2018/102, 6 December 2018
The next presidential election scheduled for May 2022 could see a historic first in the Philippines. A first that would reaffirm and reproduce the most powerful and debilitating continuity of Philippine democracy. 2022 could well see Sara Duterte succeed her father as president. While conventional practice at the local and provincial level, no Philippine president has been succeeded by a family member. In 2010, Benigno Aquino III followed in his mother’s footsteps and became president, eighteen years after Corazon Aquino’s single six-year presidential term ended.
In 2018, Sara Duterte and her father have been busy positioning her to be the lead candidate in 2022. Sara’s political career has been a successful derivative of that of her father. When term limits have stopped Rodrigo Duterte from continuing as mayor of Davao City, Sara has stepped in to continue the family’s reign. A 2022 Sara Duterte presidency would simply continue this pattern at the national level that so many Philippine political dynasties follow at the sub-national one.
Sara, on top of with her responsibilities as mayor Davao City, has been criss-crossing the country establishing her new Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) party, and announcing alliances with a growing number of political parties beholden, as is HNP, to political dynasties. The dynasties that through their own political parties that have joined up with the Duterte dynasty and HNP so far include the Marcos dynasty of Ilocos Norte, the Macapagal-Arroyo one of Pampanga, the Bernos dynasty of Abra, the Estrada dynasty centred in San Juan, Metro Manila, the Cayetano dynasty from Taguig, Metro Manila, the Villar one from Las Piñas in Metro Manila, and the Jalosjos one of Zamboanga del Norte. The HNP senatorial slates for the 2019 mid-term elections are a mixture of allied dynastic leaders and loyal followers of her father.
If Sara Duterte replaces her father as president in 2022 based on a national alliance of locally-based political dynasties, dynastic politics will have scaled the final summit of Philippine democratic politics. The success of the HNP in the mid-term elections in October 2019 will foreshadow how likely this undesirable historic first is to being reached.
Dr Malcolm Cook is Senior Fellow at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.
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