Philippine President Duterte’s Son Seeks House Speakership

Paolo Duterte, son of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and vice mayor of Davao, appeared before a senate inquiry to deny accusations of drug trafficking
NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Paolo Duterte, son of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, said on Tuesday that he is considering a bid to become Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives.

The announcement is notable for three reasons: the expanding Duterte dynasty also includes the president’s daughter Sara as mayor of Davao City and possible presidential successor, with the president’s son Sebastian as her vice mayor; Paolo Duterte previously indicated he did not want to run for Speaker; and Rodrigo Duterte indicated he would resign from the presidency if Paolo did.

Paolo Duterte, 44, is currently serving his first term in the House after winning a seat in the May election. It was a political comeback after serving a term as vice mayor of Davao, the Duterte’ family’s political fortress. Paolo’s stint in Davao ended with his resignation due to marital problems and allegations he was connected to a massive shipment of illegal drugs from China, which he denied. His father’s presidency has been heavily based on fighting the drug trade.

The legislature is currently dominated by Duterte supporters but they are proving a fractious bunch, inspiring Paolo to propose a unity speakership where he would share the three-year term with lawmakers from various other districts. 

Paolo campaigned on promises to bring more attention to issues on Mindanao, the often troubled island where Davao City is located, and saw the shared speakership as a way for other regions to have suitable influence in the House. He also criticized other aspirants to the position as political opportunists. Some of the other candidates have rejected the idea of a shared speakership, while others have proposed a two-way split that would not include Paolo Duterte.

“The House is divided, I might be able to help unite it,” he said.

The announcement seemed problematic because President Duterte threatened to resign his own office in May should Paolo make a run for the speakership, on the grounds that too many members of his family were assuming high offices. 

Paolo responded in May with an all-caps Facebook post declaring, “I DID NOT SAY I WANT TO BE SPEAKER” and suggesting “someone whispered the wrong information” to his father.

A presidential spokesman said on Tuesday that Duterte might reconsider his decision in light of changing circumstances, just as his son appears to have reconsidered the idea of running for House speaker.

“It’s still just a plan. We don’t know if he’ll go through with it or not,” the spokesman said, conveying a level of ambiguity unlikely to sit well with critics of President Duterte’s mercurial style and his family’s dynastic ambitions.

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