The prominent political families of former presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) and Joseph Estrada joined the families of President Duterte and presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in signing an alliance at the exclusive Sofitel Manila pledging support to the BBM-Sara Duterte-Carpio tandem with Marcos Jr. 

For political scientists Cleve Arguellas and Jean Franco of the UP School of Government, it was an “unholy” alliance of political families seeking to retain or regain power when GMA’s Lakas-CMD, Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, Marcos-led Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, and Sara’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago came together to sign the agreement.

“These people are already joining the bandwagon. This also goes for businessmen supporting these political parties,” Franco said. Pre-election surveys give a slight edge to Bongbong in the presidential race, while Sara noses out her rivals for vice-president.

Bongbong said the coalition will bring back stability in politics and the country, adding that the interest of the Philippines was the “driving force” behind the parties teaming up. 

But for Arguelles, it is clear that the unity forged among families controlling these parties has only one goal: To keep themselves in power. 

“It’s quite clear that it’s the interests of these political families being forwarded in this coalition or alliance,” Arguelles said. “And it makes sense, as a political family, your goal in 2022 is to keep yourself in power and to ensure that you’ll gain access to government power.” 

“The interests of the Filipino voter or Filipinos with particular advocacies are not represented in these alliances,” political science professor Cleo Calimbahin said. 

Calimbahin noted that it is hard to tell whether this alliance will hold until the elections, considering that there is no mechanism to discipline them if they do not toe the party line. 

“These ‘parties’ are driven by political families who know what it means to have the concentration of power and resources. They also know that the disbursement of power and resources are never equitable, so they will be competing even among themselves,” she said. 

Arguelles, for his part, said this is just politics as usual as far as the Philippines goes, with political families negotiating among themselves as to who gets to sit next. 

“It’s like a cartel system,” he said. “But it’s the same set of families who will be part of the ruling coalition.” 

For Franco, this just shows that the political parties in the country are still immature. “Alliances without clear ideologies and common programs and policies still manifest that our parties are not yet well-developed,” she said. 

At the Sofitel signing, former senator and senatorial hopeful Jinggoy Estrada even boasted that he, as well as Sara and Bongbong are children of former presidents. “Kaming tatlo po ay pawang mga anak ng presidente. Hindi na ho talaga maaalis sa aming kamalayan, sa aming dugo at sa aming mga puso ang maglingkod sa ating mahal na bayan,” Estrada said.

He failed to mention that his father Joseph, was ousted from power through a military-backed popular uprising and was convicted of plunder thereafter. He was later pardoned by then-President GMA. 

Bongbong’s father Ferdinand was also removed from Malacañang through popular protest after two decades of his rule, under which thousands of human rights abuses were committed and billions of pesos were stolen from government coffers. 

Duterte-Carpio’s father, Rodrigo, has been accused of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court for his bloody “war on drugs” which has killed thousands of drug suspects. The government has rejected these accusations and said the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines, which left the court in 2019. 

The Supreme Court acquitted Arroyo, chair emeritus of Lakas-CMD, of plunder in 2016. Arroyo, who was later House speaker, thanked Duterte in 2019 for “providing the atmosphere in which the Court had the freedom to acquit me of the trumped-up charges of my successor and your predecessor.”