Ex-Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Leads ‘Prayer Rallies’ Against Charter Change

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Ex-Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Leads ‘Prayer Rallies’ Against Charter Change

As mid-term elections approach, the rift between the Duterte and Marcos clans continues to widen.

Ex-Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Leads ‘Prayer Rallies’ Against Charter Change
Credit: Depositphotos

Former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been attending “prayer rallies” in opposition to the charter change (ChaCha) planned by the government of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

On January 28, Duterte and his family joined a “prayer rally” in Davao. He attended a similar event in Cebu on February 25 and in Manila on March 12. Ironically, Duterte is leading the public to “pray” against ChaCha since he once remarked that God is “stupid” and even insulted the Catholic pope. He also promoted ChaCha when he was president.

The Duterte-led “prayer rallies” featured speeches from politicians and potential candidates in the 2025 midterm elections. There were even sexy dancers who entertained the crowd at the Cebu event. Clearly, the main agenda of the “prayer rally” was not really about spiritual reflection since it merely served as Duterte’s platform to articulate his sentiments against Marcos.

In Davao, Duterte called Marcos a “drug addict” and warned that the president could be deposed from power if he violates the Constitution. In Cebu, Duterte contradicted himself by declaring that he was ready to support ChaCha but only if it would not benefit the incumbent president. In Manila, Duterte accused Marcos of plotting to extend his term through ChaCha.

The speeches of Duterte allies during the “prayer rallies” also reflected the growing rift within the ruling coalition. In Davao, the mayor called for the resignation of Marcos. The mayor, who is a son of Duterte, lambasted the campaign promise of Marcos to lower the price of rice and called it the biggest scam in government. A former speaker of the House of Representatives urged Marcos to make a “supreme sacrifice” by resigning from his position.

The presence of Duterte and his daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte, at the Manila “prayer rally” organized by controversial religious leader Apollo Quiboloy raised questions about their political motive because the consistent demand of the speakers was the resignation of Marcos as president. A former presidential spokesperson even suggested that a Duterte-Duterte tandem should lead the country in 2028.

Quiboloy’s “prayer rally” was meant to oppose the Senate probe into the alleged role of the pastor in human trafficking and sexual abuse cases. Quiboloy, who is also wanted in the United States for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking, fraud, and cash smuggling, has denied the allegations. Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros questioned Vice President Duterte’s support for Quiboloy.

“(This involves) the simple human rights and dignity of the people and citizens that should be defended by the second highest official of the country, not the person who has abused them,” Hontiveros said.

As Quiboloy’s legal problems continued to worsen, Duterte was appointed property administrator of the pastor’s church, prompting speculations about the role of the former president in managing the assets of the embattled church leader.

So far, Duterte has joined three high-profile “prayer rallies” over the past three months in three vote-rich regions. As expected, he gathered a massive crowd in his hometown Davao, but the number of attendees was much smaller in Cebu and Manila. Aside from his family, some of his former officials when he was president were able to join him. But there was no prominent delegation from local government units and other elected officials.

Since the ChaCha resolution was already passed by the House of Representatives, Duterte and his allies are expected to oppose its approval in the Senate. Curiously, even pro-Duterte legislators voted in favor of ChaCha. It’s either they believe in the assurance of the Marcos government that ChaCha will be limited to economic reforms or they couldn’t care less about Duterte’s fulminations.

What is certain is that Duterte-style “prayer rallies” will continue to be organized by his allies especially if the “word war” between the former and incumbent president escalates into a more serious political tension.

Duterte may have valid reasons for opposing ChaCha, but his “prayer rallies” reflect his failure to garner broad support from various political forces. For civil society groups and opposition forces, Duterte lacks the credibility to lead the anti-ChaCha movement since he needs to be made accountable for the various crimes and abuses committed during his administration.