2022 Philippine Elections

Rash of substitutions among Duterte allies shows ‘extreme addiction to power’

Mara Cepeda

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Rash of substitutions among Duterte allies shows ‘extreme addiction to power’

DUTERTE-GO IN COMELEC. President Rodrigo Duterte accompanies Senators Bong Go and Bato Dela Rosa who withdrew their respective COC’s on November 13, 2021 at the Comelec office in Manila.


In the aftermath of the 'mad search for substitutes', the ruling party is left with no standard-bearer

The substitution drama that unfolded over the weekend among allies of President Rodrigo Duterte shows just how far they are willing to go to preserve their hold onto power, said a prominent non-governmental organization (NGO) worker who is challenging the Duterte dynasty in the 2022 elections.

In the special episode of the On the Campaign Trail show on Monday, November 15, Davaoeño NGO worker Maria Victoria “Mags” Maglana likened the substitution circus to “withdrawal symptoms.”

Maglana is up against reelectionist Davao City 1st District Representative Paulo “Pulong” Duterte, son of the President. 

“Nag-kick today ay example ng (What kicked off today is an example of) withdrawal symptoms at mad search for substitutes that point to extreme addiction to power, and power that is in the interests of protecting one’s own agenda, or at least stay where you are,” Maglana said. 

Rash of substitutions among Duterte allies shows ‘extreme addiction to power’

She said people at the President’s home turf Davao are feeling a mix of emotions – confusion, dismay, annoyance, and frustration – following concerns Duterte and his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, would end up slugging it out for the vice presidency in 2022. 

Sara had been the survey frontrunner among presidential aspirants for months, but she slid down to VP. She initially filed her certificate of candidacy (COC) for Davao City mayor, but later withdrew. This fueled her supporters’ call for her to gun for the highest post in the land.

In the end, Sara settled as a VP bet, substituting a certain Lyle Uy of the Lakas-CMD, where former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is party president emeritus. 

The Partido Federal ng Pilipinas of presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said it would carry Sara as their VP candidate, though no formal Marcos-Duterte alliance has been announced. 

Maglana said this is a disappointment for some supporters of the Duterte family, as the President’s own mother Soledad had fought the atrocities under the dictatorship of Bongbong’s father, the deposed Ferdinand Marcos. 

“Tingin ko kasi any tandem that has Marcos in it ay has the potential of being a bangungot tandem, lalo na ‘pag may Gloria Arroyo na dagdag,” said Maglana.

(I think any tandem that has a Marcs in it has a potential of being a nightmare tandem, especially if you would add in Gloria Arroyo to the mix.)

The President said he was supposed to retire in 2022, but later considered running for VP instead. He was then urged by his allies to seek a Senate seat instead. 

Duterte, through a representative, substituted a certain Mona Liza Visorde for senator. 

He is running under Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDSS), and not under the ruling PDP-Laban that has been imploding for months with two factions scrambling for control. 

Veteran journalist and Rappler’s regional coordinator Inday Espina-Varona believed Duterte was out to escape accountability for the abuses committed during his presidency. 

His bloody drug war, where thousands of drug suspects have been killed, is now the subject of a crimes against humanity probe by the International Criminal Court. 

“He wants to stack his cards to better evade accountability and that is something we should never forget going into the elections,” said Varano. 

PDP-Laban: A party in chaos

Another close Duterte ally, Senator Bong Go, also took advantage of the substitution rule. Go was supposed to be the VP bet of the PDP-Laban faction led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, but the senator later decided run for president under PDSS.

This left PDP-Laban with no standard-bearer of its own, as Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa also withdrew his COC for president.

Rappler reporter Bea Cupin, who is covering PDP-Laban, said it remains to be seen if the ruling party would find a way to thrive in the aftermath of the substitution chaos. 

“I think I have come to accept that the method is madness… I think we have yet to see whether they truly thrive in this chaos. Malalaman natin yan siguro in May 2022 pa kung talagang guamana itong pag-embrace nila sa (This will all unravel in May 2022, when we will find out if this works, this embrace of) chaos in the way they run things,” said Cupin. 

Varona said this also indicated how the current PDP-Laban is a “grotesque remnant” of what the party was when it was founded in 1982 by the late former senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. to oppose the Marcos dictatorship. 

“In the first place, what it is right now it’s a bad memory. It’s a grotesque remnant of the original PDP-Laban. What have they done in all of these six years?” she said. 

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[Newsstand] Duterte lost control of substitution circus he started

[Newsstand] Duterte lost control of substitution circus he started
Marcos Jr’s strategy of silence

But where does the son of the late ousted strongman Marcos fit in all these?

Though Bongbong may be perceived as an administration ally, Rappler reporter Lian Buan said the Marcos camp has practiced a strategy of silence to shield him from controversies that could hurt his own presidential run. 

“As far as Bongbong Marcos is concerned, the method is stick to the unification message. Kasi if you’re such a divisive figure such as Bongbong Marcos, the son of the dictator, parang ayaw mo nang makisali sa gulo (Because if you’re such a divisive figure such as Bongbong Marcos, the son of the dictator, you wouldn’t want to be part of the circus) ,” said Buan. 

For example, Bongbong himself would dodge questions about the 2022 presidential race becoming another face off between him and his rival, presidential aspirant and Vice President Leni Robredo. 

The only times the Marcos camp reacted to the news cycle was when petitions were filed seeking to cancel his COC.

“Hindi ka niya sasagutin sa mga ganun. He will give you a very diplomatic answer and he will pivot to ang concern ko lang ngayon ay how to get us out of the pandemic,” Buan said. 

(He wouldn’t answer you. He will give you a very diplomatic answer and he will pivot to say that his concern right now is how to get us out of the pandemic.)

The Commission on Elections is set to hear the petition cancelling Marcos’ COC on November 26. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.