At first glance it looks like much has changed in Philippine politics. In Rodrigo Duterte the Philippines will have, for the first time, a president from the island of Mindanao, and one who came to power without either the backing of a major party or pre-existing network of local political bosses behind him. Moreover, it is still possible that the son of Ferdinand Marcos Sr, Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr, will be only a heartbeat away from the presidency. The dictator’s unrepentant son is in a very close race for the vice-presidency with Leni Robredo, the VP choice of President Benigno Aquino. A national elected position may for the first time ever be decided by overseas votes. And in another first, a trans-gender candidate has been elected to a national political position.
Yet, at second and third glance, four powerful trends in post-Marcos Philippines appear to be holding true.
1. Political dynasties rule and the number of locally dominant families is growing.
The Duterte family’s two decades-plus control of Davao City will continue with Inday Sara Duterte (Rodrigo Duterte's daughter) winning over 99.5% of votes cast for mayor. While vice president Jejomar Binay faded badly as a presidential candidate, his family’s lock on power in Makati City is unbroken after Abigail Binay replaced her deposed brother as mayor in a close-run affair. Imee Marcos won the governorship of Ilocos Norte by acclamation as did Pia Cayetano, sister of Duterte’s running mate Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, in their bailiwick of Taguig City in Metro Manila. Duterte and Binay are first-generation scions of new urban-based political dynasties. The 'anarchy of families' continues.
2. The incumbent’s choice is the kiss of death.
In the past four elections, the serving president’s choice has lost, usually by large margins. In 1998, Vice president Joseph Estrada smashed Jose de Venecia. In 2004, Fernando Poe Jr (Estrada’s best friend), is widely believed to have won the vote but lost the vote count. In 2010, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was widely seen to be backing Estrada (whom she had pardoned as president), yet Benigno Aquino romped home. Yesterday, Duterte easily beat Manuel Roxas. Lame ducks indeed.
3. The recent return of the Marcos family to the national stage continues largely unabated.
When Imelda Marcos ran for president in 1992, she came a distant fifth with about 10% of the vote. When her son ran for the Senate in 2010, he finished a creditable 7th (the 12 highest vote winners become Senators) with roughly 35% of the electorate including him among their 12 choices for the Senate. As of 9:00am this morning, Bongbong Marcos had amassed 34.6% of the vote for vice president, only 0.4% behind Robredo’s total. Marcos has easily won Metro Manila and his family’s bailiwicks of northern Luzon and Leyte.
4. Home region and language group are still the most powerful determinants of voting behaviour.
This holds true in every region outside of Metro Manila, the common shorthand for Metropolitan Manila, the country's national capital region and the predominant destination for internal migration. Duterte triumphed by winning Mindanao, Cebu where his family originates from, and Metro Manila. If Marcos wins the vice presidency, the pattern will be very similar.
Philippine politics are not changeless but they have not changed as much as some fear or hope with these election results.
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