The Philippines has seen its share of political dynasties, including two presidents who shared the surname Aquino.
As the race to replace Rodrigo Duterte as president heats up, Filipinos are speculating about something the Southeast Asian nation has yet to see: a Duterte-Duterte administration.
The 76-year-old leader, who will not be allowed to seek a second term in office, is running for vice president and arouses the prospect of staying on the political stage for years to come, just as Russian President Vladimir Putin has done by rotating between the positions of president and prime minister.
Duterte’s daughter Sara, 43, the mayor of Davao, on the southern island of Mindanao, leads polls for potential presidential candidates and is expected to run on a separate ticket from her father.
As Sara Duterte ruled out a presidential election last week, her supporters have urged her to submit her candidacy, and many believe she will. Some have started putting up “Run, Sara, Run” posters and banners across the country ahead of the October 8 candidate submission deadline.
Her father was formally named as his PDP-Laban party’s vice presidential candidate last week on a ticket with his aide Christopher “Bong” Go running for president. In the Philippines, voters can split their choices for president and vice president, raising the possibility that father and daughter can win the top two positions.
“This is Putin’s formula: let the president occupy the subordinate position with a docile lackey as president,” said Manuel Quezon, a columnist for the Inquirer newspaper and a former official in the government of the late Benigno Aquino III.
“If they both have weak running mates, the optic of them on a single ticket would be avoided.”
For the younger Duterte, this would be the second time she succeeded her father in office: in 2010 she took over as mayor of Davao after his term expired.
Experts have swapped the contraction word “Daughterte” to suggest she could have enough support to build a national base similar to her father’s. Like Rodrigo Duterte, she cultivates an image of a combative champion from the common man. Her Instagram page features photos of her posing next to a motorcycle, one with the hashtag #bikerchick.
In 2011, she punched a sheriff in the face after he refused to delay the demolition of a Davao slum where she tried to defuse a confrontation.
However, there are signs that Sara Duterte would be her own wife if she won the national office. “She’s not going to copy and paste everything from her father,” said Aries Arugay, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
When her father came up with the idea of running with Go on a ticket last month, she said it was “not a pleasant event” and urged them to “admit publicly” that they planned to run. “I respectfully advise them to stop talking about me and give me the reason why they don’t run or run,” she said in a targeted Facebook post.
Unlike her father, a sharp US critic who has not visited the White House, she went to Washington last year for a leadership program sponsored by the State Department.
The bond between father and daughter is relevant given the possibility of lawsuits being filed against Rodrigo Duterte in the future. In a country where former presidents have been persecuted under their successors, the president has made it clear that he is seeking the vice presidency to avoid being held legally responsible for any wrongdoing.
Fatou Bensouda, the outgoing International Criminal Court prosecutor, said in June that she believed there was “reasonable basis” to believe that a crime against humanity had been committed during Duterte’s “war on drugs”, in which the police or vigilantes have killed thousands of people. The ICC opened a preliminary investigation into the president’s signature public policies in 2018, prompting Duterte to withdraw the Philippines from the UN court.
Early polls suggest that both Duterte and his daughter would be popular candidates. Five years of Dutertismo, as some call the president’s crude form of populism, has wiped out the liberal opposition camp formed by former President Corazon Aquino’s successors. Duterte’s grip on social media and key constituencies such as overseas workers has kept his popularity high.
“There really isn’t another candidate who can compete against the Duterte brand and hope to win,” said Elaine Marie Collado, Philippine Country Director at Vriens & Partners, a government affairs consultancy.
A poll conducted in June by Pulse Asia named Duterte as the top candidate for the vice presidency, with 18 percent support and his daughter as the top presidential candidate, with 28 percent support.
However, with Philippine presidential races typically decided in their final weeks, including those in which Duterte was elected in 2016, analysts say the field remains wide open.
“I would hesitate to say for sure that Duterte is going to run until he has files,” Collado said.
As possible running mates for Sara Duterte, Filipinos have speculated that Ferdinand (“Bongbong”) Marcos Jr or Imee Marcos, children of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, could join her on a campaign slate.
Boxer Manny Pacquiao, who belongs to Duterte’s PDP-Laban party but is arguing with Duterte, may also announce his candidacy for president, as can popular Manila mayor Francisco (“Isko”) Moreno.
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