Philippine first daughter will keep Duterte name alive as VP under Marcos

Dennis Jay Santos
Davao, Philippines
Philippine first daughter will keep Duterte name alive as VP under Marcos Vice-presidential frontrunner Sara Duterte-Carpio addresses a crowd during a campaign rally in Santa Rosa, south of Manila, March 11, 2022
Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews

Last year, Sara Duterte-Carpio was widely seen as the heir-apparent to her father, Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte, as he prepared to wrap up his tumultuous presidency in June 2022.

But after signaling in October that she would not run for president or be the standard bearer for her father’s party, instead she later paired up with presidential hopeful Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and – according to analysts – boosted him to an apparent landslide victory in this week’s general election.

Now, Duterte-Carpio, 43, is on the cusp of running away as the winner of the vice-presidential polls. Unofficial results show her garnering 31 million votes – more than three times the number cast for her closest opponent. In the Philippines, the president and vice president are elected separately.

“Thank you to you all who believed and trusted me in my decision to run as vice-president,” Duterte-Carpio told her supporters on Tuesday. “We shall continue to guard our votes until we have reached the proclamation.”

Her running mate, Marcos, the namesake son of the late Filipino dictator, is poised to become the first Marcos to occupy Malacañang, the presidential palace in Manila, in 36 years.

While the post of vice president is traditionally a position reserved for a person who would replace the president in case of an emergency, Duterte-Caprio has made it clear she would not be happy with only being a seat warmer. 

On Wednesday, Marcos granted her that wish. He announced that he would appoint her to serve as secretary of education in his administration.

“[O]ur incoming vice president has agreed to take the brief of the Department of Education,” Marcos told a small group of Filipino and foreign correspondents in Manila.

“So Inday Sara said she can do it. She is a mother. She wants to make sure that her children are well trained and well educated,” Marcos said. “That’s the best motivation that we can hope for.”

Duterte-Carpio, who is the mayor of Davao City and who succeeded her father in that post in the southern Philippine city, is popular but known for being tough. She has often drawn comparisons to her father, the former mayor who is infamous for his blunt, profanity-laden rhetoric, and being tough in fighting crime. As mayor, his daughter once punched a government official in front of news cameras.

But in the run-up to Monday’s general election, Duterte-Carpio projected a warm and friendly demeanor on the national stage.

As most politicians on the campaign trail do, she was often seen smiling on stage, posing for photographs, and tirelessly shaking hands with supporters. She seemed to show no glimpse of her reputation as the hardboiled mayor from down south.

She also consistently called for “unity” – the main rhetorical plank in Marcos’ electoral platform – and tried not to attack her opponents personally.

In 2021, she led early surveys gauging people’s presidential preferences, way ahead of Marcos Jr., for the highest public office in the land. Her father and key supporters, including the main political party, had expected her to seek election to succeed the elder Duterte, who will leave office next month due to constitution-stipulated term limits.

Political experts say her popularity helped buoy the Duterte-Marcos tandem to victory.

“Had the presidential daughter, who was leading in all pre-election surveys by comfortable margins, decided to stick to her original plan, I believe Marcos Jr. would have opted out of the race altogether, if not sunk into political retirement,” said Richard Javad Heydarian, an assistant professor of political science at De La Salle University in Manila. 

“In retrospect, Sara Duterte was a shoo-in for the presidency, which is precisely why the outgoing president, Rodrigo Duterte, was initially incensed with Marcos Jr., who he publicly lambasted as a ‘weak leader’ and a ‘spoiled brat.’ In short, the Dutertes have served as the curtain raisers for the return of the notorious political dynasty to the Malacañang presidential palace,” Heydarian told online news Asia Times on Wednesday.

sara inside.jpg
Sara Duterte-Carpio shows her inked right index finger after casting her ballot at the Daniel R. Aguinaldo National High School in Davao City, southern Philippines, May 9, 2022. [Handout from Duterte-Carpio office]

From mayor to VP

Duterte-Carpio, who is a lawyer and a colonel in the Philippine Army Reserves, has long been groomed for public office and carved out a political path similar to her father’s. But instead of emulating his traditional populist style, she has taken on a more pragmatic and level-headed approach.

A bachelor of science graduate in respiratory therapy from a college in her hometown of Davao, as a young woman, she said she had planned to pursue a career as a pediatrician. But she later studied law, following in her father’s footsteps.

In 2010, she first became Davao City mayor, switching roles with her father, who replaced her as deputy mayor to circumvent constitutional limits for elected officials running for the same office thrice.

But if the father thought that the daughter would be a rubber-stamp mayor, he was wrong. She repeatedly and publicly defied him on several issues, friends and advisers say.

When Duterte became president in 2016, she also branched out and found new political allies. Her regional political party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, became dominant in local politics. Some Manila-based politicians flew to the south to get her endorsement and pledge loyalty.

Last year, she said that she would help prosecutors from the International Criminal Court investigate her father over thousands of killings linked to his administration’s drug war, provided they secure a permit from the national government. 

The Duterte-Marcos alliance began more than six years ago when Marcos Jr. ran for vice presidency but narrowly lost to Leni Robredo, the runner-up in the current presidential vote.

President Duterte has publicly admitted that the Marcoses contributed to his campaign funds and one of his first official acts was to transfer the dictator’s remains to the National Heroes Cemetery in Manila. It was a promise that he said he made to the Marcos family.

But perhaps Duterte-Carpio’s name stuck in the public mind after that much-publicized punching incident. The court sheriff, Abe Andres, refused to press charges and decided to keep to himself.

The first daughter subsequently apologized.

Duterte-Carpio is married to lawyer Manases Carpio. They have three young children.

Subel Rai Bhandari in Bangkok contributed to this report.


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