Philippines’ Sara Duterte-Carpio Takes Spotlight in Marcos Country

Camille Elemia
2022.02.17
Laoag, Philippines
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Philippines’ Sara Duterte-Carpio Takes Spotlight in Marcos Country Presidential contender Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (left) and vice-presidential candidate Sara Duterte-Carpio (right) barnstorm on the campaign trail in the Marcos family home province of Ilocos Norte, northern Philippines, Feb. 16, 2022.
Handout from Marcos campaign

Sara Duterte-Carpio, the vice-presidential candidate and daughter of the Philippines’ leader, took center stage this week as she accompanied presidential candidate and running-mate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on the election campaign trail in his family’s northern stronghold.

As the running-mates barnstormed here together on Wednesday, the province of Ilocos Norte bled crimson, the official color of the Marcos political dynasty whose patriarch, the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, ruled the country from the mid-1960s to 1986. Thousands of fans in red lined the streets and highways leading to Laoag, the provincial capital near the northern tip of Luzon Island.

“I went [sic] home to our province to proudly introduce to you, my running mate. Out of all the presidential candidates, I am the luckiest because I got the best and the brightest vice-presidential candidate,” Marcos Jr. said in a speech in Laoag on Wednesday.

The event was aimed at winning over the Ilocanos people in endorsing Duterte-Carpio, the mayor of Davao City – located at the opposite end of the Philippine archipelago – in a bid to solidify the tandem and lock in votes from the north for the national elections in May.

The campaign stop at Laoag was both a symbolic and a practical move for Marcos Jr., who said he had always kicked off electoral campaigns in his hometown. For her part, Duterte-Carpio thanked Ilocanos on behalf of President Rodrigo Duterte for their support until the end of his constitutionally limited single six-year term.

“We owe you a lot for your love and support. My family’s payment to all of you is myself and my promise to do my best to ensure a peaceful life in our country,” Duterte-Carpio told the crowd.

Marcos, the son and namesake of the longtime Philippine president, also called on the voters to pick the tandem, noting the difficulty of politics and governance with two opposing leaders. In the Philippines, the president and vice-president are elected separately under the constitution to balance power, and they can even come from rival parties.

“You all know how difficult it is if the president and vice president do not see eye to eye and always exchange harsh words,” Marcos Jr. said in Laoag.

The outgoing president, Rodrigo Duterte, and his vice-president, Leni Robredo, have been at odds since their term began in 2016. In particular, Robredo has expressed support for investigations into President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs during which thousands of Filipinos have died in extrajudicial killings.

Robredo is now vying against Marcos Jr. in the presidential race.

Robredo has also allied herself with Sen. Leila de Lima, a former justice secretary and human rights commissioner who is in jail on what de Lima claims are false drug-related charges orchestrated by the Duterte administration.

In the May 9 general election, De Lima is running for re-election to the senate from jail.

As a presidential candidate, Robredo has offered a clear platform to improve the economy, end corruption, and bring justice to victims of extrajudicial killings carried out under Duterte’s presidency.

She has also vowed to uphold a 2016 ruling by an arbitral court that rejected China’s expansive claims to the South China Sea, and has welcomed a multilateral approach to solving the territorial dispute with Beijing.

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Sara Duterte-Carpio (right) joins Ferninand Marcos Jr. (in blue mask) while campaigning together in his family’s hometown province of Ilocos Norte, northern Philippines, Feb. 16, 2022. [Handout from Marcos campaign]

In contrast, Marcos Jr. has offered “unity” while rejecting third-party help in negotiating with China.

“It is not just a mere campaign slogan, as some would say. I have seen it in my years in the different levels of public service – unity is needed to ensure success. That is what I learned here in Ilocos Norte,” the presidential candidate said in an apparent response to critics who allege that he has no real campaign platform.

In a supposed debate organized by a television station owned by President Duterte’s spiritual adviser earlier this week, Marcos Jr. reiterated that he would not prioritize a military solution to the problem. However, he vowed to put a “military presence” in the contested waterway.

The country, however, already has a small number of troops in the South China Sea, and it was unclear what he meant by that.

In the 2016 elections, President Duterte and Marcos Jr., who ran then for vice-president, overwhelmingly won in the province, although the latter lost to Robredo in the nationwide polls.

Recent pre-election surveys showed Marcos Jr as the frontrunner, with 60 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him on May 9. Trailing him far behind was Robredo, with only six percent backing her in surveys conducted in late January.

Other presidential candidates include Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso, senator and world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, senator and former national police chief Panfilo Lacson, and labor leader Leody de Guzman.

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