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Marcos Pushes Philippine Unity as Duterte Slams Successor

(Bloomberg) -- Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte drew thousands of their supporters in separate rallies on Sunday, highlighting a deepening rift that may split the alliance of the country’s most powerful political families that won the 2022 election.

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As Marcos unveiled a new slogan for his administration before a crowd that the government estimated at 400,000, the former leader Duterte led a gathering in his hometown in Davao where he warned his successor that he may suffer the same fate as his late dictator father if he pushes ahead with efforts to amend the Constitution. Marcos Sr. was ousted in a popular revolt in 1986, prompting the family’s exile in Hawaii.

“Mr. President, you might end up following your father’s footsteps,” said Duterte, who also accused his successor of being in a drug watch list. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said on Monday that Marcos “is not and was never in its watch list.” Duterte’s son Sebastian, the mayor of Davao City, called on Marcos to resign, CNN Philippines reported.

Cracks in the Marcos-Duterte coalition have deepened since last year as Marcos’s allies in Congress questioned Vice President Sara Duterte’s request for confidential funds and as the leader strengthened the nation’s ties with the US after his predecessor pivoted towards China. Recent moves to revise the Constitution, which Marcos backs, have emerged as the latest flashpoint between the two camps ahead of the midterm elections next year.

“We face a complex and changing world. It calls for a united response that will make our nation strong, our economy sound and our children’s future secure,” Marcos said on Sunday as he launched “Bagong Pilipinas,” a brand of governance which translates into “New Philippines.” “We cannot meet these challenges if no common purpose energizes us.”

Vice President Duterte, who set aside her presidential ambitions to join Marcos’s ticket in the 2022 election, told the Manila crowd that she supports Marcos’s vision. She left before Marcos arrived, to fly to Davao and attend the rally organized by her family’s supporters.

“Before it was a speculation. Now it’s clear. The knives are out,” said Cleve Arguelles, CEO of WR Numero Research. “It’s the breakup of the UniTeam,” he said, referring to the campaign branding of Marcos and Duterte in the 2022 polls.

“The Dutertes cannot be underestimated in terms of their political capital and influence on the public,” Arguelles said. They could pose a challenge for the incumbent in the midterm elections and may weaken Marcos politically.

The Manila and Davao rallies “highlight a distressing reality: the dynastic war among ruling elites, which serves only to further cement the interests of political dynasties and entrenched elites, while neglecting the pressing needs of the Filipino populace,” Rafaela David, president of political party Akbayan, said in a statement on Sunday.

--With assistance from Clarissa Batino, Ian Fisher and Victoria Cavaliere.

(Updates with details throughout.)

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