Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines’ president, speaks during a news conference at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

Duterte May Hand Reins to Only Son of Philippine Dictator Ferdinand Marcos

(Bloomberg) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte could resign to make way for the son of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos if a legal challenge to the 2016 vice presidential election is upheld.

Duterte, 73, who has often raised the possibility of stepping down, thinks Ferdinand Marcos Jr. “is one of the better qualified leaders to succeed him,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a briefing Thursday.

Duterte May Hand Reins to Only Son of Philippine Dictator Ferdinand Marcos

If Marcos “becomes vice president, perhaps the President will make true his word that he will step down,” Roque said.

Marcos won 14.1 million votes in the 2016 vice presidential race, an election that is conducted separately from the presidency in the Philippines, narrowly losing to Liberal Party candidate Leni Robredo. Marcos claims the vote was tainted by massive cheating.

Duterte has said before that he might turn over the presidency to Marcos, whose sister he credits with supporting his presidential campaign. The triggers, he said, would include a failure to deliver on his promises to crack down on narcotics, crime and corruption.

Marcos however said Duterte should stay on as president. “I urge him not to leave the presidency, as our people still need him for the betterment of our lives and our country,” the Philippine Star quoted the former senator as saying on Friday.

Father’s Footsteps

Marcos, 60, told Bloomberg News last October that he was interested in following in his father’s footsteps. “That’s what you want to be,” Marcos said. “Every private in the army wants to be a general. Every janitor wants to be a CEO.”

A former congressman, senator and governor of the northern province of Ilocos Norte, Marcos is one of the most divisive political figures in the Philippines, where roughly 3,000 people died and thousands more were tortured when his father suspended elections and declared martial law in the 1970s.

His appeal against the result is currently before the Supreme Court, sitting as the electoral tribunal, which has ordered a manual recount of the votes. A decision could still be years away. A previous challenge to to the 2010 vice-presidential election took almost six years to resolve.

“There’s really no way of knowing how long the case will last,” Dante Gatmaytan, a constitutional law professor at the University of the Philippines, said in a text message.

Gatmaytan said the removal in May of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, an outspoken critic of Duterte’s administration, was unlikely to affect the outcome of the challenge to the vice presidential election result.

“I understand why there might be some apprehension because the Supreme Court has never ruled against the president,” Gatmaytan said. “But the tribunal is not only made up of members of the Supreme Court.”

Duterte has repeatedly questioned Robredo’s suitability for the job. Robredo -- the leader of the opposition -- has said that she doesn’t want to dignify Duterte’s attacks against her, and instead urged the president to focus on the economy.

Her camp was quick to downplay the chances of another Marcos as president. “President Duterte’s resignation will never happen because Mr. Marcos will never win his electoral protest,” the vice president’s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, said in a statement.

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