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Political clans form coalition to support Bongbong-Sara tandem

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Political clans form coalition to support Bongbong-Sara tandem
Former Sen. Bongbong Marcos and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio walk the aisle at the wedding of the daughter of Lakas-CMD chairperson Sen. Bong Revilla.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio / Release

MANILA, Philippines (Updated Nov. 26, 2021, 12:26 p.m.) — Arroyo, Duterte, Estrada, Marcos — some of the most prominent families in Philippine politics — are all coming together to support the presidential bid of former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

The coalition of political families seeking to secure power in the 2022 elections was sealed Thursday when their parties, Arroyo's Lakas – Christian Muslim Democrats, Duterte-Carpio’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago, Estrada's Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino and the Marcos-led Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, inked an alliance agreement at the Sofitel Plaza Manila in Pasay City.

The alliance — called by their critics as "unholy" — was likely forged as a result of Marcos Jr.’s lead in early pre-election surveys, according to political scientists Cleve Arguelles and Jean Franco.

"People are already joining the bandwagon. This also goes for businessmen supporting these political parties," Franco said.

Marcos Jr. said the coalition will bring back stability in politics and the country, adding that the interest of the Philippines was the "driving force" behind the parties teaming up.

‘Like a cartel’

But for Arguelles, it is clear that the unity forged among families controlling these parties has one goal: To keep themselves in power.

"It's quite clear that it’s the interests of these political families being forwarded in this coalition or alliance," Arguelles told Philstar.com. "And it makes sense, as a political family, your goal in 2022 is to keep yourself in power and to ensure that you’ll gain access to government power."

"The interests of the Filipino voter or Filipinos with particular advocacies are not represented in these alliances," political scientist Cleo Calimbahin told Philstar.com in an email.

Arguelles said this is just politics as usual as far as the Philippines goes, with political families negotiating among themselves as to who gets to sit next.

"It’s like a cartel system,” he said. “But it’s the same set of families who will be part of the ruling coalition."

For Franco, this just shows that the political parties in the country are still immature.

"Alliances without clear ideologies and common programs and policies still manifest that our parties are not yet well-developed," she said.

In September, labor leader Leody de Guzman, an outlier presidential candidate for progressive socialist coalition Laban ng Masa, stressed that there is a need for a change in the political system, not just in its leadership.

"We need a system change. Not just to replace President Rodrigo Duterte. Not just to change the face of the president in Malacañang, but to change the whole system of our government," he said then.

He added that voters need more than big-name candidates with promises of progress.

"Papasayahin lang ang mga botante sa panahon ng kampanya, pero pagkatapos ng eleksyon ay hindi na pinapansin ang mga taong bumoto sa kanila," he said then.

(They will only make voters happy during the campaign, but after the elections, they snub the people who voted for them.)

Offspring of presidents

It is certainly not lost on the leaders of the alliance that they are bringing dynastic politics to a whole new level, with former Sen. Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, PMP president, even acknowledging that he, Duterte-Carpio and Marcos Jr. are children of former presidents.

"Kaming tatlo po ay pawang mga anak ng presidente. Hindi na ho talaga maaalis sa aming kamalayan, sa aming dugo at sa aming mga puso ang maglingkod sa ating mahal na bayan," Estrada said at the signing of the alliance agreement.

(We three are children of presidents. Serving and loving the country will always remain in our conscience, in our blood and in our hearts.)

But what is glossed over is the fact that Estrada’s father, Joseph, was ousted from power through a military-backed popular uprising and was convicted of plunder thereafter. He was later pardoned by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Marcos Jr.’s father, Ferdinand, was also removed from Malacañang through popular protest after two decades of his rule, under which thousands of human rights abuses were committed and billions of pesos were stolen from government coffers.

Duterte-Carpio’s father, Rodrigo, has been accused of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court for his bloody "war on drugs" which has killed thousands of drug suspects. The government has rejected these accusations and has said that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines, which left the court in 2019.

The Supreme Court acquitted Arroyo, chair emeritus of Lakas-CMD, of plunder in 2016. Arroyo, who was later House speaker, thanked Duterte in 2019 for "[providing] the atmosphere in which the Court had the freedom to acquit me of the trumped up charges of my successor and your predecessor."

No guarantees

While certainly formidable, the alliance between HNP, Lakas-CMD, PFP and PMP in support of Marcos Jr. and Duterte-Carpio is not yet sure to deliver the victory that they want come 2022.

Calimbahin told Philstar.com in an email that it is hard to tell whether this alliance will hold until the elections, considering that there is no mechanism to discipline them if they do not toe the party line.

"These 'parties' are driven by political families who know what it means to have the concentration of power and resources. They also know that the disbursement of power and resources are never equitable so they will be competing even amongst themselves," she said.

Arguelles, meanwhile, recalled the poor showing that HNP had in local races, despite Duterte-Carpio having heavily campaigned for the party’s bets.

"It appears that command votes, the capacity to deliver the votes of your supposed bailiwicks, that’s not 100% guaranteed as well," Arguelles said.

Duterte-Carpio was a frontrunner among potential candidates for president in the months before the filing of Certificates of Candidacy. She initially filed to run for reelection as Davao City mayor, but withdrew her bid earlier this month to file as a subsitute vice-presidential candidate for Lakas-CMD.

She replaced an official candidate who was widely considered as a placeholder.

2022 ELECTIONS BONGBONG MARCOS SARA DUTERTE-CARPIO
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