ELECTIONS 2022: Will Sara Duterte diverge from her father’s policies if elected?

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Vice-presidential candidate Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, delivers a speech during a campaign rally in Lipa, Batangas province, Philippines, April 20, 2022. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
Vice-presidential candidate Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, delivers a speech during a campaign rally in Lipa, Batangas province, Philippines, April 20, 2022. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

As the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, Sara Duterte-Carpio and her political aspirations are often under intense media scrutiny.

In the run-up to the submission of candidacy for the 2022 Philippine elections, many wondered if the 43-year-old Mayor of Davao City had the same ambition as her father to occupy the highest political office. As it turned out, it was a case of merry-go-round decision-making by Duterte-Carpio on her plans for the election.

Initially, Duterte-Carpio said that she would leave the door open for a shot at the presidency. After her father announced that he might be running for vice-president, Duterte-Carpio then said she would not be running for president as they agreed that only one family member would vie for national political office.

But when her father, who is not allowed to stand for another term as president, did not submit his candidacy for vice-president, Duterte-Carpio filed her candidacy for re-election as mayor before withdrawing it a month later last November.

Finally on November 13, she put an end to the speculation when she officially submitted her name as a vice-presidential candidate. Along with her decision, her political party affiliation also switched a few times: she resigned from Hugpong ng Pagbabago and joined Lakas-CMD before rejoining Hugpong ng Pagbabago within about a week.

Partnering Bongbong Marcos

Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and vice-presidential candidate Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, raise their hands as they hold flags, during the first day of campaign period for the 2022 presidential election, at the Philippine Arena, in Bulacan province, Philippines, February 8, 2022. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David
Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and vice-presidential candidate Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, raise their hands as they hold flags, during the first day of campaign period for the 2022 presidential election, at the Philippine Arena, in Bulacan province, Philippines, February 8, 2022. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David

For the upcoming election, Duterte-Carpio is joining hands with a member of another famous political family: Ferdinand Marcos “Bongbong” Jr. The chairman of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas is contesting for the presidency while Duterte-Carpio became Marcos's running mate after she was adopted by his party.

But the Marcos-Duterte alliance has apparently been challenged by some of the leading figures in the election. A group allied to Manila City Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso, who is running for the presidency, has been trying to sow discord between Duterte-Carpio and Marcos, according to a report by ABS-CBN News.

In a statement to affirm the alliance with Marcos, Duterte-Carpio said that she would not be partnering Moreno. "I truly appreciate the love of so many for me and I do not wish to impose upon you my choice for president. While I continue to respect your decision to support another presidential candidate, it is with a heavy heart that I cannot be one with you on this," Duterte-Carpio said.

Despite the support recently expressed by several politicians in Davao for presidential candidate and current Vice-President Leni Robredo, Duterte-Carpio is confident that Marcos will prevail in Mindanao come the election.

While campaigning alongside Marcos in Carmen town in Davao del Norte, Duterte-Carpio claimed that based on her camp’s surveys, Marcos is the choice of up to 80 percent of voters in the region.

“We will try our best to deliver for Bongbong Marcos in Davao region and based on our survey, he is doing well and we can do more for him,” Duterte-Carpio said in an interview on March 30.

Duterte-Carpio herself also appeared to have garnered the support of some mayors in Bulacan and thanked them for their support while campaigning in the key province on March 20.

Legacy of father’s policies

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte arrives at the Imperial Palace to attend the proclamation ceremony of Japan's Emperor Naruhito's ascension to the throne in Tokyo  on October 22, 2019. (Photo by Carl Court / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CARL COURT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio arrive at the Imperial Palace to attend the proclamation ceremony of Japan's Emperor Naruhito's ascension to the throne in Tokyo on October 22, 2019. (Photo by Carl Court / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CARL COURT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Since throwing her hat in the election ring, Duterte-Carpio’s political agenda has also been the subject of much speculation. Her recent comments have been closely monitored for clues as to whether she might dovetail with or deviate from the policies of her father’s administration if she were to become vice-president.

Duterte has been heavily criticized internationally for his unrelenting war against drugs, with estimates of the death toll from the campaign ranging from several thousand to more than 30,000 since he took office in 2016.

The Marcos-Duterte alliance, or the “Uniteam” as they call themselves, have called the war on drugs a success and vowed to even enhance it if they were elected, according to a report by Philstar.

Explaining the reasons for the persistent drug trade, they said in a statement, “This tells us that the problem of illegal drugs is likely to persist for as long as the drug trade is a lucrative or profitable enterprise despite the inherent danger of arrest or even death in the hands of law enforcers.”

But where Duterte-Carpio differs from her father’s political stance is on the country’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Duterte-Carpio opposes discrimination against those who are unvaccinated.

“I am pro-vaccination and boosters but in this case, I cannot agree with the exclusion or restriction of unvaccinated… they were given the freedom to choose,” Duterte-Carpio said, according to a report by Inquirer.

Her father, however, has been demanding that local authorities identify unvaccinated persons and prevent them from leaving their residences, apart from going out to buy essential goods and services or reporting for work, the report added.

Priority issues to tackle

A boy looks out of window railings above a banner reading
A boy looks out of window railings above a banner reading "run, Sara", referring to support for Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte to run in the May 9 elections, in a community in Manila, Philippines, April 9, 2021. Picture taken April 9, 2021. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David

During a rally to kick off the election campaign at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan in February, Duterte-Carpio spoke about the three biggest pressing issues of jobs and livelihood, good education, and peace and order. She again highlighted the challenges of tackling the pandemic.

“We can do better. Government can do better…We shall live with (COVID-19) and we will bounce back like never before,” she said.

One key concern for many Filipinos would be how Marcos and Duterte-Carpio manage the bilateral relationship with China. There has been speculation that a “Manchurian candidate" could emerge among the frontrunners for the election and be subject to heavy influence by China.

While her father is often perceived to be more favorable towards China, Duterte-Carpio has yet to articulate how she and Marcos would shape their foreign policy to deal with the Asian giant, particularly over prickly issues such as the South China Sea territorial dispute.

In a boost to the Duterte-Carpio camp, a recent survey by Pulse Asia published in February shows that she is way ahead of her rivals for the vice-presidential race. She was the top choice for the post with 50 percent of the respondents expressing support while her rival Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto was a distant second with 29 percent.

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READ: More 2022 Philippine elections stories here.

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