MANILA (Reuters) – The presidential bid of Philippine election frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr received a boost on Tuesday after President Rodrigo Duterte’s political party endorsed his candidacy for the May 9 vote.
The PDP-Laban party, which has not fielded a presidential candidate, announced it will back Marcos, the son and namesake of the country’s late dictator, who is running alongside Duterte’s daughter, Davao city mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Still, it remained unclear which candidate the popular Duterte would personally throw his support behind.
Marcos, commonly known as “Bongbong”, was the candidate “whose platform is most aligned with the development programme” of Duterte, read the resolution signed by members of the party belonging to a faction supported by the Philippine leader.
Cracks have appeared within the ruling party since last year as supporters of Duterte and another presidential candidate, Manny Pacquiao, have sought to wrest control.
Asked whether the party’s choice had Duterte’s blessing, party president Alfonso Cusi referred reporters to the president’s office.
Presidential spokesman Martin Andanar told a media briefing it was “not clear if this is also the preference of… Duterte.”
Political analyst Temario Rivera said Duterte’s endorsement was an important factor.
“Forget about parties in our system. It is powerful families and influential politicians that count,” Rivera said, adding that PDP-Laban remained “very divided.”
Governor Ben Evardone, a close ally of Duterte and his party’s vice president, announced he would back one of Marcos’s rivals, Vice President Leni Robredo. He did not sign the party resolution.
PDP-Laban was created to oppose the Marcos dictatorship, Senator Aquilino Pimentel, leader of a faction in the party supporting retired boxing star Pacquiao, said in a statement.
Marcos enjoys a strong lead in the presidential election race, according to opinion polls, which also showed Duterte-Carpio as the top choice for vice president.
A spokesperson for Marcos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Enrico dela Cruz; Additional Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Ed Davies)