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Dictator’s Son Says Duterte’s Daughter Will Back Him in Philippine Election

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the former dictator of the Philippines, claimed a major boost on Saturday in his effort to become the country’s next president, saying that the daughter of its current leader, Rodrigo Duterte, would effectively be his running mate.

Sara Duterte, Mr. Duterte’s daughter, had yet to confirm that she was supporting Mr. Marcos’s campaign. But she declared her candidacy for vice president on Saturday, after much speculation that she would seek the presidency herself.

A union of Mr. Marcos, whose family draws its strength from the north, and Ms. Duterte, whose support is strong in the south, would combine the power of two of the most powerful political dynasties in the Philippines, posing a steep challenge to the other candidates in a crowded race. Presidents and vice presidents are elected separately in the Philippines, but it is common for candidates to join forces as de facto running mates.

Human rights activists fear that a Marcos-Duterte win would continue the authoritarian style of governance that Mr. Duterte, the Philippines’ populist and unabashedly ruthless president, has set into place over his five years in office. Both of them would be likely to continue Mr. Duterte’s tough-on-crime approach, which has led to international accusations of human rights abuses.

President Rodrigo Duterte with his daughter, Sara Duterte, in 2018. Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Crucially, as vice president, Ms. Duterte would be well-positioned to defend her father from the potential consequences of his bloody and heavily criticized war on drugs, in which thousands of people have been killed by police officers or unknown gunmen.

Ms. Duterte, 43, was the favorite for the May presidential race in a field of 97 candidates that includes Mr. Marcos, the former boxing star Manny Pacquiao and the country’s current vice president.

The election comes at a crucial time, with the country facing significant challenges in both foreign and domestic policy. The Philippines is the oldest ally of the United States in Asia and an anchor of the U.S. presence in the region, where Washington is trying to contest China’s spreading influence.

At home, the country of roughly 110 million people is facing high unemployment because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr. Marcos’s father, Ferdinand E. Marcos, ruled the Philippines with an iron fist for two decades. He was defeated by a popular uprising in 1986 and went into exile in Hawaii, where he died three years later. He was accused of stealing up to $10 billion from state coffers and leaving thousands of activists dead or missing.

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