Rift intensifies between Philippines president and Duterte family

January 29, 2024 - 4:30 PM
Composite photo of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., presumptive president-elect, and sitting President Rodrigo Duterte. (Reuters/Erik De Castro; Jerome Morales/File photo)

 Former Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte’s son urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to resign on Sunday, calling him lazy and uncompassionate in a deepening rift between the two politically powerful families.

Marcos teamed up with Duterte’s daughter Sara to make her vice-president in their 2022 election win. But cracks in the families’ alliance have emerged as the incumbent has veered away from his predecessor’s anti-drugs and foreign policies.

Sebastian Duterte, who is mayor of Philippines‘ third most populous city Davao, said there had been a resurgence in crime after his father’s hardline campaign had been relaxed.

READ: Baste Duterte calls Marcos ‘lazy’, urges him to quit

At a leadership forum, he also accused Marcos of endangering innocent Filipinos by allowing the Americans in, a reference to expanded U.S. access to military bases, including several close to Taiwan. The older Duterte had forged closer ties with China.

Sebastian Duterte also opposed Marcos’ decision to restart peace negotiations with communist rebels, saying he did not know anything about the suffering of people living in areas that used to be rebel strongholds.

“You are lazy and you lack compassion. That’s why we are unhappy,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from Marcos’ office.

Mid-term elections loom

He spoke just before Marcos took the stage at a government-led rally in the capital to drum up support for his “Bagong Pilipinas (New Philippines)” campaign, where he has promised to improve state services and budget transparency.

Marcos’ alliance with the Dutertes was crucial to his presidential victory, so a souring of their relations could have implications in his bid to solidify his support base ahead of the mid-term Senate and congressional election next year.

Sara Duterte, who is also education secretary, attended the president’s rally before flying to Davao to join her father and siblings at a prayer rally against moves to amend the Philippine constitution, which Marcos backs.

Some opponents of constitutional change, including the Dutertes, say it is driven by an agenda to change the political system and remove term limits, including that of the president, who can currently serve just one six-year term.

“He is putting politics first, their self-preservation … rather than focusing on the job,” Sebastian Duterte said.

“Mr. President, if you have no love and aspirations for the nation, resign.”

Like her brother, Sara Duterte has openly defied some of Marcos’ policies, including the peace talks with communist rebels which she said was an “agreement with the devil.”

Asked for comment on her brother’s remarks, Sara Duterte said on Monday: “I can only surmise he is coming from a place of brotherly love, coupled by the common sentiment that I do not deserve the despicable treatment that I am receiving from some sectors within the circle of the president.”

Sara Duterte did not elaborate, but said she “will stay true” to her work at the education ministry.

— Reporting by Karen Lema;Editing by Andrew Cawthorne