During Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s first two years in office, his daughter Sara had barely any interest in politics. One year on, she is front and centre in a midterm election that she isn’t even running in, playing kingmaker for candidates allied with her father in what’s being widely seen as a not-so-subtle trial balloon for her own presidential run in 2022.
Monday’s elections are to a great extent a referendum on the Duterte administration, testing his popularity and giving him a chance to tighten his grip on power by retaining his Congressional majority, and keeping the opposition on the fringes of the all-important Senate for the remainder of his term.
Sara Duterte opted out of running for the Senate, choosing instead to manage the campaign of some of her father’s loyalists, which experts say will boost her political capital and build alliances that could come in handy ahead of the next presidential election.
“She’s projecting herself as a national personality. What’s happening today is her testing the water,” said Ramon Casiple, who heads the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.