Sara Duterte, the daughter of the populist incumbent president of the Philippines, was sworn in as vice president on Sunday following a landslide election victory she won despite her father’s human rights record which saw thousands of drug suspects shot dead.
The inauguration in their hometown of Davao, in the south of the country, where she is the outgoing mayor, comes two weeks before she takes office on June 30, as specified in the Philippine Constitution. President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Duterte’s running mate, will be sworn in in Manila on June 30.
“I’m not the best or the smartest in the Philippines and the world, but no one can beat the hardness of my heart as a Filipina,” Duterte, who wore a traditional green dress, said in a speech after loaning oath. before an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, his hand resting on a Bible held by his mother.
“The voice of 32.2 million Filipinos was loud and clear – with the message to serve our motherland,” Duterte said, referring to the votes she garnered, to cheers from thousands of supporters.
Affectionately referred to as “Inday Sara” by her supporters, the mother-of-three called for national unity and devotion to God and asked Filipinos to emulate the patriotism of the country’s national hero, Jose Rizal. She cited long-standing social ills facing Filipino children including poverty, broken families, illegal drugs, bullying and online misinformation and called on parents to ingrain the values of integrity, discipline, respect for others and compassion.
President Rodrigo Duterte, 77, led VIPs at the heavily guarded ceremony in a public square near City Hall in the port city of Davao, where he also served as longtime mayor from the late 1980s. His modest middle-class family built a formidable political dynasty in the troubled southern region, long troubled by Communist and Muslim insurgencies and violent political rivalries.
Duterte’s presidency was marked by a brutal anti-drug campaign that left thousands of mostly underage suspects gunned down by police or militia. The drug-related killings are being investigated by the International Criminal Court as a possible crime against humanity.
The electoral triumph of Sara Duterte and Marcos Jr. has alarmed leftist and human rights groups over their failure to acknowledge the massive human rights atrocities that took place under their fathers, including the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte campaigned on a vague platform of national unity, failing to respond clearly to calls from activists for them to take steps to prosecute the elder Duterte when he retires from politics.
One of the president’s sons, Sebastian Duterte, will succeed his sister as mayor of Davao, and another son, Paolo Duterte, won a seat in the House of Representatives in the May 9 election. The incumbent president’s late father was a former governor of Davao.
Elections in the Philippines have long been dominated by politicians from the same bloodlines. At least 250 political families have monopolized power across the country, although such dynasties are prohibited by the constitution. Congress – long controlled by members of powerful clans targeted by the constitutional ban – has failed to pass the legislation needed to define and enforce the provision.
While Sara Duterte, 44, has refused calls from her father and his supporters to run for president, she has not ruled out a future candidacy. She topped pre-election polls for president last year and won by a huge margin like Marcos Jr.
In addition to vice president, she agreed to serve as education secretary, although there have been discussions that her initial preference was to lead the Department of National Defence, a traditional stepping stone to the presidency.
Still, the education portfolio would provide its first national policy platform, particularly with plans to resume physical classes soon after the country was hit hard by two years of coronavirus pandemic outbreaks and lockdowns.
She thanked her supporters in Davao on Saturday and said she had 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 national post of high level.
Duterte completed a medical course and originally wanted to become a doctor, but then took up law and was convinced to enter politics from 2007, when she was elected vice mayor and mayor of Davao three years later.
In 2011, she came to national attention when she was filmed punching and assaulting a court sheriff who was helping lead the police demolition of a slum despite her appeal for a brief reprieve. The court official suffered injuries to her black eye and face and was taken by her bodyguards to the hospital.
Despite her public feuds with her father, Sara Duterte had her hair shaved a year before the 2016 election as a show of support for her candidacy.
He won the single six-year term by a huge margin on a bold but failed promise to stamp out illegal drugs and corruption in three to six months, and constant public threats to kill drug traffickers.