Update October 2021: Placeholders for Duterte?
October 8, 2021, was the deadline for registering candidates for next May’s election. Critics fear that the strategic game of replacing candidates at the very last minute (as in the 2016 elections) will be repeated.
On October 2, Rodrigo Duterte not only withdrew his controversial vice-presidential bid, but also announced to retire completely from politics after his term. At the same time, his long-term ally Bong Go registered his candidacy for that very office. Later, on the last day of registration, Roland dela Rosa, senator and former police chief (2016-2018), filed his presidential candidacy. There is a suspicion that dela Rosa is merely a placeholder. Aljazeera reports: “The declared candidates can still withdraw and be substituted by another candidate until November 15, which has raised speculation that [Sara] Duterte-Carpio could still make a last-minute entry into the presidential race. Her father took the same approach in 2016.”
In the final stages of registration, current Vice President and opposition leader Leni Robredo announced her presidential candidacy on Oct. 7 after a long wait: “We will defeat the old and rotten brand of politics.” Together with Senator Francis Pangilinan as the Liberal Party’s vice-presidential candidate, they form the only opposition tandem for the elections. Robredo condemns Duterte’s brutal crackdown in the so-called war on drugs. Moreover, her decision is a reaction to the presidential candidacy of Bongbong Marcos. Most recently, she criticized his ongoing refusal to apologize for human rights violations during his father’s authoritarian dictatorship. Imprisoned Senator Leila de Lima, as another opposition representative and Liberal Party member, registered for reelection as senator through a delegate.
For further information about the registration of candidates watch Rapplers analyses.
Update September 2021: Duterte as candidate for vice president
Rodrigo Duterte will be the candidate of his PDP-Laban party for vice president in the 2022 elections. However, who will run alongside him for the presidency itself remains unclear. A Duterte tandem with his daughter Sara Duterte will not happen after all – nor will she run for president in other constellations. Duterte’s longtime adviser Christopher Go declined the party’s presidential nomination. PNP-Laban senior vice president Karlo Nograles said that in the vice-presidential position, Duterte would “guarantee continuity of the administration’s programs during the past five years,” Critics stress that Duterte’s candidacy circumvents the Constitution, which prohibits him from running again as a presidential candidate. There is also the risk of another power grab, as Duterte would succeed again to the presidential office in the position of vice president in the event of a presidential resignation. This would also allow Duterte to avoid legal consequences regarding his first term. Senate President Vicente Sotto and Senator Panfilo Lacson officially presented themselves as a duo (Lacson as candidate for President, Sotto as Vice President) on September 8, 2021. Both were considered Duterte supporters and now intend to challenge his leadership style but take a politically similar line. Current Manila mayor Isko Moreno is running together with former Senator Willie Ong as his vice candidat. Former boxer and current Duterte critic Manny Pacquiao is also running as a presidential candidate, as he announced on September 19. He wants particularly to fight the corruption among the elites. Still one of the leading presidential candidates in polls is Bobong Marcos, the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. According to Gretchen Abuse, the decisive factor here is the collective memory of younger generations, stemming in part from an insufficient and superficial examination of the Marcos dictatorship in schools. “The youth’s idealism, critical thinking, and enthusiasm in their search for truth needs to be nurtured, even protected. Because if not, the Philippines will keep on voting for authoritarian leaders.“ Update July 2021: Duterte tandem risks renewed dictatorship With regard to the end of Rodrigo Duterte’s term in May 2022, he and his daughter Sara Duterte (mayor of Davao City) announced their intention to run in the 2022 national elections as a Duterte-Duterte tandem – the daughter as presidential candidate and the father for vice president. Such a constellation is worrisome because of the apparent “height of dynastic electoral politics,” but especially because „allowing [Duterte] to run for [vice president] can open the door to another dictatorship.“ Christian Monsod, former chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comlec), explains that Duterte, however, cannot run for the second-highest government position because he would theoretically succeed him as president. The Philippine Constitution limits a presidency to a one-time six-year term, exhausted by Duterte then. According to Monsod, it is thus clear that Duterte and his supporters have a plan „for him to occupy his office again through the backdoor because he cannot run for president again.“ This could make it more difficult for him to be held accountable by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity in the context of his so-called war on drugs, or dodge possible corruption charges against himself and his family. According to Alan German, a political strategist, a strong and functioning opposition is needed to counter the culture of impunity and polarization and prevent civil unrest. Duterte’s administration, however, is cracking down on politicians who criticize the government’s line. The case against Antonio Trillanes, for example, will likely continue to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeals twice upheld his amnesty. The imprisoned opposition politician Leila De Lima, whom we reported on in March, is also continuing to fight an alleged false statement that strongly incriminates her. Since June 17, 2021, also Philippine pages or their posts can now be found on Facebook and Instagram with the label “state-controlled media“. This should lead to more transparency, especially since the election campaign will increasingly take place online due to the pandemic. Radyo Pilipinas, the Philippine News Agency (PNA) and Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM), for example, are classified in this way. For the labelling “state-controlled media,” Facebook considers, among other factors, the ownership structure, financial sources, and editorial guidelines, such as transparency, diversity, and independence of content sources.