Marcos-Duterte alliance shows cracks after historic election win

Andreo Calonzo and Philip J. Heijmans, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

The widespread support for the president’s clan shows that risks to Marcos’s popularity in the short term will likely come from “any falling out with the Dutertes,” Bob Herrera-Lim, managing director of political risk consultancy Teneo, said in a May 10 note.

“Over time, Marcos will hope to poach many of Duterte’s supporters, especially those who are not from the southern island of Mindanao,” he wrote.

Political legacy

Opinion surveys show President Duterte is the most popular president in the Philippines since Marcos’s dictator father was ousted in 1986. He maintained majority support almost throughout his five years in office as his anti-drug war resonated with Filipinos even as critics and rights groups said thousands were killed by police-run death squads.

President Duterte’s popularity helped his daughter, who swept 75 out of 81 provinces in this year’s election — far exceeding his tally of 36 in the 2016 presidential race as she pledged to continue signature policies such as the drug war and an ambitious infrastructure program.

Daughter’s potential

Despite following her father’s footsteps to become Davao City mayor, Sara Duterte forged her own path on national-level politics. President Duterte’s spokesman said last June that she refused to heed her father’s wishes for her to succeed him, even as surveys showed she was the front-runner.

She ran as vice president under a party associated with former President Gloria Arroyo after what was described as a chance meeting with Marcos in Cebu in October. That decision helped Marcos became the top choice in voter surveys, with a double-digit lead over his rivals since December that he never relinquished.


“She’s new in this politics so she does not really have her base with the elite,” said Teresa Tadem, a political science professor with University of the Philippines who has written about Marcos-linked technocrats. “It’s Gloria Arroyo who will have that base and could help bring in other elites whom she works together with. There’ll be factions.”


The duo also made use of President Duterte’s election strategy of linking opponents to the inability of successive administrations to clean up corruption and ensure inclusive prosperity after Marcos’s father was ousted.

Tens of millions of Filipinos responded favorably to President Duterte’s strongman presence and made their views known on social media, leaving Marcos Jr.’s rival far behind in surveys and in the election.

With the elections over, disinformation networks supporting Marcos Jr. could shift to attacking government critics and overselling his successes, said Lee Morgenbesser, a senior lecturer at Australia’s Griffith University who has written about politics in Southeast Asia.

“It is through this prism that policy issues will be tested — the more important the policy to his government the wider and more intense the disinformation will be,” he said.

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