Philippines 'First Daughter' joins new party ahead of presidential poll cutoff

·2-min read
Sara Duterte with father Rodrigo in China in 2018 (AFP/-)

Philippines "First Daughter" Sara Duterte joined a new political party Thursday, fuelling speculation she will make a late entry into the presidential race in a bid to succeed her father.

Supporters of the Davao city mayor have been clamouring for her to run for the country's highest office, but she has insisted that she was not interested in replacing President Rodrigo Duterte.

But her sudden withdrawal Tuesday from the 2022 mayoral contest suggested she had changed her mind.

On Thursday she reportedly quit her regional party. Hours later government television showed her joining Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, the national political party of her close ally and former president Gloria Arroyo.

"I thank my supporters. I hope whatever happens in the next few days I will be able to give them what they want," she told reporters Thursday on the sidelines of a wedding south of Manila.

Philippine politics is dominated by powerful families and has a long history of scions succeeding their parents into the presidential palace.

Sara would join a crowded race that includes the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, celebrity mayor Francisco Domagoso, boxing great Manny Pacquiao and incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo.

There is speculation that Sara has been trying to persuade Marcos Jr, popularly known as Bongbong, to slide back into the vice presidential race and create a formidable alliance between the two clans.

In the Philippines the president and vice president are elected separately.

Marcos Jr, who was at the same wedding on Thursday and was seen walking arm in arm with Sara, told reporters: "I will continue with my plan. I entered this race to run for president."

Sara, who has consistently led in surveys of voter preferences for the next president, has until November 15 to substitute her party's current presidential candidate -- a replay of her father's last-minute entry into the race in 2015.

Analysts expect Sara would be a more moderate version of her father, who gained infamy for his foul-mouthed tirades and deadly drug war that has killed thousands of people and is now being investigated by the International Criminal Court.

She would also be his best protector from criminal charges in the Philippines, and ICC prosecutors.

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