Is the Philippines nearing ‘destabilisation’ over the apparent Marcos-Duterte clan feud?

Trillanes, who had led failed mutinies against Arroyo, told This Week in Asia on Tuesday that in the event of a coup, the alliance between Duterte, his daughter Vice-President Sara Duterte-Carpio and Macapagal Arroyo would benefit.

During a military event on November 3, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff, General Romeo Brawner Jnr, said there were “destabilisation efforts” against President Marcos Jnr.

He told the soldiers present he was hearing of attempts to “replace our president for a variety of reasons [and] sadly some of them were [by] former officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines”.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr (right) salutes beside Philippine Army Commanding General Lieutenant General Romeo Brawner Jnr (left) at an army event on March 22, 2023. Photo: AP

He cautioned active duty soldiers not to be swayed and revealed he had spoken to some of the former officers involved. “I told them, you have the right to do that because we are in a democracy, but please do not involve the active personnel of the AFP.”

Brawner Jnr did not say whom he had talked to and the following day issued a clarification that there was “no ongoing coup plot”, and reiterated his point about “destabilisation efforts”.

He again later sought to clarify his comments on GMA Network News: “When we say plot, it means there is already a plan that only needs execution. What I said was … I’ve been hearing reports of destabilisation efforts … I did not use the word ‘plot’.”

Following his comments, online users began speculating if Duterte was involved.

Duterte himself addressed the speculation during an online event on November 7 sponsored by his staunchest supporter Apollo Quiboloy, who asked him whether it was true the former president was “planning a coup d’etat because ICC is coming to town”.

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Quiboloy was referring to Duterte’s drug war case pending before the International Criminal Court for further investigation.
Duterte replied: “I remember talking to some of the retired generals. I only told them [there is no need to replace the government] as long as there is no serious issue of corruption … which I think is not present right now.”

‘No feud’ with Marcos

In a November 7 interview with This Week in Asia, Duterte’s former chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo denied that Duterte was feuding with Marcos Jnr. “He is supporting the Marcos administration … It is only in the imagination of those who want to make it one,” he said.

He pointed out Duterte had said that “there is no compelling reason to change the administration … And on a scale of one to 10, he rates [Marcos’ presidential performance] six-and-a-half to seven”.

Panelo maintained that Duterte remained a “strong” political figure. “Between us, if there is ever a military takeover, the military would likely ask Duterte to lead them. If I know this man he will accept it, but he will not initiate it. Never.”

Former presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo for ex-president Rodrigo Duterte. Photo: Captured from Twitter

Duterte had issues with “some” officials from the Marcos Jnr administration, and with the president’s cousin, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Panelo added. “We [Duterte and I] are critical of the cabinet members who are not doing well.”

For instance, Panelo said, in the case of Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, Marcos Jnr had already issued a policy where his government would no longer communicate with the ICC on Duterte’s case over its lack of jurisdiction after Duterte voided the Philippines’ acceptance of the Rome Statute, which created the ICC.

“But [Marcos’] solicitor general has been filing communications with the ICC, effectively admitting that ICC has jurisdiction over us,” he noted.

He said the same was true with Department of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, who said in July that the government would no longer “engage” with the ICC, but last month said the government needed to “review” whether the ICC had jurisdiction over Duterte’s drug war.

Political columnist Antonio Montalvan II connected the military’s “destabilisation efforts” to Duterte, who is “on panic mode, with the ICC coming to town”.


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Duterte is reportedly facing a major setback in his case with the emergence of former opposition senator Leila de Lima as a potential key witness for the ICC prosecution. On Tuesday, a regional trial court granted de Lima temporary bail after nearly seven years in detention on trumped-up charges of illegal drug trading.

De Lima said she was unjustly jailed for her inquiry into Duterte’s drug war when he was Davao City mayor. Among those she thanked for her release was the Marcos Jnr government “for respecting the rule of law”.

Broken promises

The rumoured feud between the Marcos and Duterte clans is believed to have originated from the dealmaking linked to the political alliance that both sides forged in November 2021.

Marcos Jnr revealed in January 2022 that Duterte-Carpio wanted to be defence secretary. While surprised by the request, he said “it’s going to be a good idea”.

After winning the presidency with her help, Marcos Jnr gave Duterte-Carpio the education portfolio instead. When she requested an additional 403 million pesos (US$7.2 million) to spend as vice-president in 2022, Marcos Jnr gave her 221 million pesos.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr and Philippine Vice-President Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, greet during the inauguration ceremony in Manila on June 30, 2022. Photo: AP
Last month, the elder Duterte became enraged after the Romualdez-controlled Congress stripped his daughter of 650 million pesos worth of confidential funds in next year’s national budget.

“Why did you humiliate and embarrass my daughter?” he demanded and challenged Romualdez to prove there was no corruption within the House.

In the interview with This Week in Asia, Panelo accused Romualdez of “conspiring” with left-wing party-list groups in the House. “When they were questioning the intelligence funds they were insinuating that Sara was stealing the money as well as the father [former president Duterte] when he was mayor.”

He accused Speaker Romualdez and the left of “entrapping” Duterte-Carpio by cancelling her House testimony on August 30 when she wanted to explain how she had spent 125 million pesos in confidential and intelligence funds in 11 days last December.

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On Wednesday, it was the elder Duterte’s turn to be publicly humiliated as the prosecutor’s office in Quezon City subpoenaed him for the first time as a former president to answer a complaint of “grave threat”. ACT Party List Congresswoman France Castro had filed the complaint after Duterte said on social media on October 11: “you, France, you communists who I want to kill …”

Trillanes warned the family feud was heading towards “a head-on collision” with one losing side emerging.

Last week, the House approved a resolution taking “exception to statements made that undermine the independence, integrity, and reputation of the institution, more so when these statements are couched with threats or insinuations of physical harm to a sitting member of Congress”. The resolution mentioned no names but Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jnr afterwards said the message was intended for Duterte and his daughter.

The House also kicked out Macapagal Arroyo and Davao City Congressman Isidro Ungab as deputy speakers after both failed to vote for the resolution. It previously removed Macapagal Arroyo as senior deputy speaker for plotting to unseat Speaker Romualdez, a charge she denied.

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Macapagal Arroyo’s removal had prompted Vice-President Duterte-Carpio to resign as chair and member of the Lakas-CMD Party, of which Romualdez was the president. She then apparently insulted Romualdez by referring to an unnamed person who was a “tambaloslos” – or a mythical creature with a large mouth and male organ who misguided people.

The feud appeared to have dented public support for the Marcos Jnr-Duterte-Carpio alliance. The approval ratings for both have fallen in recent months based on a survey by Octa Research.

To add spice to the saga, the president’s sister, Senator Imee Marcos, has declared her support for the Dutertes. Imee Marcos, who is up for re-election in 2025, thanked Duterte for giving her father a hero’s burial.

She said: “They are my friends for making the country progressive, ensuring peace and fighting against evil forces.”

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