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Marcos-Duterte alliance shows cracks after historic election win

Andreo Calonzo and Philip J. Heijmans, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

MANILA, Philippines — Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte joined forces to pull off the biggest Philippine election win in four decades. The question now is whether they can stay united over the next six years.

Election data shows that Marcos owes Sara Duterte and her father, President Rodrigo Duterte, for the large margin of victory. Although Marcos beat runner-up Leni Robredo by almost 31 percentage points in the May 9 election, Sara Duterte won the race for vice president by an even bigger amount.

Signs of underlying tensions emerged just days after the vote, when Marcos, 64, picked Sara Duterte, 43, as his education secretary even though she had publicly said she wanted to oversee the defense portfolio. In the end, she accepted, saying she wanted the “most harmonious administration possible” and she expected naysayers to “fabricate intrigues about her loyalty.”

Marcos was sending the message that “there’s a boundary she cannot cross,” said Jean Franco, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines who previously worked as a director in the Senate. “They were united for the purpose of winning the elections, so unless you find another purpose, the tendency is to disintegrate.”

One immediate risk is still hanging over the presumptive president: A petition to disqualify him over failing to file tax returns has reached the Supreme Court and more could come. While all these cases were dismissed by the Commission of Elections, officials have said Sara Duterte is in line to take over from him if the court rules against him. Marcos has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

Here’s how the Duterte family helped Marcos win by a landslide:


Southern stronghold

During his vice presidential bid in 2016, Marcos won big in his family stronghold in the north but struggled with a weak showing in the south. The Duterte clan’s sway in the south helped him in this year’s race, with provinces backing Marcos nearly doubling to 64 from 33 six years ago.

President Duterte has brought a measure of peace and prosperity to Mindanao island, which is home to some of the Philippines’ poorest provinces. Under his term, the nation’s Muslim minority voted for a law that gave them greater control over an expanded region in the south.

Marcos pledged to pursue a China-funded railway project in Mindanao that President Duterte has supported, while also making campaign pledges to boost food production.


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