MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 25 March) – As I pointed out in a previous column, this is by far a most peculiar election given the failure of the administration to field candidates for president and vice president. All could be traced to President Rodrigo Duterte overplaying the substitution game with his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte being hyped as the trump card.
The elder Duterte’s indecisiveness has apparently made most of his allies (or at least allies for now) hesitant to declare who they would support among the presidential bets for the May 9 polls. Since their patron in the Palace has refused until this time to name his anointed one they are forced into a wait-and-see stance. They are either hoping the president would make up his mind before time runs out or observing how the campaign is shaping up.
Note that even if former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has consistently led in several surveys he has been unable to generate a bandwagon. Most lawmakers and local officials have remained content giving everybody a guesswork. This could not have been the case had President Duterte endorsed him at the outset. On the contrary, the president lashed out at Marcos Jr. as a “weak leader.” Later he quipped that what the country needs is a “compassionate lawyer” without elaborating.
Was Duterte alluding to Vice President Leni Robredo? Or what is just a prank? Supporters of the Bongbong-Sara tandem reassured themselves by saying the president was referring to his daughter, although others would argue that compassion is the least of her virtues. Nobody can tell what exactly was in his mind when he said it. He was either his old, cryptic self or confused on his next move.
The scenario became more interesting after Robredo’s rallies across the country drew huge crowds. To top it all, support for her appears to be spontaneous and driven by a genuine spirit of voluntarism. In contrast, Marcos Jr. is being accused of paying fortunes to entertainers and bribing attendees to his rallies to feign popular support.
This development led many to question the accuracy and reliability of the surveys arguing the statistics seemed incompatible with the presence of warm bodies during the rallies. The more cautious ones posited that Marcos Jr. may indeed be leading at the moment but the margin could not be that huge, and there’s still material time for Robredo to catch up.
Marcos Jr. knows that Robredo’s current momentum could evolve into a bandwagon, and inevitably lead her to victory. The question therefore is how to stop such momentum and regain the initiative.
Reports had it that Marcos Jr. had a meeting with Duterte for reasons that were not disclosed. It can be presumed that the former sought the president’s endorsement hoping it would dampen the “Pink Revolution.” Would it? (Forget PDP-Laban’s own endorsement of the dictator’s son, it’s just a symptom of an ideological amnesia.)
I’d venture that Duterte’s supporters are not a homogenous kind, and they have taken sides at this stage of the battle. I say sides because they don’t share the same preferences for president and vice president. There are those who are rooting for Marcos Jr. and Mayor Sara. Others are supporting Robredo and the mayor. There could be other combinations, but these two are the compelling ones and most likely to define the outcome on election day.
The same tendencies show among politicians some of whom are pushing for a RoSa (Robredo-Sara) combination like Zamboanga City Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda. Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez has endorsed Robredo but keeps Senate President Tito Sotto as his vice president.
Regardless, however, of how they justify their choices for the two highest positions of the land theirs is a decision defined by crass opportunism, not by principle; experience has taught them to read the writing on the wall. Remember how Alvarez derided Robredo in the past, and how he heaps praises on her now in a shameless turnaround highlighted by the unceremonious junking of Senator Panfilo Lacson like a worthless rag despite describing him as “the most qualified to be president.”
Back to Marcos Jr., will a Duterte endorsement work in his favor? It would depend upon how the president’s word would influence the remaining battleground – the undecided.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)