With the Middle East teetering on the brink of a regional conflict, Washington looks stretched, and the prospect of a sudden change in the geopolitical matrix in the South China Sea would, at best, be unwelcome.
Marcos’ desire to overhaul one of Southeast Asia’s most protectionist economies was the catalyst that brought the cold war between the two rival families into the open, exposing Duterte’s simmering grievances.
His outrage was followed by comments by his son, Davao city mayor Sebastian Duterte, who demanded that Marcos Jnr resign over an alleged increase in crime, accusing the president of being lazy.
The stakes are extremely high for the Dutertes. The ICC investigation and the expectation that the Hague-based tribunal may issue arrest warrants threaten not only Duterte senior, but potentially draws in Sara Duterte, the sitting vice-president. The ICC’s probe covers the period between November 1, 2011, and March 16, 2019, during which Sara served as the Davao city mayor. There is a cruel irony in Marcos countering Duterte’s drug addiction allegation by suggesting his predecessor binged on fentanyl.
Meanwhile, in the battle for regional hegemony, the US and China find themselves saddled with a problem that is likely to intensify. With the lack of an elder statesman in the Philippines, the possibility of reaching a compromise acceptable to both rival factions seems a distant prospect.
For now, unfolding events in the Philippines have the urgent attention of both Washington and Beijing.
Mark Townsend is an award-winning journalist covering Southeast Asia and the Middle East.