MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Sara Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing populist president of the Philippines, took her oath Sunday as vice president following a landslide electoral victory she clinched despite her father’s human rights record that saw thousands of drug suspects gunned down.
The inauguration in their southern hometown of Davao, where she’s the outgoing mayor, comes two weeks before she assumes office on June 30 as specified in the Philippine Constitution. President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Duterte’s running mate, will take his oath in Manila on June 30.
President Rodrigo Duterte, 77, led the VIPs in the heavily guarded ceremony at a public square in the port city of Davao, where he had also served as a longtime mayor starting in the late 1980s. His family, hailing from modest middle-class background, built a formidable political dynasty in the restive southern region long troubled by communist and Muslim insurgencies and violent political rivalries.
Duterte’s presidency has been marked by a brutal anti-drugs campaign that has left thousands of mostly petty drug runners shot dead by police or vigilantes. He is being investigated for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.
The electoral triumph of Sara Duterte and Marcos Jr. has alarmed left-wing and human rights groups because of their failure to acknowledge the massive human rights atrocities that took place under their fathers, including late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte campaigned on a vague platform of national unity, without clearly addressing activists’ calls for them to take steps to prosecute the elder Duterte when he retires from politics.
One of the president’s son, Sebastian Duterte, will succeed his sister as Davao mayor, and another son, Paolo Duterte, won a seat in the House of Representatives in the May 9 elections. The outgoing president’s late father was a former Davao governor.
Philippine elections have long been dominated by politicians belonging to the same bloodlines. At least 250 political families have monopolized power across the country, although such dynasties are prohibited under the constitution. Congress — long controlled by members of powerful clans targeted by the constitutional ban — has failed to pass the law needed to define and enforce the provision.
While Sara Duterte, 44, refused calls by her father and supporters to seek the presidency, she has not ruled out a future run. She topped pre-elections surveys for the president last year and won with a huge margin like Marcos Jr.
Aside from the vice president, she has agreed to serve as education secretary, although there were talks that her initial preference was to head the Department of National Defense, a traditional springboard to the presidency.
Still, the education portfolio would provide her first often-problematic national political platform, especially with plans to resume physical classes soon after the country was hit hard by two years of coronavirus pandemic outbreaks and lockdowns.
“Our constitution does not specify any particular job for the vice president except to be a president in waiting and except when he or she is assigned a Cabinet position,” she told reporters.
She thanked her Davao supporters and said she decided to hold her inauguration in one of the country's most developed cities to show her pride as a southern provincial politician who rose to a top national post.
A mother of three, Duterte finished a medical course and originally wanted to become a doctor but later took up law and was prevailed upon to enter politics starting in 2007, when she was elected as Davao vice mayor and mayor three years later.
In 2011, she drew national attention when she was caught on video punching and assaulting a court sheriff who was helping lead a police demolition of a shanty community despite her plea for a brief deferment. The court official sustained a black eye and face injuries and was taken by her bodyguards to a hospital.
Despite her public feuds with her father, Sara Duterte had her hair shaved a year before the 2016 elections as a show of support for his campaign.
Jim Gomez, The Associated Press