It must have been a fairy tale of sorts. Bongbong Marcos walked down the aisle with Sara Duterte-Carpio closely beside him, her right hand gripping his arm, the other carrying a fresh bouquet of white flowers. It was not their wedding. But it was the becoming of a political marriage, the coming together of powerful clans for the sake of political convenience, and of it was born the Marcos-Duterte dynasty.
No Filipino is a stranger to political dynasties, the feature that dominates the Philippine political system, allowing families of political elites to maintain strongholds of power and influence in their respective localities. But to most, it is largely a strange notion to think that there could be a political dynasty over the entire country. Indeed, neither the Marcoses nor the Dutertes can really claim dominance over the archipelago, at least not on their own. And so we see them forge ties, fusing to create a single machinery for what is now becoming the House of Marcos-Duterte. Though a variation of the traditional political dynasty, made to adapt to the unique strategic demands of national politics, it nonetheless maintains at its core the same essence of “passing on” elected positions to keep power within a certain family—or in this case, families.
But an even stranger matter in view of all of this is that President Rodrigo Duterte himself does not seem too keen on giving way to a Marcos-Duterte lineage. Every dynasty has its drama, and it seems the patriarch is the one being pushed out here. While he previously named Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte, among others, as his chosen successors, he has since backtracked on his support for Marcos in favor of the presidential bid of his longtime right-hand man, Sen. Bong Go. But where the elder Duterte now fits in this new political circle is now largely irrelevant. Whether or not he is on board, a win for the tandem will mean that the presidential throne, as they already seem to treat it, is to be passed on from a Duterte to a Marcos and perhaps, in the future, to another Duterte and then to another Marcos, and so on.
Further, the picture becomes more complicated when considering that there may have been others who were instrumental in bringing about the new house, with some analysts claiming that the Arroyos and even the Romualdezes may have been involved. If so, perhaps the dynasty is broader than we thought, but it is still just as concerning and poses the same problems. But as far as the presidency and vice presidency are concerned, the focus remains to be the Marcos-Duterte pair.
I, of course, do not claim that it is necessarily true that the House of Marcos-Duterte will be able to preserve their line. All that will depend on whether they will be able to keep their political capital in the long run, which is itself already greatly difficult on a national scale. But I am warning that it is a very real possibility that is becoming closer by the day. We know they have the resources and could have just about perfected the electoral strategy to make it happen.
What the Marcoses and Dutertes are trying to do is to lead us to install them as de facto sovereigns, as the royal house of our republic. But mind you, Malacañang is not their Buckingham. It is their Balmoral—their playfield—where they test and toy with what exactly they can do and get away with, as the Duterte patriarch has the past few years. This could be a powerful dynasty, with eyes set on one thing above all: to make the Philippines theirs. And if we don’t take strong enough action to stop them, it might just soon be, or worse, perhaps it already is.
Although we so often forget, the real sovereigns are us, the people. We are not bound to any person or clan that makes themselves out to be monarchs. Ultimately, we still possess the true power to reject and repudiate those who threaten our integrity as a free electorate. So let the looming ascension of the House of Marcos-Duterte drive those who oppose it to immerse themselves in the masses, to engage with the common Filipino, to build together with them a sense of common ownership over their elections.
Though a steep climb, it is within reach. But a victory will have to be just the beginning. What must follow are massive electoral reforms to prevent the abuse of the political system that we are made to watch now. We ought to advocate and demand to plug the legal holes in our electoral process and to finally outlaw political dynasties and instead strengthen political parties.
Only by massive collective action can we regain our country from the powers that seek to claim it for themselves. Anyone who does must be taught that these coming elections are not theirs but ours. And so let us forever engrave in their memory and carve in our own hearts that the Republic of the Philippines is not theirs. It is ours.