MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 12 January) – President Rodrigo Duterte’s primary plan was to field his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, as the administration’s presidential candidate with him as her running mate. But he knew that his intent to run as vice president wasn’t legally feasible, and so floated Senator Bong Go as [his] alternate.
Yet, his daughter’s disdain for Go and the figures revolving around him must be so great that she opted instead to submit to the wishes of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. despite leading the early surveys and the advantage in terms of machinery and resources at her father’s disposal.
The President ignored the omen during the struggle for speakership at the House of Representatives after the May 2019 midterm elections, which saw Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez eased out by the maneuverings of the all-women triumvirate of Mayor Sara, former president and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Senator Imee Marcos.
The Bongbong-Sara tandem, an arrangement brokered by Arroyo, left the administration with no standard bearer in addition to an incomplete senatorial lineup. At no time in the country’s election history had a sitting president suffered such an ignominy. Even Arroyo, who became so unpopular due largely to the “Hello, Garci” scandal, managed to assemble a complete slate in the 2010 elections.
Mayor Sara’s decision to run as Marcos Jr.’s vice president has put President Duterte in a fix. If the Commission on Elections (Comelec) junks the petitions to disqualify Marcos Jr. as candidate, and he wins in May, President Duterte knows it would mean the end of his influence in national politics even if his daughter wins, too.
Marcos Jr. made Mayor Sara his running mate in the hope of getting a huge chunk of the vote from the President’s supporters. This rests on the presumption that majority of those who will vote for her as her father’s daughter will also embrace the dictator’s son. Regardless of the outcome at the polls her usefulness [for Marcos Jr.] begins and ends with this purpose. After he wins, he will eventually sideline her in favor of another Marcos or Romualdez – or maybe follow the authoritarian tack of his father.
Mayor Sara blew her chances at the Palace by falling for Marcos Jr.’s tactical opportunism. This is the irony of it all: She may win as vice president, but she will have greater chances of making it to Malacañang in 2028 under any president but Marcos Jr. Perhaps the only consolation would be a refusal by the government to hand over her father to the International Criminal Court in case the charge of crime against humanity in relation to the bloody war on drugs prospers and the tribunal orders a trial.
On the other hand, if the Comelec disqualifies Marcos Jr., President Duterte would have to endorse somebody – obviously excluding Vice President Leni Robredo – to pair with his politically widowed daughter. However, the other prominent presidential candidates have their own running mates. (Except maybe if the running mate of one of these presidential candidates agrees to step aside in favor of Mayor Sara?) Besides, he had badmouthed them for airing criticisms against his administration.
Worse for Mayor Sara, if Marcos Jr. gets disqualified, he may no longer see the need to bankroll her candidacy.
Either way, it would be a disaster for the President caused by a gross miscalculation of the passé substitution game and underestimation of the ruptures within his circle.