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Marcos-Duterte power struggle intensifies

by Adrian David

TOKYO, 19 MAY – On-going public insults and accusations hurled between the ruling Marcos and his deputy Duterte’s families, have increased political conflicts in the Philippines.

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies lecturer Jenny Balboa made this observation on the feud involving President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr and Vice-President Sara Duterte.

Bongbong is the son of deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr, while Sara is daughter of former controversial president Rodrigo Duterte.

Jenny opined that Marcos Jr’s soft response had sparked curiosity, possibly explained by his ‘gratitude debt’ belief (or ‘utang na loob’ in tagalog), given that his 2022 presidential campaign was boosted by Sara’s withdrawal from the presidential race.

Jenny believed that whatever the reasons behind Marcos’s non-response, the feud might threaten the success of his presidency.

She said that the conflict between the Marcos and Duterte families had taken on a dark twist.

“At a rally in Davao City on Jan 28, Rodrigo Duterte called Marcos Jr a drug addict.

“Duterte’s son, Davao City mayor Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte, while asking for Bongbong to resign called the president lazy and lacking in compassion,” said Jenny, who is also a lecturer at Hosei University’s Department of Global and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Jenny analysed that Bongbong Marcos’ sister, Senator Imee Marcos, who had been trying to forge an alliance with the Duterte family, attempted damage control.

“Imee claimed Baste had apologised to her, only to be strongly rebuked by Baste, who asserted he did not apologise for his statements and stands by them.

“Bongbong shrugged off accusations against him by the Duterte family and Duterte’s call for Mindanao’s secession,” Jenny wrote.

She added that Bongbong claimed president Baster must have been high on fentanyl when he made the speech.

“Baste had since toned down his call for Mindanao’s secession and his allegations against Bongbong.

“Despite the friction with the Dutertes, Bongbong maintained that his alliance with Sara remains


“This was despite Sara’s vocal rejection of Bongbong’s policies, including the resumption of peace talks with communist rebels, and the Marcos-backed constitutional reforms.

“Sara’s support for China also stands in stark contrast to Bongbong’s pivot to the United States on the South China Sea conflict,” Jenny said.

She further wrote that First Lady ‘Liza’ Araneta-Marcos displayed a more transparent disdain for the Duterte family.

“Following attacks from the Duterte family and their allies, a video surfaced showing the First Lady publicly snubbing Sara during the Marcos family’s departure ceremony for a foreign mission on Jan 29.

“The video encapsulates the Marcos family’s contrasting approach to conflict,” said Jenny.

She further penned that the risk-averse Bongbong tried to preserve relations with an ally while Liza did not hesitate to engage in political or personal fights to protect her husband.

Jenny analysed Bongbong’s handling of the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation against Rodrigo Duterte as another example of his vacillation regarding the former president.

“While Bongbong has repeatedly expressed opposition to the investigation, to even reiterating that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the country, he shifts his tone by saying he will allow the ICC team to enter the Philippines as ‘individuals’.

“Bongbong’s administration is now studying the possibility of the country renewing its ICC membership,” said Jenny.

She added that Filipinos were puzzled by Bongbong’s soft response to the feud with the Duterte family.

“Amid open attacks against him, Bongbong has not hit back.

“Some wonder if Bongbong’s apparent reluctance to retaliate stem from having a weak character, as his enemies claim, and discomfort with facing tough challenges head-on.

“Others speculate whether he observes ‘utang na loob’ – a value in Filipino culture where one is eternally indebted to someone who bestowed an important favour.

“It is widely known that Sara’s decision to give up her presidential bid in 2022 and to run as Bongbong’s vice-president on the UniTeam Alliance ticket catapulted Bongbong to power.

“Bongbong perhaps feels a deep sense of gratitude to Sara, sparing her from the Duterte family’s open war against his administration,” said Jenny.

She described Bongbong as still his father’s son – that of Marcos Sr’s known trait to embrace ‘utang na loob’.

Jenny observed that while ruthless to his enemies, Marcos Sr notably spared the Laurel family, despite their active role in the anti-Marcos opposition movement.

She divulged that former Supreme Court associate justice Jose Paciano Laurel penned the 1940 decision that reversed a lower court’s ruling that convicted Marcos Sr of murdering congressman-elect Julio Nalundasan.

“Without justice Laurel, Marcos Sr would have been left in jail.

“Though the Laurel family later joined the anti-Marcos movement, Marcos Sr never forgot what justice Laurel did and insulated the Laurel family from his dictatorship’s wrath,” said Jenny.

She studied how Justice Laurel’s son, Salvador ‘Doy’ Laurel, would later emerge as a major opposition figure and became vice-president following the 1986 snap election that eventually ousted Marcos Sr from power.

“During the Duterte family’s Davao City rally in January 2024, Baste issued a menacing remark to Bongbong Marcos about learning lessons from ousted leaders.

“Former president Rodrigo Duterte echoed the same ominous statement, that Bongbong might suffer the same fate as his father.

“Bongbong should not merely roll with the punches while the Duterte family is hitting hard.

“Allowing the Dutertes and their allies to consolidate power has critical implications for his presidency.

“The assertions of his opposition – claiming he is a weak leader – could be corroborated by his inaction.

“His political capital could erode and he might lose support for some of his policies, especially those that are in active opposition to his vice-president’s stance,” opined Jenny.

In summing up, Jenny said Bongbong should recognise that the Dutertes were not run-of-the-mill traditional politicians.

“Their decades-long rule in Davao City and the presidential term of Rodrigo Duterte serve as testaments to their ability to undermine whoever challenges them.

“Should they return to power with a Sara Duterte presidency, it could be devastating to Bongbong and his family,” Jenny warned.

She added tht as of a March 2024 survey, Bongbong’s trust rating dropped significantly than Sara’s approval rating.

Jenny cautioned that if Bongbong failed to act prudently, sharpen his political instincts and show strength, he could unknowingly pave the path to another Marcos political tragedy. – airtimes.my

#AirTimes #Global

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