Marcos Asks Duterte to Talk Amid Cracks in Philippine Alliance

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(Bloomberg) -- Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has offered to meet with former leader Rodrigo Duterte amid rumors of a brewing destabilization being linked to his predecessor.

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Duterte on Saturday denied any involvement in moves that will undermine his successor after a former senator said people allied with the ex-president are agitating active military members.

Marcos is “always available” to meet with Duterte, his Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said on Sunday after the former president said he wants to talk to his successor about the suspension of a supporter’s broadcast company.

The recent developments are highlighting the growing cracks in the alliance of the Philippines’ two biggest political families that produced landslide victories in 2022 for Marcos and Vice President Sara Duterte, Rodrigo’s daughter.

A fractured coalition comes at a time when Marcos is banking on domestic support in his campaign to assert the nation’s rights in the South China Sea. It may also impact his ability to extend influence after his term ends in 2028.

The discord between the two camps became more visible a year after the May 2022 election as the Dutertes distanced themselves from Marcos’s strategy of strengthening ties with the US. Duterte, who spurned Washington and pivoted towards China during his six-year term, met with Chinese President Xi Jinping last July as Manila and Beijing sparred over the disputed sea.

Around the same time, Sara Duterte was assailed by Marcos’s allies in Congress over her request for confidential funds after questions arose on how she spent a similar slush budget the prior year. The chatter over simmering military discontent allegedly fanned by Duterte supporters was first brought up in November by ex-Senator Antonio Trillanes, a known critic of the former president. Trillanes repeated his accusations over the weekend.

Last month, Philippine regulators halted a television program that regularly featured a Duterte broadcast by Sonshine Media Network International linked to evangelist Apollo Quiboloy. Days later, the government suspended Sonshine for 30 days for violating the terms of its franchise. Quiboloy is a known supporter of Duterte.

Duterte is “comfortable” with Marcos and isn’t looking for someone to replace the current leader, he said during a briefing with reporters in southern Davao City on Saturday.

--With assistance from Joanna Ossinger and Cliff Venzon.

(Recasts Sunday story to add background and context.)

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