The Star : ‘Daughterte’ vs Marcos Jr: A tale of two dares

21 November 2021


EVER since the Philippines restricted its presidents to a single, six-year term in 1987, the dilemma of an incumbent nearing his/her expiration date has been twofold.

First, continuity is the toughest pitch to make to the voter in a national election because the one who ought to continue can’t be in contention.

Second, since the race necessarily becomes one for a successor, an incumbent’s power of endorsement is weak, because its non-transferable mostly, while in the ensuing electoral battle, the authority and resources of the incumbent evaporate as election day nears.

Going into September, President Rodrigo Duterte showed every sign of bucking the 1998-2016 trend in which Fidel V. Ramos, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and Benigno Aquino III all failed to significantly muster a successful succession operation. Then two things happened: the Pharmally Senate probe (on alleged irregularities in the government’s procurement of pandemic supplies from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp), and the surveys, which set the stage for the looming filing of candidacies in October.

The president, formerly unassailable, took a hit in his ratings; more to the point, his political heir, Senator Bong Go, became entangled in the whole mess. To top things off, even Sara “Daughterte” Duterte-Carpio took a hit in the surveys.

The results played out from September to October. The trial balloon of a Go for president and Duterte for vice president was lowered. Instead of the president seeking the vice presidency, Go announ-ced he was setting his ambitions lower to seek that post. Others proposed that the president, in turn, seek a seat in the Senate as a kind of insurance.

This left the question of “Daughterte” seeking the presidency. But when the October deadline for candidacies loomed, she excused herself from presidential proceedings. What followed was a mad scramble to produce placeholder candidates until the administration could get its act together.

As I’d suggested previously, the president lashing out at the Marcoses was due to his realising they now knew he needed them more than they needed him.

I had also previously pointed out the tensions between the president and the Marcoses after the president had taken pains to spell out the limited, user-friendly nature of his political relationship with them, one he considered fully paid with the state funeral he’d granted the late dictator.

For her part, former president and speaker Arroyo, with whom “Daughterte” had successfully engineered a Congressional coup, was widely seen as brokering a deal in which “Daughterte” would seek the presidency and Marcos Jr the vice presidency.

This was obviously a problematic, not to mention humiliating, state of affairs for Marcos Jr, suggesting as it did that he’d have to bow to the Dutertes and Arroyos.

Then the president got into the act. A bully more often than not relies on an already fearsome reputation to intimidate his targets into giving in. The past month, then, was about the president trying to bully Marcos Jr into sliding down to allow his daughter to slide up in the 2022 presidential and vice-presidential derby. Because from the point of view of the president or his people, all the manoeuvrings left him a bystander.

Being on top of the heap also meant it made no sense to bow out for the purpose of a Marcos restoration, which serves no one’s interests but the Marcoses themselves. Not least since the president’s popularity has stabilised and “Daugh-terte” would make just as viable a candidate – without putting the president, after he leaves office, at the mercy of the Marcoses. Go, on the other hand, might stand a better chance for the veephood.

The problem was, neither Marcos Jr nor “Daughterte” blinked when it came to Duterte’s bullying. Instead, “Daughterte” blinked in the face of Marcos Jr’s pushing back against Arroyo’s effort to pressure him to slide down and let “Daughterte” seek the presidency.

She settled for the veephood, which leaves the Dutertes with less than nothing: Politically, she’d have been better off continuing to run for mayor.

It may be, to their other political peers, that “Daughterte” could be expected to blink just as the president has been known to blink, too. It was a peace brokered by Jesus Dureza that ended the word war between the then Mayor Duterte and Senior Superintendent Eduardo Matillano in 2010; a face-to-face showdown, as Matillano had dared him to do, was averted. Neither had the mayor shown up in the duel to which he’d challenged broadcaster Waldy Carbonell in 2003.

In his first test of leadership, Marcos Jr held firm.

The president’s last card is to disqualify Marcos Jr, to fix the problem “Daughterte” had created. But the Commission on Elections is independent, just like Congress. – Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network