From the same Duterte playbook — with a fatal twist!

From the same Duterte playbook — with a fatal twist! Featured

I WAS totally wrong! That the substitution game no longer dominates the political conversation was erroneous as shown when Sara Duterte-Carpio withdrew her mayoralty bid, resigned from Hugpong and joined Lakas-CMD, all in the span of four days. And declared ___?

I am writing on board PR126 bound for the US to visit my grandchildren. By the time I enter US airspace (Saturday, Manila time), the political tectonic plate may have shifted in the Philippines. In whose favor, I can only conjecture as we still have until November 15 for candidates to change their minds — making a mockery of these elections.

Leaving PH airspace

(Dateline PR126, somewhere in the Pacific, Friday)

Still a columnist's compulsion to discern the implications are overwhelming. Everything is in a flux; realities may drastically change upon my arrival at JFK. Meantime I can merely speculate but will trim this column based on new developments — on the ground, literally.

With Sara taking her oath as Lakas-CMD, there is no way for her but to go for the big enchilada — the presidency. This indeed is a coup by the traditional politicians —Romualdez, Revilla and the master traditional politico of them all — Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), who would most probably be speaker of the house in a Sara administration. But again, I could be wrong on both.

Bongbong Marcos (BBM) may have to redo their war plans if he goes head-to-head with Sara. Both could lose — canceling each other. This is a zero-sum game. But with the Marcos resources and their presumed "solid North" in the bag, this election could prove to be very heated — the South versus the North with hard pickings for either in between — but over-all a fatal one for the Marcos and Duterte forces and a boon for the opposition.

But if BBM slides down to VP now — which is very unlikely — then we have an heir apparent – conveniently and comfortably repairing the Marcos name with BBM firmly at the helm by 2028 — if he can wait that long. Such a script includes the collapse of the Duterte PDP-Laban faction with Bato and Go folding, leaving the Comelec to decide on the Pacman as the official PDP-Laban standard bearer — merely a consolation prize.

In all of these hullabaloo which at first was entertaining but now verging on the banal, one thing is certain. Sara has been playing her game all along keeping her intent and next moves only to herself undoubtedly following the father's playbook in 2016 — putting everyone on tenterhooks, pulling a surprise at a propitious moment, maintaining her place in the media's eyesight, perforce the voter's consciousness. This is the perfect playbook model for any political PR team to concoct. But this could solely be Sara's. Because it involves surreptitious moves which until now people believe her to be incapable of execution.

The other presidentiables would kill for this kind of media attention but Leni, Ping, Isko and Manny may not have the resources, save for BBM, whose family's fortunes intriguingly float around, confirmed in some bizarre way by their matriarch, Imelda, in one of her odd interviews.

This singular act of Sara, has placed her at the head of the pack, the cynosure, with the rest reduced to reacting, trimming their campaign strategies, and scrambling for whatever opportunities may come their way. But five months is an eternity for sustaining this Sara-centricity. She still has to establish herself as a real no-nonsense leader — interpreting her local achievement as mayor and communicating this effectively to the national stage — beyond the shadow of a maverick of a father. The next few polls will merely be a collective photograph of this week's act — propelling Sara to the top. But to sustain a trend, she has to go beyond the hype and do something extraordinary and more substantial. The 2016 presidential campaign serves as a case in point on how VP Jojo Binay led for months until the rest of the pack tore him to shreds. This is a template tempting to the current pack of wannabes who may likewise unsheathe their daggers — reverting back to the traditionally dirty politics practiced for generations. But I believe that the candidate who chooses to run a different campaign, extolling his or her qualifications, confronting the others head-on on issues on what the country needs and elevating the political discourse to a higher plane, may still have the time to reverse a trend in his or her favor. This is a gain for the country and the pattern of behavior that we hope will emerge will contribute to the continued emancipation of voters from ignorance and the sordid electoral practices imposed on them by the traditional politicians for generations.

Overtaken by events

(Dateline JFK, 11:30 p.m. local time Friday)

I was partly wrong! Upon landing at JFK my streaming service just announced Sara filed her CoC for vice president under Lakas-CMD, her new party, and forthwith adopted by BBM's Federal Party in its slate. Wow! She just did a "last two-minutes" — for someone who said she wouldn't. Could this augur well for her personally in terms of her credibility. Could her promises as a politician be trusted? Well, she could always say that a woman has the prerogative to change her mind — setting back women's lib and her trust rating. Be that as it may, she did indeed surprise everyone and warmed the cockles of BBM's heart — his campaign derisive of the tyros in her camp who must have been advising Sara all along.

But here, Sara is dead wrong! And too late to correct this terminal error. Leading in the polls over BBM, she must have thought the presidency within her grasp, confident that BBM would slide down to VP. She withdrew her CoC for Davao mayor, installed her brother in her stead, left her political party, Hugpong, and succumbed to the wiles of the tradpols at Lakas-CMD who must have massage her ego perfectly well — assuring her of the top post. She painted herself into a corner with no room to maneuver. Bongbong Marcos got her where he wants her with a Marcosian declaration: "May kilala ba kayong Marcos na umatras?" Thus, ending Sara's preeminence. BBM can now use her popularity, the Duterte clout and possibly her machinery and reduce Sara to a spare tire. I take my hat off to BBM — and sister Imee — who must have thought this scenario through. But I commiserate with Sara, who I truly like. But then, my conjectures may be proven wrong after my column's printing deadline.

Collateral damage

Another aftershock is with the Deegong's PDP-Laban faction — utterly left in shambles, particularly their presidential and VP slate. It has to be reconstituted, in particular discarding like a wet rag their presidential standard bearer — Mr. Mockery himself. They still have up to midnight of Monday, November 15, to conjure up something. But the tragedy here is this ideological party founded by Mindanaonons led by Nene Pimentel has been reduced to a shell of its former self. The man must be turning in his grave.

 

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