Philippines Presidential Election: Duterte and party members accused of supporting oligarchy

President Rodrigo Duterte

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s political party has thrown their support behind election front-runner Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s candidacy in the upcoming May 9 election.

The PDP-Laban party has not fielded its own candidate, but announced support to Marcos, the son and namesake of the country’s late dictator, who is running alongside Duterte’s daughter, Davao city mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

However, it is still unclear who the popular Duterte would personally support.

Marcos, commonly known as “Bongbong”, was the candidate “whose platform is most aligned with the development programme” of Duterte, read the resolution signed by members of the party belonging to a faction supported by the Philippine leader.

Cracks have appeared within the ruling party since last year, as supporters of Duterte and another presidential candidate, Manny Pacquiao, have sought to wrest control of party members.

Political analyst Temario Rivera said Duterte’s endorsement was an important factor.

“Forget about parties in our system. It is powerful families and influential politicians that count,” Rivera said, adding that the PDP-Laban remained “very divided.”

Governor Ben Evardone, his party’s vice president and a close ally of Duterte, announced he would back one of Marcos’ rivals, Vice President Leni Robredo. He did not sign the party resolution.

Marcos enjoys a strong lead in the presidential election race, according to opinion polls, which also showed Duterte-Carpio as the top choice for vice president.

The term oligarchy is arguably inseparable from Philippine politics. President Rodrigo Duterte made calls earlier in 2020 to dismantle “oligarchs”, who he claimed “controlled the economy of the Filipino people”, including the Lopez family, owners of the ABS-CBN media network. Duterte himself has been hounded by allegations of supporting oligarchs with his close ties to rising tycoons.

Former Dean of the Ateneo School of Government Atty. Tony La Viña, whose expertise includes political leadership and local governance, defines an oligarch as “a rich person or family who uses his wealth to secure and maintain power, which in turn, he uses to retain and increase his wealth.” But the seemingly simple definition belies the country’s deep entanglement with oligarchy, whose origins predate even the founding of the nation.

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