Duterte’s daughter takes oath as Philippines vice president

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Sara Duterte, daughter of the outgoing populist president of the Philippines, took her oath as vice president on Sunday following a landslide electoral victory she clinched despite her father’s human rights record that saw thousands of drug suspects gunned down.

The inauguration in their southern hometown of Davao, where she is the outgoing mayor, comes two weeks before she assumes office on June 30 as specified in the constitution.

President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Ms Duterte’s running mate, will take his oath in Manila on June 30.

President Rodrigo Duterte, 77, led the VIPs at the heavily guarded ceremony in a public square in the port city of Davao, where he had also served as a longtime mayor starting in the late 1980s.

His family, which came from a modest middle-class background, built a formidable political dynasty in the volatile southern region long troubled by communist and Muslim insurgencies and violent political rivalries.

Mr Duterte’s presidency has been marked by a brutal anti-drugs campaign that has left thousands of mostly petty drug runners shot dead by police or vigilantes. He is being investigated for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

The electoral triumph of Ms Duterte and Mr Marcos Jr has alarmed left-wing and human rights groups because of their failure to acknowledge the massive human rights atrocities that took place under their fathers, including late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Philippines US
President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr at his proclamation at the House of Representatives in Quezon City, Philippines on May 25 (Aaron Favila/AP)

One of the president’s son, Sebastian Duterte, will succeed his sister as Davao mayor, and another son, Paolo Duterte, won a seat in the House of Representatives in the May 9 elections. The outgoing president’s late father was a former Davao governor.

Philippine elections have long been dominated by politicians belonging to the same bloodlines. At least 250 political families have monopolised power across the country, although such dynasties are prohibited under the constitution. Congress – long controlled by members of powerful clans targeted by the constitutional ban – has failed to pass the law needed to define and enforce the provision.

While Ms Duterte, 44, refused calls by her father and supporters to seek the presidency, she has not ruled out a future run. She topped pre-election surveys for the presidency last year and won with a huge margin like Mr Marcos Jr.

Apart from vice president, she has agreed to serve as education secretary, although there were reports that her initial preference was to head the Department of National Defence, a traditional springboard to the presidency.

Nevertheless, the education portfolio would provide her first often-problematic national political platform, especially with plans to resume physical classes soon after the country was hit hard by two years of coronavirus pandemic outbreaks and lockdowns.

“Our constitution does not specify any particular job for the vice president except to be a president in waiting and except when he or she is assigned a Cabinet position,” she told reporters.

She thanked her Davao supporters and said she decided to hold her inauguration in one of the country’s most developed cities to show her pride as a southern provincial politician who rose to a top national post.

A mother of three, she finished a medical course and originally wanted to become a doctor but later took up law and was prevailed upon to enter politics starting in 2007, when she was elected as Davao vice mayor and mayor three years later.

In 2011, she drew national attention when she was caught on video punching and assaulting a court sheriff who was helping lead a police demolition of a shanty community despite her plea for a brief deferment. The court official suffered a black eye and face injuries and was taken to hospital by her bodyguards.

Despite her public feuds with her father, Ms Duterte had her hair shaved a year before the 2016 elections as a show of support for his campaign.

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