The widening rift between the so-called Marcos-Duterte Uniteam slate not only represents the growing divide within the ruling class, but also exposes the rotten state of Philippine politics.

Sara Duterte’s resignation as Secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd) and as vice-chairperson of the National Task Forces to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) signals a new development in the ongoing political bull fight between the Marcos and Duterte camps. A week after she made her announcement, Sara Duterte also broke the news of former president Rodrigo Duterte, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, and Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte all planning to run for senatorial posts in 2025.

Knowing they are at a political disadvantage, Duterte’s withdrawal from key posts within the Marcos Jr. cabinet can be seen as a tactical retreat amid news of the Marcos family’s efforts to build a “united front” against a possible Duterte resurgence. Just a few days after news of the Dutertes’ intent to run for senate, former senator Antonio Trillanes announced “exploratory talks” to forge a “united opposition” against the Dutertes.

In many ways, Sara Duterte’s decision to step down was meant to preserve her political capital and avoid further reputational damage. During her tenure, Sara Duterte militarized the DepEd by appointing two former military generals with virtually no background on education as DepEd undersecretaries, and actively pushing for mandatory reserve military training in schools.

Under her watch, the DepEd was allocated P150 million in confidential funds in 2023, an unprecedented amount for an agency whose mandate is not remotely related to intelligence gathering nor national security. Her poor performance as education secretary also does not help. After a year in office, the classroom crisis only worsened as the national shortage increased to 159,000 classrooms.

Furthermore, her part in the NTF-Elcac’s much-criticized ‘counterinsurgency’ measures and anti-peace posturing has certainly cast her a bad light in the international community. It can be recalled how various United Nations experts have recently called for the abolition of the NTF-Elcac and called out the agency for its harmful red-tagging practice.

The Duterte camp’s response appears to be a recognition of these shifting political alignments, their increasing isolation in the global stage and the reputational damage they have incurred due to massive corruption. But regardless of how much she tries to distance herself from the Marcos stench, Sara Duterte can no longer repair her family’s pungent reputation.

Certainly, the ongoing Marcos-Duterte political circus cannot fool the Filipino people. If anything, their open infighting reveals not only the decaying state of Philippine reactionary politics, but the fact that Marcos and Duterte are just two halves of the same rotten apple.