Rising tensions in the Marcos-Duterte alliance

14. February 2024 | Human Rights News, Internal Affairs

The “Uni-Team-Alliance” of the families of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio, which helped to shape their election victory in 2022, is now facing increased internal conflicts and tensions. In January 2024, President Marcos Jr. and his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte accused each other of drug abuse.

Under the slogan “Bagong Pilipinas” (translated as “New Philippines”), the government of President Marcos Jr. held a large rally in Manila on January 28, 2024. The campaign propagates the Marcos government’s plans and visions for the Philippines. Among the participants was Vice President Sara Duterte, who then flew back to her hometown Davao City to take part in a rally against the initiative to amend the constitution under the Marcos government. In his speech at the Davao-rally, ex-President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that Marcos was once on a drug watch list of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and warned against trying to amend the constitution through a signature campaign as part of a people’s initiative.

In a statement, Marcos then accused Duterte of being strongly addicted to the painkiller fentanyl. In an interview a few days earlier, Marcos Jr. expressed his openness to changing the economic provisions of the 1987 constitution in order to make the Philippines more attractive to foreign investors. As a rule, foreign investors are not allowed to hold more than 40% of shares in companies, but the President is now open to discussing full foreign participation in companies. The latest push to amend the constitution involves a popular initiative to collect signatures across the country.

There were already signs of increasing tensions in the Marcos-Duterte alliance last year when former president and Duterte ally Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was suddenly removed as deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. The release on bail in November 2023 of former senator Leila De Lima, who was imprisoned for almost seven years under the Duterte administration for alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade, also seemed to ran counter to the interests of the Duterte family.

In various international forums, Marcos has reaffirmed his government’s commitment to respecting international human rights standards. Compared to his predecessor, his government is more open to dialogue with international actors. Despite the Marcos government’s commitment to international human rights standards, the human rights situation in the Philippines remains “catastrophic” as pointed out by the 2023 annual report of Human Rights Watch. This developed is particularly evident through the ongoing drug-related extrajudicial killings and increased attacks on political activists and journalists.

In its report, Human Rights Watch also refers to politically motivated murders and enforced disappearances of activists under Marcos, which are often linked to so-called “red-tagging” attacks (i.e., labelling political activists as “terrorists”) by government authorities, government supporters and pro-government media.


Photo © Raffy Lerma

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