Philippine politics

Uniteam divided: The politicians in opposing Sunday rallies in Manila and Davao

Dwight de Leon

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Uniteam divided: The politicians in opposing Sunday rallies in Manila and Davao

Marcos screenshot from RTVM, Duterte screenshot from Rody Duterte's Facebook page

Rappler enumerates the key politicians who attended the showdown rallies in Manila and Davao, and the context that makes their presence in either event significant

MANILA, Philippines – It was the confusing crossover of political veterans in two showdown events over a thousand kilometers from each other that made January 28, 2024 a Sunday to remember.

In Manila, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. mounted a concert to launch his administration’s “Bagong Pilipinas” (literally translated as “new Philippines”) slogan.

Performer, Person, Solo Performance
IN MANILA. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers a speech during the ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ kickoff rally in Manila on January 28, 2024. RTVM

In Davao City, his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte led a prayer rally against the push to amend the 1987 Constitution under the Marcos administration.

Rappler enumerates the key personalities involved, while adding context that makes their presence in the said events significant.

Vice President Sara Duterte
TWO RALLIES. Vice President Sara Duterte addresses the crowd during the ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ rally on January 28. 2024. RTVM

It was not initially clear whether Duterte would attend the Manila rally. Hours before her arrival, the area allotted for staff of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) at the Quirino Grandstand grounds was empty, unlike areas designated for other government agencies.

She arrived past 3 pm, exchanged pleasantries with teachers who represented the Department of Education (DepEd) in the event, and then climbed up the stage to address the audience.

“The Department of Education is one with all government agencies in the path towards a new Philippines,” Duterte said in Filipino.

Marcos and Duterte ran as a tandem in the 2022 polls, under the so-called Uniteam coalition. The broad alliance composed of old guards in modern Philippine politics brought in a landslide election victory that has not been seen since the restoration of the country’s democracy in 1986.

Since then, signs of widening cracks in the alliance have emerged, many of which involved the veep. Duterte had to withdraw her request for P650 million in confidential funds after Congress said it would not be granted, and she spoke against the Marcos administration’s decision to restart peace talks with communists.

She also opposed the people’s initiative route to amend the 1987 Constitution, an effort allegedly spearheaded by Speaker Martin Romualdez, the President’s cousin.

After her stage appearance at the Quirino Grandstand, Duterte left the “Bagong Pilipinas” rally before the main program even started to fly to Davao City to attend the candlelight prayer rally against charter change.

Senator Imee Marcos
Adult, Female, Person
PRESIDENT’S SISTER. Senator Imee Marcos attends the rally against charter change in Davao City on January 28, 2024. Manman Dejeto/Rappler

Senator Imee Marcos skipped the “Bagong Pilipinas” rally led by her brother in favor of the charter change rally in Davao City.

The two siblings have a complicated relationship. There were times in the past that Imee criticized actions of his brother’s administration.

When asked if she could be considered a critic of the President, she insisted she was only protecting her brother and their family name.

Imee is against the people’s initiative route to amend the 1987 Constitution, and admitted not being in good terms with cousin Speaker Romualdez who, she alleged, is behind the latest charter change push.

She said their rift stemmed from her decision to side with the Dutertes amid the ongoing feud between the Romualdez and the Davao families.

Former president Rodrigo Duterte
Performer, Person, Solo Performance
AGAINST CHARTER CHANGE. Former president Rodrigo Duterte warns President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the repercussions of charter change in a rally held in Davao City on January 28, 2023. Facebook/Rody Duterte

The anti-charter change rally that Senator Imee attended in Davao City is the same rally where former president Rodrigo Duterte claimed that when he was mayor, he saw President Marcos’ name in a drug watchlist of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Duterte is notorious for linking politicians and other officials with the drug trade even without evidence – in some cases even falsely – and PDEA has refuted Duterte’s claim. But nonetheless, the serious accusation is expected to overshadow Marcos’ “Bagong Pilipinas” launch in the days to come.

He also warned Marcos of the possibility of being ousted from office should his administration pursue charter change.

For the record, Duterte did not endorse Marcos for president in 2022. He once called his successor a “spoiled child” and a “weak leader.” Duterte reportedly didn’t like that his daughter gave way to Marcos and sought the vice presidency instead of the country’s top post.

Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte
RESIGN. Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte calls on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to resign in his speech during the ‘Hakbang ng Maisug Leaders Forum’ at the Grand Men Seng Hotel in Davao City on January 28, 2024.

While former president Duterte gave Marcos a warning, his son Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte explicitly called for the President’s resignation.

“Mr. President, if you do not have love and aspirations for your country, resign,” the younger Duterte said in a leadership forum hours before the candlelight prayer rally.

Sebastian, or “Baste,” is against the people’s initiative agenda. He has a close relationship with his sister Vice President Sara.

Former executive secretary Vic Rodriguez

Marcos’ first executive secretary Vic Rodriguez expressed his opposition to the people’s initiative during the same leadership forum.

He also took a swipe at the “Bagong Pilipinas” rally in Manila, saying that it’s not like the crowd he’s addressing in Davao where the attendees were not paid to attend.

Rodriguez had among the shortest stints as executive secretary in recent years, serving only for over two months. He resigned to supposedly devote more time to his family.

There were indications though that his exit from the Cabinet could be for other reasons. After resigning as executive secretary, he said he would still be Marcos’ chief of staff, but later “completely exited” the Marcos administration.

Subsequently, Marcos’ Partido Federal ng Pilipinas kicked him out, citing “incompetence as a public servant” as among the reasons.

Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
GMA. Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (center) attends the ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ rally in Manila on January 28, 2024. RTVM

Interestingly, Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was not in Davao, but in Manila, seated beside President Marcos during the “Bagong Pilipinas” rally.

Arroyo appeared to have lost some political capital under the Marcos administration in 2022 after the brouhaha in the House of Representatives. The House leadership stripped her of the deputy speakership after allegations emerged that she was trying to orchestrate an ouster plot against Speaker Romualdez. She has denied this accusation.

Arroyo is a close ally of the Dutertes and Senator Imee Marcos. She is against the entry of the International Criminal Court in the Philippines to investigate the bloody drug war of former president Duterte.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez
CHA-CHA PROPONENT? House Speaker Martin Romualdez waves to the crowd during the ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ rally on January 28, 2024.

Arroyo shared the stage in Manila with House Speaker Romualdez, the leader of the chamber where she got booted out as deputy speaker.

Romualdez has figured in numerous rifts in the past year, including with the Dutertes and with Senator Imee. He has distanced himself from the latest charter change push even though he was quoted in December as saying that the House would embark on a people’s initiative to amend the Constitution.

Other figures

Here are some other key personalities who took part in either event on Sunday:

– Rappler.com

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  1. ET

    January 28, 2024, a Sunday, was a day to remember for its Political Drama. It was a day of two shows of force: the White Team versus the Red Team. The White Team of the Marcos-Romualdez Political Dynasty launched the “Bagong Pilipinas.” It used white in its launching t-shirt, perhaps to show honesty, transparency, and integrity. The other team, I prefer to call the “Red” team because of its subtle Communist China preference. Red is the official color of the Communist Chinese star, the Red Star, and may also be the color of former President Digong’s threat of PBBM’s ouster. Indeed, January 28, 2024, is a day to remember in Philippine politics.

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.