passport sales and change the constitution.

Pohiva and the then Catholic Bishop (now Cardinal) Patelesio Finau led 2500 protestors in a march on the royal palace where they presented petitions to the King asking him to cancel the citizenship of hundreds of passport holders and to sack the police minister who had accepted blame for the sales.

Veteran Pacific affairs reporter David Robie reported at the time that the king had told the Tonga Chronicle the kingdom could not afford to cancel the passports.

“He said changing foreign exchange rates, plus possible lawsuits by passport holders, meant that paying out refunds and declaring the documents null and void would be too heavy a burden for the country,” Robie wrote.

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