About 65.7 million registered voters across the country voted to replace populist leader Rodrigo Duterte, who is stepping down after six years.
Voters also decide on the vice president — in a separate race from the presidency — and 18,000 other positions, including senators and local representatives.
Before voting began on Monday, opinion polls had Marcos Jr, known in the Philippines as Bongbong, as a clear favorite ahead of his closest rival Robredo.
The rising cost of living and the fight against corruption are among the issues the candidates have campaigned on.
Nicolas Saban, who voted in Manila, said the election was a chance for “peace”.
“Our situation is not good right now, commodity prices are too high. Maybe the next leader can control it,” he told CNN. He said he was voting for “someone who can control poverty in our country and make corruption finally go away”.
Julie, who gave only one name, said she was voting for a candidate who was “smart”, strong and “someone who is ready to help people”.
“For me, it’s about fighting crime, people’s safety and the safety of the country. These are important to me. In addition to people’s lives, every place in the country should be peaceful. And the people should be assured they have something to eat, says Julie.
A victory for Marcos Jr would bring the Marcos dynasty back to Malacañang Palace, more than three decades after the family fled a mass uprising in 1986.
Marcos Jr is the son and namesake of former authoritarian leader Ferdinand Marcos Sr, whose The 21-year rule was marked by human rights abuses and the looting of state coffers.
Tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured or killed during a period of martial law imposed by Marcos Sr from 1972 to 1981, according to human rights groups. The Philippine President’s Commission on Good Governance (PCGG), tasked with recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the family and their associates, estimates that around $10 billion was stolen from the Filipino people.
The Marcos family has repeatedly denied abuse under martial law and the use of public funds for personal use.
Activists say the Marcos were never held accountable. Victims of martial law are still fighting for justice.
Analysts say there is an opportunity for a reset of the Philippines’ relationship with the two major powers – and the outcome of the vote could shift the balance of power in Asia.
Marcos Jr ran on a “unity” platform and promised more jobs, lower prices and more investment in agriculture and infrastructure.
His vice-presidential running mate is Sara Duterte Carpio, the daughter of Rodrigo Duterte, and their supporters view them as continuing his infrastructure policy and controversial war on drugs.
Marcos Jr, a former senator, linked his campaign to his father’s legacy, with his “get back up” slogan drawing on the nostalgia of some who see the era of Marcos Sr as a golden era for the country.
Marcos family supporters say the period was one of progress and prosperity, characterized by the construction of major infrastructure like hospitals, roads and bridges. Critics say it was an illusion and that these projects were driven by widespread corruption, foreign loans and ballooning debt.
Marcos Jr was 29 when his family was driven into exile in Hawaii following the People Power Revolution that toppled his father’s regime in 1986. Marcos Sr died in exile three years later, but his family is returned in 1991 and became wealthy and influential politicians. 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, according to the analysts.
“They used a lot of influencers or content creators on YouTube, to peddle this fabricated narrative about the Marcos era being the golden age of the Philippines, that there was peace and order in the time,” said Gaw, who is also an assistant professor of communication research at the College of Mass Communication at the University of the Philippines.
Other analysts said Marcos Jr appeals to Filipinos tired of political wrangling and promises of progress and economic reform from successive administrations that many believe have not benefited ordinary people.
Robredo, 57, a former human rights lawyer who presents himself as an independent, promised transparency in government, to fight corruption, improve the education system and guarantee free access to doctors.
His campaign was supported by an army of volunteer citizens going house to house soliciting votes, and his rallies consistently drew hundreds of thousands of people.
Throughout her campaign, she has positioned herself as an alternative to the Marcos-Duterte partnership, promoting good governance and defending human rights.
Journalist Maria Ressa, the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and president and CEO of local outlet 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 sparked, that to get out of social media, there are volunteers who go from house to house – this has never happened in the Philippines,” she said.
The presidential race bears some similarities to the 2016 election, when Marcos Jr hired Robredo for the vice presidency. On this occasion, Marcos Jr lost, despite leading in the polls for most of the race.