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The children of 2 different Philippine leaders have joined forces ahead of election


The jockeying to succeed outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte next year has produced an unprecedented partnership. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports on the children of two different Philippine presidents joining forces to become the country's next leaders.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: As powerful families go, you couldn't find two more prominent political clans in the Philippines than the Marcoses and Dutertes. Even in a country awash in dynastic politics, their pairing is unique. Bongbong Marcos, son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, will run for president alongside Sara Duterte, daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, as she runs for the vice president. They're second-generation dynasts.


ARIES ARUGAY: They're all ambitious. They're all greedy. They all want power.

MCCARTHY: Manila-based analyst Aries Aurgay told an online forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies this week that such a coupling begets a dynasty cartel.


ARUGAY: The cartelization of these dynasties means that somehow they've figured out a way that, hey, why can't we just share power, limit competition and make sure that the next winners of the presidential and national elections comes from us?

MCCARTHY: Name recognition and celebrity status count to such an extent in Philippine elections that it's eroding democracy, according to critics. Analyst Bob Herrera-Lim says Marcos' undistinguished career as a congressman and senator is doing nothing to hold him back.

BOB HERRERA-LIM: Yes, he is running on entitlement. He's running on the weaknesses of the system.

MCCARTHY: And if inconvenient truths obstruct a dynasty's political advance, observers say revisionist history is airbrushing out any misdeeds. Marcos' critics accuse the 64-year-old presidential contender of using a sophisticated social media campaign to rewrite the narrative of his father's 20-year-long rule that ended in his ouster in 1986.


BONGBONG MARCOS: If there is one thing that I think clearly sets my father apart, it's that he had a very clear vision for our country.

MCCARTHY: Neither the Marcos' secret Swiss bank accounts nor the litany of rights abuses during the martial law years gets a mention in these Bongbong-hosted videos saturating the internet. At this small market, shoppers and vendors alike expressed nostalgia for the Marcos era. Fifty-seven-year-old Teodoro Sibug-Nelval says during the pandemic, she lost her vending stall, then her home and just wants her life back. She says Marcos is perhaps the change the country needs

TEODORO SIBUG-NELVAL: (Non-English language spoken).

MCCARTHY: "What we want is to change how our life is running. Our lives are worse. During the time of Marcos, I had a good life," she says. Marites Vitug is editor-at-large for the online news site Rappler, whose CEO won this year's Nobel Peace Prize. She says the country is witnessing the rehabilitation of the Marcos dynasty and says young people are especially susceptible to the Marcos messaging.

MARITES VITUG: The sad thing is that there are no standard history textbooks in the Philippines that explains the Marcos years and the martial law years. I was shocked to hear from some millennials that this was never discussed in class. It should have been required.

MCCARTHY: The Marcos-Duterte tie-up is not without strain. President Duterte had wanted his daughter to seek the presidency, providing him protection from the International Criminal Court investigating his violent anti-drug war. Political economist Calixto Chikiamco says Sara talks of continuing her father's policies, but by declining to run for the top job, she's gone her own way.

CALIXTO CHIKIAMCO: The daughter is fiercely independent and didn't want to be under the thumb of President Duterte and also she could not perhaps tolerate the president's men.

MCCARTHY: It's generally agreed that Duterte has bungled his succession. Meanwhile, one leading poll shows Marcos as the early front-runner to succeed him.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Julie McCarthy has spent most of career traveling the world for NPR. She's covered wars, prime ministers, presidents and paupers. But her favorite stories "are about the common man or woman doing uncommon things," she says.
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