Son of late Philippine dictator emerges as favourite for presidency as Duterte rules out running against daughter

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Former senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr poses after filing his certificate of candidacy (AP)
Former senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr poses after filing his certificate of candidacy (AP)

The son of late Philippines strongman Ferdinand Marcos has emerged as the strongest contender for the 2022 presidential elections after president Rodrigo Duterte's daughter chose to run for vice president instead.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr gained support after the president’s daughter and mayor of Davao city Sara Duterte-Carpio filed nominations for the vice president’s post on Saturday. She was leading in polls for preferred presidential contenders in the country throughout the year, but chose to contest the fight for the vice presidency instead.

“Without the popular Duterte-Carpio in the presidential race, Marcos is the frontrunner, with 60 per cent odds of victory, though there is a long road ahead,” the Eurasia Group consultancy said in a note to clients after the nominations closed.

Of the six key candidates, 47 per cent of the 1,200 surveyed by the consultancy said they would vote for 64-year-old Marcos, popularly known as “Bongbong”. He is the only son of the late dictator who ruled the country for almost two decades until he was overthrown in 1986.

President Duterte has, however, thrown his weight behind his closest aide Christopher “Bong” Go. Mr Go, who was once a personal assistant to Mr Duterte, took charge as a senator in 2019 with the president’s support.

The president on multiple occasions had hinted at Mr Go as his possible successor, sparking what is touted to be a “Bongbong” vs “Bong” battle for the presidency.

Mr Marcos said he wanted Ms Duterte-Carpio to be his running mate, but she is yet to accept the offer. In the Philippines, the president and vice president are elected separately and candidates can forge an alliance even if they run under different parties.

Meanwhile, ending speculation that he would run against his daughter, Mr Duterte on Monday filed his candidacy for a senate seat in the upcoming election. The 76-year-old filed his senatorial candidacy at the country’s commission on elections before the deadline for last-minute contenders for the polls next year.

“They will never collide. They will never ever fight each other for whatever position,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told reporters on Monday.

Earlier in August, the president’s party PDP-Laban confirmed that he would run for the post of vice president in a bid to retain power after his six-year term as a president. But he announced last month that he was retiring from politics due to widespread public sentiment against his earlier decision to contest for vice president.

The president’s term in office has been marred by controversies and protests. Mr Duterte in 2016 allegedly compared his anti-drug campaign to how Hitler massacred millions of Jews and said he would be “happy to slaughter” three million addicts.

According to a UN report, Mr Duterte faces a possible investigation by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity for a brutal crackdown against illegal drugs. The clampdown had allegedly resulted in thousands of deaths with “near impunity.”

Ms Duterte-Carpio’s entry into the vice-presidential race was by way of substitution after her party Lakas-CMD’s original candidate withdrew, her spokesperson said.

Her sudden withdrawal from the candidacy for reelection as mayor led to speculation of her contending for the president’s chair.

She joined Lakas-CMD on 11 November hours after resigning from a regional party she founded in 2018. Lakas-CMD is controlled by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Other presidential candidates include former boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, vice-president Leni Robredo, mayor of Manila Francisco Domagoso, senator Panfilo Lacson, and president Duterte’s former police chief Ronald dela Rosa.

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