The country is now months away from one of the most important elections of our generation, and there is growing concern about the continuity of President Rodrigo Duterte’s legacy. The stars are now closing in on several aspirants, some of whom have already expressed their interest to run as standard bearers. Whether these stars will conspire for or against a candidate, the endorsement of the incumbent President is definitely one of the rules controlling this turbulent universe.
The gravitational force radiating from the incumbent President and his anointed successor usually surges during election season. Every politician wants to orbit around the President and receive his blessings. President Duterte’s presidential bid back in 2016 was an exception, however. At the time, the outgoing ruling party’s presidential bet Mar Roxas was more than 6 million votes behind the more charismatic Duterte, who secured the highest post in the land with 16 million votes.
Duterte’s magnetic appeal seems to have rubbed off on his second child and only daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio, who is widely seen as his rightful successor by virtue of her maiden name. Weeks ago, regional blocs in the House of Representatives released public statements greeting Davao City’s incumbent mayor. House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez would later lead a contingent of lawmakers to Davao to personally greet the presidential daughter. President Duterte recently mentioned that he will not run for vice president if Romualdez decides to seek the post.
Despite her seemingly unassuming role as the presidential daughter, Duterte-Carpio has often flexed her political might in the Lower Chamber, where the ouster of two recent Speakers was moved by her invisible hand. While she enjoys the support of most administration lawmakers, however, a friend to all is a friend to none. Regardless of what position she wants to run for in the 2022 national elections, elective offices are limited and the presidential daughter is in a precarious position, surrounded by wolves who have been in the game for the longest time.
Leading the pack are Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., both powerful names in Philippine politics. On June 14, Marcos, his sister Senator Imee, and their cousin Martin Romualdez visited Arroyo at her home. While meetings among political juggernauts are very common during the months leading to an election, this particular gathering caught many by surprise. An unholy alliance seems to be in the works.
It is unlikely that voters will witness a Marcos-Arroyo tandem next year. However, the former President could run again as district representative and pursue the Speakership in the 20th Congress — a feat she will most likely be able to achieve, given her adept talent for coalition-building and “keeping friends” in the House.
Meanwhile, Marcos is working double time to “redeem” himself after suffering two major losses over the past few years: his bid for Vice President and his electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo. Losing the 2022 national elections would be disastrous for the Marcos family. This is something that Romualdez must be well aware of.
At the center of this awkward constellation is Duterte-Carpio, who is expected to lead the charge on behalf of the blossoming coalition. The alliance is seen by some as invincible, given that it would secure the influential Davao City mayor and her cohort a firm grip over all major island groups. However, to be surrounded by “malign stars,” in Shakespeare’s words, would inevitably put the presidential daughter in the middle of a star-crossed affair — a seemingly fated encounter among the country’s most powerful clans that is bound to end in tragedy.
Duterte-Carpio’s father ran on a campaign that banked on the hopes of ordinary Filipinos. His authenticity as a public servant and ability to effectively articulate the problems of the common man won him the Presidency. Marcos, Arroyo, and Romualdez represent the elitist class of politicians, sharing the same cloth with the likes of the Aquino and Roxas families. These are politicians who are notoriously skilled at hijacking popular campaigns for their own ambitions. It runs in their blood. Moreover, the corruption scandals that marred the Arroyo administration and the sins of Bongbong’s father continue to linger in the minds of many Filipinos.
Should Duterte-Carpio agree to work with these personalities, the said controversies will inevitably infect the presidential daughter’s image and her campaign. The Duterte legacy, which her father worked so hard to build, will collapse at the feet of the country’s most corrupt families. This is not a black hole that many Filipinos are willing to dive into.