The colorful former president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, stepped up an already bitter feud with his successor Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday by accusing him of seeking dictatorial power.
Duterte also suggested independence for his home island of Mindanao, which would strip the Philippines of about one-third of its land mass.
Duterte accused Marcos of trying to remove constitutional term limits on the presidency so he could remain in power indefinitely. “It’s a mechanism for perpetuation of power,” he said.
Marcos did say this month that he thinks the 1987 constitution should be amended — but he referred to its “economic provisions,” especially its restrictions on foreign investment, and the structure of the Philippine legislature, not term limits on the presidency.
The constitutional debate has grown quite heated – at one point featuring a shouting match between Marcos’ sister and cousin, who are a senator and speaker of the lower house, respectively. Adding to the family fun, Marcos’ vice president is Sara Duterte, Rodrigo’s daughter.
Duterte delivered a populist speech laced with obscenities in which he threatened Marcos Jr. with the same fate as his father, former President Ferdinand Marcos, who was overthrown and exiled by a popular uprising in 1986. A limit of one six-year term was imposed on the presidency after the elder Marcos ended his 20-year reign.
The former president said he was forced to speak out against his successor because Marcos was endangering the security of the Philippines by abandoning the friendly relations Duterte cultivated with China and moving closer to the United States, instead.
Duterte also accused Marcos of being a “drug addict” and asked where he gets his supply of cocaine. Marcos responded by suggesting the fentanyl Duterte has admitted taking to control the pain from a motorcycle accident might be causing his erratic behavior.
Duterte’s son Sebastian, who is the mayor of Davao City, gave a speech last week in which he called on Marcos to resign, ostensibly because he was “lazy” and lacked “love and aspirations” for his country. Marcos allies shot back that the Duterte family is trying to push Marcos out of office in a “naked display of self-interest” so they could return to power.
Duterte is also reportedly nervous about a visit reportedly paid to Manila in December by representatives of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is investigating excessive force and murder during Duterte’s crackdown on drug dealers. This was why Duterte accused Marcos of being on a government list of “drug addicts,” a charge denied by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on Monday.
As for the “desirability of Mindanao seceding from the Republic of the Philippines,” as Duterte put it on Tuesday night, a congressman named Pantaleon Alvarez is preparing a campaign to get signatures on a secession petition. Duterte accused the central government under Marcos of not paying enough attention to Mindanao’s issues.
Duterte was a bit vague on exactly how Mindanao would go about seceding, but he insisted it would not be a “rebellion” or “sedition.” He also denied rumors that he would come out of retirement to run for the presidency of an independent Mindanao republic.