MANILA, PHILIPPINES — President Rodrigo Duterte’s party backed presidential election frontrunner Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Tuesday, as his main rival appears to gain momentum in the race for the top job.
Voter polls show Bongbong Marcos on track for a landslide victory in the May 9 election, fueled by a massive social media campaign.
Marcos has joined forces with vice presidential frontrunner and first daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio in a formidable alliance between the scions of two of the country’s most powerful political families.
“We are endorsing the candidacy of Bongbong Marcos Jr — this is a party decision,” said Alfonso Cusi, president of PDP-Laban and leader of the pro-Duterte faction of the party.
Cusi would not say whether Duterte supported Marcos Jr, whom he has previously described as “weak.”
According to presidential spokesman Martin Andanar, Duterte’s position is “not clear.”
Outgoing presidents usually name their preferred successor, who they hope will protect their legacy as well as protect them from criminal charges brought by rivals.
Duterte, who is constitutionally barred from running for a second six-year term but remains popular among many Filipinos, had chosen loyal aide Senator Christopher Go to replace him, but he dropped out.
Duterte has been coy about who he wants to see in the presidential palace since then.
He recently stated that the next leader should be a lawyer who is compassionate, which raised eyebrows among observers because the description seemed to best fit his nemesis, incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo, who is running a distant second in the polls behind Marcos Jr.
Separate elections are held for the positions of president and vice president.