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Half of this duo is Ferdinand Marcos Jr. If the name means anything to you, it’s because he’s the son of the late dictator who ruled the Philippines with an iron fist for 21 years. The elder Marcos and his famous obsessed with shoes wife Imelda would have looted as much as 10 billion dollars state coffers before they were driven from power – and from the country – by the 1986 People Power Revolution.

Aries Arugay, professor of political science at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, says Marcos’ presidential candidacy is the culmination of his family’s decades-long quest to regain power after narrowly losing the race for power. vice-presidency in 2016.

The other half is none other than the vice-president, Sara Duterte. Yes this The name rings a bell, that’s because she’s the daughter of Rodrigo, the current president with her own aspiring dictator vibes.

Duterte’s scion followed his father’s 2016 electoral playbook: tease a presidential candidacy, turn it down to remain mayor of your hometown, and finally change your mind at the eleventh hour to submit your candidacy “to reluctantly “because you just can’t disappoint your fans. And don’t forget to add family drama too.

Right now, the Marcos-Duterte tandem looks like it can easily get away with the elections. With the president’s daughter by his side, Marcos is now clearly the favorite, probing at an impressive 47 percent. The couple also face weak opposition right now from boxer-turned-senator Manny Pacquiao and Leni Robredo, the competent but discreet vice-president.

Part of the twist here is that the Filipino electoral system for the president is twisted: it’s a one-round contest in which whoever gets a plurality wins. Presidents were elected with barely a quarter of the vote. Candidates often only need to lock down one or two voice-rich regions outside of Manila, as both Marcos and Duterte can, to secure victory.

Additionally, the Marcos-Duterte campaign dominates social media – a silver bullet in a nation plagued by online disinformation and fake news, where almost half of the population gets their news from Facebook. And guess who Facebook helped win the last time?

Rodrigo Duterte himself, who has become an unexpected thorn in the side of Marcos and young Duterte. Until the last minute, senior limited-term Duterte flirted with running for vice president, even versus Sara, but ultimately decided to run for a Senate seat straight off the buzzer.

Perhaps upset that his daughter ignored his advice to land the top job, Duterte is now endorsing – approving another candidate in place of his ally Marcos, with his daughter as vice-president (the Philippines elects presidents and vice-presidents separately).

Arugay says not having a single ticket is a problem for Duterte and Marcos. On the one hand, this will divide the pro-Duterte vote, not to mention confusing voters. On the other hand, Marcos will have to walk on eggshells with the notoriously thin president because the Supreme Court, which can hear a disqualification case against Marcos on tax evasion, is full of people named by Duterte.

What is all this so bad for the Philippine democracy? For Arugay, this election is a “new low”. It turned the presidential vote into an “all in the family” affair because dynasties rather than parties determined the candidates.

When political parties are created overnight and can implode just as quickly, elections are just popularity contests. Without a solid debate on ideas and policies, the country’s many problems will never be resolved.

Unfortunately, as long as those with the power to reform the Philippine political system are the same politicians who cause the problems in the first place, any hope of progress remains very remote.


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Rob M. Pratt