THE PHILIPPINES’ oldest political party headed by a billionaire has endorsed the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos for president, saying it believed in his call for unity, which has been criticized for lack of substance.

“We believe that Bongbong and Inday Sara’s message of unity is crucial in binding our country together and inspiring our people as we rebuild not only from the pandemic but also from the political chasm that divides us,” Filipino billionaire and Nacionalista Party President Manuel B. Villar, Jr. said in a statement on Tuesday.

He was referring to former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. and his vice-presidential running mate, Davao City Mayor and presidential daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio.

Mr. Villar’s son, former Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar, is part of the Marcos-Duterte tandem’s senatorial slate.

Meanwhile, a faction of the ruling PDP-Laban said its chairman, President Rodrigo R. Duterte, would join Mr. Marcos and Ms. Carpio in a campaign sortie in Cebu province on March 31.

Mr. Villar, a former senator who lost to the late Benigno S.C. Aquino III in the 2010 presidential race, said the tandem had “the platforms of government, qualifications and track record to lead our country towards unity and prosperity.”

Marcos lawyer and spokesman Victor D. Rodriguez said the Nacionalista Party endorsement would “serve as another insurance to the bandwagon of support for the UniTeam from political parties.”

“Indeed, unity is what will hold our country together as we look ahead into the future of making us, Filipinos, world class citizens with nation-building as our ultimate collective goal,” he said in statement. 

The late dictator ran for president in 1965 under the Nacionalista Party.

The 64-year-old Marcos, Jr., who is leading in presidential opinion polls, won a Senate seat under the party in 2010. He also ran for vice-president and lost under the party in 2016. He moved to the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas in October before announcing his presidential ambition.

Mr. Villar’s Advanced Media Broadcasting Systems took over the TV broadcast frequencies used by ABS-CBN Corp., which was once the country’s top media company until the government forced it off the air two years ago.

He is an ally of Mr. Duterte, who vowed to force ABS-CBN off the air after the network failed to broadcast one of his ads during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Villar’s wife Cynthia is a senator.

Mr. Villar’s endorsement comes as ranking officials of mainstream political parties change their strategies at the last minute. Presidential candidate Senator Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson has left Partido Reporma, which is now headed by a former administration ally, after it endorsed opposition candidate Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo for president.

The National Unity Party has backed the candidacy of Mr. Marcos, but its chief Elpidio F. Barzaga, Jr. defied the endorsement and announced his support for Ms. Robredo.

Nacionalista fielded three vice-presidential candidates in 2016, including Mr. Marcos and former Senators Alan Peter S. Cayetano and Antonio F. Trillanes IV. All of them lost to Ms. Robredo.

Ms. Robredo will have to beat Mr. Marcos again, which some see as a rerun of the 1986 snap elections, when widow Corazon C. Aquino was widely believed to have crushed the dictator. That year, a popular street uprising toppled the Marcos regime and sent him and his family into self-exile in the United States.

Mr. Duterte last year called Mr. Marcos a “weak leader,” saying he is the reason why his political party did not form an alliance with his daughter. “I am not impressed by him.”

The late dictator’s heirs still owe the government billions of pesos in estate and income taxes, the agency tasked to recover the family’s ill-gotten wealth said this month.

The P23-billion estate tax had ballooned to P203.8 billion due to interests and penalties after the Marcos family refused to pay it, according to another rival political party, citing computations by retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio in a Sept. 30, 2021 column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. — Norman P. Aquino and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza



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