Duterte Indebted to the Elite

President Duterte’s surprising victory in the 2016 polls was widely seen as a backlash of the working class against the political elite, but according to his interview with CNN Philippines that may not be the case.

The president revealed that for his victory, he is indebted to 3-4 individuals who are members of powerful political scions in the country. Duterte named Ilocos Norte governor Imee Marcos, Bataan governor Abet Garcia and Bukidnon governor Jose Maria Zubiri as examples of such people.

The inclusion of the late dictator’s only daughter should not come as any surprise, it was obvious that some kind of arrangement existed when Duterte endorsed the burial of Marcos’ remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Graveyard of Heroes).

He said that Gov. Imee Marcos helped his campaign immensely and even revealed that her family made a donation to his campaign. That donation did not appear in Duterte’s Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) – which entails a violation of election rules if proven to be true.

The Ilocano governor suggested that the president was “merely joking” – a common excuse of the administration – and asserted that she did not make any contribution to the latter’s campaign.

Exit polls also show that despite this alleged alliance between the president and a member of the Ilocos region’s most prominent political dynasty, Duterte lost 3 out of 4 of the Ilocos provinces to Senator Grace Poe.

However, the Ilocos province which Duterte did garner the highest number of votes in happens to be Governor Marcos’ home province of Ilocos Norte.

Bataan is also one of the few Luzon provinces that Duterte topped, which could explain why its’ governor Abet Garcia was among the names the president mentioned.

The Garcia political clan is a prominent fixture of Bataan politics, aside from the province’s top local executive the vice governor’s role was also filled by a member of this powerful scion – the now deceased Enrique “Tet” Garcia.

During Garcia’s wake earlier this year, one of the prominent visitors was the president himself. He ran unopposed in the 2016 elections, just like his governor son, Abet.

The refusal for any other party to challenge the scion is a testament to the power they wield in their home province. Just like Imee Marcos, the clan also endorsed President Duterte’s campaign bid which should explain the latter’s victory in the province.

The third person identified by Duterte as among the individuals he is indebted to is Bukidnon governor, Jose Maria Zubiri – another member of a prominent political scion.

The president disclosed that it was Zubiri who “really pushed him” to run as president. It can be remembered that the Northern Mindanao governor was among the earliest politicians who endorsed a Duterte bid.

The Zubiri clan is one of the perennial political dynasties not just in Bukidnon but in the Mindanao archipelago as well. The family is known to be ardent supporters of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, with one of their own – Jose Miguel “Migz” Zubiri – running as Senator under the ticket of her administration.

Senator Zubiri resigned from his elected position in 2011, after the Commission of Elections reported widespread cheating during the 2007 elections which he won. His closest rival for the spot, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, was declared his replacement.

Duterte’s affinity with an Arroyo ally should not be surprising given that he is allies with Arroyo, herself. One of his campaign promises was to release the former president, calling the case against her to be weak.

It is unknown if the former head-of-state is the fourth person on Duterte’s list, especially given the emphatic victory the latter had in the former’s home province of Pampanga – where she is currently serving as a congresswoman.

Honorable mentions who could be the mysterious fourth person could either be Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte’s running mate who forked out Php 71.3M to finance their campaign, or businessman and Davao politician Tony Boy Floreindo who donated Php 90M to Duterte’s campaign.

On the campaign trail, Duterte promised he would “not accept money from those with vested interests” – a sign that he would not be indebted to the elite. This was in order to avoid “paying them back with favors” when he wins.

Instead of being an anti-elite crusader, Duterte has revealed he owes some of the most powerful political clans in the country. Ferdinand Marcos has already received his hero’s burial, while Arroyo has been released from medical detention – time will tell what other concessions the president will give to appease his backers.

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