Political Turbulence in the Philippines: Duterte and Marcos Families, Friends or Foe?

Political Turbulence in the Philippines: Duterte and Marcos Families, Friends or Foe?

Although 2024 holds the potential for a global celebration of democracy, the waves of turmoil in the Philippines appear to be even stronger. Current President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. was only elected in mid-2022 and is less than two years into his term, but his alliance with Duterte already appears to be cracking.

On Sunday (January 28), Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte addressed large crowds in separate events. This event reflects a deepening rift among the ruling elite.

Rodrigo Duterte held a rally in his hometown of Davao that was attended by more than 40,000 people. Meanwhile, in another venue, Marcos unveiled a new slogan for his administration, "Bagong Pilipinas" or "New Philippines," in front of some 400,000 people in Manila.

In the Philippines, the presidential election is different from some other countries. There, the president and vice president are elected separately. In 2022, Duterte-Carpio won the vice presidential position with 32.21 million votes, or about 61.5% of the total votes. Duterte-Carpio also has the highest approval rating among the country's top four officials. Meanwhile, Marcos Jr. garnered 31.62 million votes or about 58.7% of the total votes.

Throughout their time in office, this presidential and vice presidential duo has faced significant challenges regarding the crimes committed under the leadership of their fathers. Rodrigo Duterte is known as the driving force behind the nationwide war on drugs, which has resulted in thousands of deaths. Meanwhile, Ferdinand Marcos Sr, the former dictator, ruled during a period of corruption and human rights violations from 1965 to 1986 before he was ousted.

Nevertheless, the descendants of both leaders continue to enjoy significant domestic support, in part because of the entrenched political dynasties in the Philippines. However, tensions between the two families are escalating as they seek to solidify their support bases and secure strategic positions ahead of the upcoming midterm elections and the 2028 presidential race, which Sara Duterte is widely expected to contest.

In the latest dispute, Marcos has supported efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution. This constitution was put in place by his father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr, to open the doors wider to foreign investment. However, the Duterte family opposes this move. Duterte sternly conveyed this at a meeting in Davao last Sunday, warning Marcos that he could face the same fate as his father if he continues to try to change the constitution.

Critics warn that the move could pave the way for Marcos to seek another six-year term, which is currently prohibited. It would also put him in direct competition with Sara Duterte for the top job. The crack in the Marcos-Duterte coalition has become more apparent since last year. This occurred when Marcos' allies in Congress began to question Vice President Sara Duterte's request for confidential funds, and when the government strengthened its ties with the United States after previously leaning toward China. Recent efforts to amend the Constitution, backed by Marcos, have further escalated tensions between the two sides ahead of the upcoming elections.

Rafaela David, who serves as president of the political party Akbayan, said in her Sunday statement that the meetings in Manila and Davao highlight a worrying situation. According to her, the war between the ruling political dynasties only strengthens the interests of the dynasty and the existing political elites while ignoring the urgent needs of the Filipino people.

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