The rift between Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, has taken a turn for the worse.
Philippine political analysts say in media reports that this may be end of the political alliance that swept Marcos Jr. to the presidency and Duterte’s daughter Sara as vice president in the 2022 national elections.
This comes in the wake of accusations from Marcos Jr. and Duterte of drug abuse, threats by Duterte to split the country with a secession by Mindanao, the call by Duterte son and current Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte for Marcos Jr. to resign, and rumours of a coup plot.
Referring to the 2022 Marcos-Duterte alliance called the UniTeam, University of the Philippines political science professor Jean Encinas-Franco said, “I think they have now gone past the point of no return.”
“It will be an open warfare this year,” said Ronald Llamas, a political analyst and former presidential adviser to then President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
“The opportunistic political alliance was not meant to last,” said Temario Rivera, chairperson of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance think-tank.
“The break seems to be taking place rather very early,” Rivera said.
“A breakdown of the formal alliance risk fomenting new divisions within the military, proving serious problems of governance and stability,” Rivera also said.
Duterte accused Marcos Jr. during a Davao City rally on January 28, 2024 of being a drug addict and included in the drug watch list of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) during his (Duterte’s) term.
Duterte claimed that Marcos Jr. was a “drug addict then and a drug addict now as president,”.
“You in the military, you know that for a fact, especially those of you assigned in Malacañang. The Armed Forces of the Philippines, you know this. We have a drug addict president, son of a bitch,” Duterte said.
In 2021, when Marcos Jr. was a presidential aspirant, his camp showed two reports from a private hospital and the national police laboratory that said Marcos Jr. had tested negative for cocaine and methamphetamine.
Duterte also said that what happened to the President Marcos Jr.’s father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., might happen to him as well.
The president’s father was ousted from power in 1986 by a civilian-backed military uprising.
Marcos Jr. struck back on January 29 before leaving for a state visit to Vietnam.
“I think it’s the fentanyl,” the President said.
“It is highly addictive and it has very serious side effects. And PRRD [President Rodrigo D. Duterte] has been taking the drug for a very long time now. When was the last time he told us that he was taking fentanyl? Mga (Around) five, six years ago? Something like that. After five, six years it has to affect him,” Marcos Jr. told reporters.
Asked to deny that he is involved in illegal drugs, Marcos said, “I won’t even dignify the question.”
PDEA on January 29 issued a statement saying that Marcos Jr. was never on its drug watch list.
When he was still President, Duterte admitted using fentanyl, and even compared the feeling of using an entire fentanyl patch to being “in paradise”.
Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid drug for use as an analgesic (pain relief) and anesthetic.
The Davao City rally was organized against moves to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
In the same rally, Duterte’s son Sebastian, who is currently Mayor of Davao City, called on President Marcos Jr. to resign.
The January 28 rally in Davao City coincided with a Manila rally led by Marcos Jr. to launch “Bagong Pilipinas” or “New Philippines”, which is his new brand of governance.
In the 2022 election, Marcos Jr. teamed up with Duterte’s daughter Sara, who ran for Vice President under their UniTeam alliance.
Sara Duterte, who is also education secretary, attended the President’s rally before flying to Davao City on January 28 to join her father and siblings at a prayer rally against moves to amend the Philippine Constitution.
There have been reports of an unannounced visit by International Criminal Court (ICC) investigators in the Philippines.
The ICC is probing killings during the bloody anti-drug crackdown waged by Duterte when he was president from 2016 to 2022.
“I feel very bad [because] the ICC (International Criminal Court) never landed in this country before, but after the change of administration, they’re suddenly here, and they want to imprison my father,” Sebastian Duterte said at the January 28 rally in Davao City.
Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Romeo Brawner has visited military bases in Mindanao, urging troops to be loyal to “our duly constituted authorities”.
The visit came after a series of rumours reported in media of a plot to remove Marcos Jr. from power.
By Carlito Pablo