ADVOCACY MINDANOW: ADVOCACY MINDANOW: What really happened when FVR and Duterte met

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 October) — When former President FIDEL RAMOS and Davao Mayor RODRIGO “Digong” DUTERTE met in Davao City a few days ago, the several events where they were seen together, their public body language and the reports that ensued were “combustible” enough to start a political fire. And kept political tongues wagging. Well, let me give you some “inside” story if I may to somehow clear the air. But first, a word of caution: I have not gotten the prior permission of FVR nor of Mayor Digong to somehow disclose what took place behind closed doors, but I’ll take my chance anyway, so here goes.

I got this call requesting if I could arrange a “one-on-one” between FVR and Mayor Digong during his overnight visit. This was no big deal because FVR, in the long time I knew him up close, would always seek “private time” with hosts, especially with close friends for re-unions and informal chats. So I requested BONG GO, the mayor’s “man-friday” to arrange things. In a jiffy, I got word that it was okay and so PAUL DOMINGUEZ, a former FVR” boy” like me and I were at the 17th floor of Marco Polo Hotel that Thursday afternoon chatting with FVR ( who just met with one of his friends in the BIMP EAGA, MS SUSAN CHANG from Kota Kinabalu) when Mayor Digong walked in with a bunch of reporters trailing behind. Paul and I conducted them to the boardroom and when they both got seated, I and Paul headed for the door leaving the two behind saying: “We’re just outside.” But, oooops, FVR called out: “Where are you two guys going? I need you both here”. It sounded like an order from a boss. So Paul and I stayed and shut the door, but only after the coterie of media men with cameras had their “photo ops”!

Truth to tell, not anyone of us talked about any endorsement of Mayor Digong for the presidency nor did we egg him to run for president, as some quarters had been speculating. Although I must admit, a possible Duterte candidacy for the presidency was at the back of our minds. Instead, it was a friendly chat — stocktaking and updating each other around the table — and reminiscing. We threw around the table a few tidbits. But Mayor Duterte, for most of the time, was only intently listening.

FVR talked about his own experience when he ran for president. He recalled how he even had no political party when he started. He even lost the presidential nomination of the administration party, the LDP to House Speaker RAMON MITRA. Then he ran — and won — against a phalanx of heavyweights like MONCHING MITRA, DANDING COJUANCO, MIRIAM DEFENSOR SANTIAGO & IMELDA MARCOS. He recalled how he had to doubly work harder and had to leave Mindanao in the last leg of his campaign to focus on Metro Manila as he was losing heavily there. He talked about not relying totally on politicians, although they helped deliver the votes, but generate support from private groups, NGOs, volunteers. He talked about the parable of an oil drop in a big lake. Not one drop but many drops then a thousand drops can make a difference. He talked about former Indonesian President LUCILO BAMBANG, his colleague at the West Point Academy in the US during their cadet days who called on him and sought his advice on his (Bambang’s) presidential plans.

Paul Dominguez shared what he learned about the results of a deep study where it was established that most people or voters choose candidates on the basis of what the officials can do — or are perceived to be able to do –to them personally or how the candidates handle things that personally matter to them (the voters) and not on the basis of whether or not they are corrupt or are perceived to be corrupt or for other factors.

I recalled that in my recent travels (Iligan, Butuan, Surigao, Cagayan de Oro) ordinary folks or the “masa” whom I talked with, still had not changed, thus far, on their support for Vice President Binay as their candidate for president in spite of the frequent media bashing he was getting. I recalled what one political analyst in Iligan told me his theory or estimation that “the political fates of Binay and Duterte are now closely linked and intertwined; that they are inversely proportional to the other”. Meaning, if Binay further drops in the next surveys, Duterte will have a good chance of becoming the next president; if Binay however recovers or stabilizes and arrests the fall, Duterte will have a hard time winning. It was his political calculus that smacks right into today’s realities. It remains to be validated though but it’s interesting.

Then there was a discussion on how times have greatly changed due to technological advances in cyberspace with the swiftness and almost instantaneous transmission of information to the big, wide world in a flash by a flick of a touch. Hence, even political decisions to run and campaign for public office can be communicated much later in the day and candidates who are ahead in announcing their candidacies much earlier need not necessarily enjoy a big advantage over a johnny-come lately guy. So there’s no urgency of any early announcement as yet for the 2016 Elections.

There were other intimate items that need not be disclosed here. Of course, obviously those talking points had some cogency to Duterte’s reported run for the presidency — which we all know Mayor Digong continues to quickly deny at every turn.

But there were subliminal and symbolic instances that kept the Davao public enthralled by FVR.

Example No. 1 — When FVR emerged from the closed door meeting and when he was asked for a statement what the meeting was all about, he merely said: “The best is soon to come”. He did not elaborate.

Example No. 2 — When FVR was asked whether it was time for someone from Mindanao to be in Malacanang, his categorical answer was: “Yes, it’s about time”!

Example No. 3 — When FVR attended the BIMP EAGA dinner hosted by Mayor Digong, he (FVR) wore a t-shirt emblazoned “DIGONG” with FVR’s signature thumbs up sign and caused the adding of the letter “s” to the phrase ATO NI ‘PRE” hence suggesting “this is our president”.

Example No. 4 — FVR publicly disrobed and removed his shirt emblazoned at the back with the word “PHILIPPINES” and made Mayor Digong wear it to show that he (Duterte) was for the country and not only for Davao.

Yes, Dabawenyos and the BIMP EAGA foreign guests did not have enough of a former president who still captivates and who subliminally suggests that yes, he may consider to run again but not in 2016 (hinting that he has someone else already in mind for that) but in 2022, another Presidential election year. And he hurriedly added:

“But I have a problem with that. I may win!” (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Jesus “Jess” Dureza served in various capacities under the nine-year Arroyo administration, including the posts of government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the MILF from 2001 to 2003 and as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process).