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Succession

He deserves an A for candor, but President Duterte must be angry with his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio.

The mayor of Davao City has just earned a host of enemies after her father disclosed that he wanted her to succeed him at the end of his term in 2022 – just like in their home turf, where father and daughter have alternated as mayor and vice mayor.

Except this isn’t just a city but an entire country that the President is talking about. And there are many individuals eyeing the seat of power – including other clan heads who want to perpetuate their dynasties.

Even right within the President’s core of supporters, there are several persons who are aiming for the top post but know enough not to declare their ambitions too early.

Duterte should also know the value of prudence, having experienced firsthand what happens when one announces plans to become president in this country, and especially when one starts rising in the surveys. Every dirt that could be dug up was thrown at him. Fortunately for him, the demolition teams failed to realize that what they thought was trash being hurled at the rising political star was in fact his treasure, his most valuable asset: Dirty Rody, accused human rights violator, openly promised voters that he would kill all the lowlifes. Literally.

As the cliché goes, the rest is history.

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Jejomar Binay, the early bird in the 2016 race, learned his lesson the hard way. So did Grace Poe, although to a lesser extent. Of the three senators who landed in detention without bail for the pork barrel scandal, two had indicated interest in running for president: Bong Revilla for Lakas, and Jinggoy Estrada when there was uncertainty about his running for vice president with Binay as the standard bearer.

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People in this country kill rivals even for barangay positions. They commit murder over jobs with a term of three years and salaries of just a little above the minimum wage, in places with fewer than 5,000 registered voters.

For the presidency, billions are invested in a campaign by the candidate and his or her supporters. They will try to have all bases covered to ensure that their investment will pay off. Preparations for the campaign can start five years before the next elections – which means now for the 2022 race – or even as soon as the incumbent is sworn in.

Negative campaigning is a risky route to election victory. It can boomerang on its user, and it can be expensive; demolition experts need ample funding to dig up dirt. But it was employed successfully on Binay. It had mixed results on the others, and it didn’t work on Duterte. But success even with one candidate encourages more negative campaigning in the next elections, and we can expect it in 2022.

Mayor Sara should brace herself. Everything that she does now becomes suspect. Her Achilles heel is her husband Manases Carpio, who is already facing controversies and could find himself with more problems.

So could her brother Paolo, the only member of the family, it seems, who refuses to show off or describe his tattoos to the nation. Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV won that chess round; if ever Vice Mayor Paolo finally bares his back, people will say the original tattoo has either been erased or covered with a new one.

Even if Mayor Sara denies harboring presidential ambitions and Du30 himself backpedals and says he was only joking, or had a temporary spell of foot in mouth disease, such a statement in this country tends to be remembered by current and future political rivals. This early, knives will start being sharpened.

The Dutertes don’t run from a fight. But having to deal with dirt, whether real or imagined, dug up by enemies can cramp governance.

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The President’s statement also fuels suspicions that he wants to perpetuate himself in power even if indirectly, contrary to his much repeated public declaration that he is not happy being Chief Executive and could give up the post any time.

Only recently, his opponents had smelled a moro-moro after he qualified that his resignation must be approved by Congress and the military. Dutifully, the rubberstamp super majority immediately chorused “no way” while the military, still battling the Mautes and Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao, said in so many words, “don’t we have enough on our plate?”

Now comes the disclosure of his preferred successor. People are asking: is this just wishful thinking or a plan?

Even thinking aloud about a longer stay in power, directly or through the family dynasty, usually spells doom for the aspirant. The prospect of reelection for Fidel Ramos, although he was generally seen as a competent president, killed the first Charter change initiative, even if that Cha-cha mode was allowed under the Constitution.

Federalism, the President’s answer to many of the nation’s ills, could be another casualty of openly wishing for the perpetuation of a dynasty. The shift to federalism requires a rewrite of the Constitution. Cha-cha by whatever mode must be approved by the people in a referendum. Any hint that its proponents simply want to hold on to power guarantees that a Cha-cha initiative will be stillborn. Already the proposed shift to federalism is raising concerns about creating fiefdoms controlled by family dynasties, warlords and narco politicians.

The President may be baffled by the fuss over his wish for his daughter, which is in fact common among politicians in this country. He might ask the media again: can’t you tell when I’m joking?

Such a statement in this country, however, is no joking matter for political rivals. And it is like toothpaste; once out, it can’t be put back into the tube.

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