Is Rodrigo Duterte paving the way for ‘Bongbong’ Marcos to succeed him as Philippine president?
The elder Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972 and held power for 14 years until his removal in the bloodless, military-backed People Power uprising
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte could step down if the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos succeeds in overturning his 2016 vice-presidential election defeat, Duterte’s spokesman said on Thursday.
Duterte’s single term ends in June 2022 and he has spoken often recently about quitting before that. At two separate events on Tuesday he said he was “ready to go”, expressing frustration about his failure to tackle illicit drugs and corruption in government.
However, he said was reluctant to do that now because a constitutional succession would mean handing power to Vice-President Leni Robredo, whom he said was not up to the job.
Robredo, who leads the opposition party, was not Duterte’s choice for vice-president and was elected separately having narrowly defeated Ferdinand Marcos Jnr, the son and namesake of the ousted former ruler. Marcos, better known as “Bongbong”, has challenged the result alleging fraud.
The Supreme Court has ordered a recount, a complex process that got underway in April and could take several years. Robredo says she won fairly.
Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said the president had a “real, genuine wish to step down” if a qualified leader could replace him. Marcos was among those he would prefer, Roque said.
“If there’s development and he will win the protest and he becomes the vice-president, yes, he will make true his word,” Roque told a regular news briefing.
In a statement, Marcos expressed his gratitude to Duterte for showing faith in him, but said the president should finish his term.
“I urge him not to leave the presidency as our people still need him for the betterment of our lives and our country,” Marcos said.
The elder Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972 and held power for 14 years until his removal in the bloodless, military-backed People Power uprising.
Marcos pilfered billions from the country’s public coffers; his government reportedly tortured opponents by shocking them with live wires and burning them with irons. After his overthrow in 1986, his legacy was so toxic that then-president Corazon Aquino established an office – the Presidential Commission on Good Government – to “restore the institution’s integrity and credibility”.
According to Amnesty International, the Marcos government imprisoned 70,000 people, tortured 34,000, and killed 3,240.
During his tenure, the Philippines’ national debt exploded from US$2 billion to as high as US$30 billion, while his family and close associates grew scandalously wealthy. His wife, Imelda Marcos, famously owned more than 1,000 pairs of shoes.
However, Duterte has constantly praised the leadership of the late dictator, fuelling concern among some Filipinos that he might cling on to power.
Bongbong Marcos grew up in the Philippines, and was sent to England in 1970 while his father was at the height of his power. He studied social studies at Oxford University, and then business at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, but dropped out in 1980 after he was elected the vice governor of the Philippines’ Ilocos Norte province, where his father was born. He was 23 years old, and his political party – Kilusang Bagong Lipunan – was the same as his father’s.
Additional reporting by Tribune News Service