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Opinion

No more united front?

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

She has said she’s no “last-two-minutes” candidate, and the latest word from Malacañang is that Sara Duterte-Carpio is truly bent on seeking reelection as Davao City mayor in 2022.

The latest statement was made as President Duterte’s daughter continued to keep everyone guessing about her political plans – by wearing her supporters’ t-shirt urging her to seek the presidency as she visited Cebu, during which she met with Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Mayor Sara quickly doused speculation arising from that meeting, that she and Marcos had agreed to team up for 2022 – although the rumor mill was unclear on who would be the standard bearer.

All that was discussed, she clarified, was the possible support of Marcos’ presidential bid by her regional party, the Hugpong ng Pagbabago. There was, she said, no talk about running in tandem.

The story might have prompted the standard bearer of her father’s party faction in the PDP-Laban, Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, to also meet with her.

The story that swirled around this meeting was that Dela Rosa merely reminded Inday Sara about the Nov. 15 deadline for making up her mind on whether or not to seek the presidency in 2022. Dela Rosa can then withdraw from the race and his PDP-Laban faction can give its full support to Inday Sara even as a guest candidate, since she refuses to join her father’s party. Another buzz is that Dela Rosa expressed readiness to run as Davao City mayor if Inday Sara seeks the presidency.

But who will be her running mate? With Marcos rating high in surveys, will he be willing to give way to a Duterte? His supporters would probably say, “Ano kayo, siniswerte?” A second Marcos presidency would be the ultimate vindication for the ousted dictator and his heirs.

*      *      *

Still, anything is possible. In case “BBM” does agree to slide down to the VP race, will Sen. Bong Go also withdraw his candidacy, so that their PDP-Laban faction can fully back the Duterte-Marcos tandem?

For a long time, Go, with his unquestioned loyalty and dedication to serving Rodrigo Duterte (for better or worse, till death do they part), was seen as the President’s first choice as successor.

But alas for bossing and his loyal aide, not even over a hundred Malasakit centers can seem to give buoyancy to Go’s ratings. In contrast, Mayor Sara and Marcos are ahead of the pack.

A Sara-Bongbong tandem would be formidable for the administration, although Sen. Manny Pacquiao and his PDP-Laban faction have taken away a chunk of the administration support.

Another scenario being floated is that Mayor Sara will run as Marcos’ VP if only to spite Bong Go. But it’s doubtful that Go will run against her, or that the President will allow it.

Whether she runs for president or VP, hope springs eternal for Mayor Sara’s supporters, and critics are still seeing a “Sarazuela” playing until Nov. 15.

*      *      *

Regardless of Mayor Sara’s plans, Marcos’ numbers are impressive – and dismaying for those who fought the dictatorship.

The forces ranged against the administration must consider those numbers as they openly bicker, surely to the delight of the other side.

A Duterte-Marcos tandem, no matter who slides down to VP, should put pressure on the non-administration camps (several don’t describe themselves as opposition) to unite behind a common candidate.

Unfortunately, as several camps have said, the unity talks were a failure. It’s still early days, though, and anything is possible.

We don’t know if the failure stemmed only from miscommunication or mixed signals among the different camps.

There was dismay in the ranks of the “pure” opposition, led by Vice President Leni Robredo, when Manila Mayor Isko Moreno filed his certificate of candidacy for president. Robredo subsequently filed her own COC, during which Moreno’s camp was flooded with calls for him to withdraw and instead support VP Leni.

The camps of both Yorme Isko and Pacquiao have told us on One News’ “The Chiefs” that during the unity talks, they were told that VP Leni was merely working to field a common candidate, and that she herself would not run. The VP’s camp, on the other hand, said she conveyed the message that she was still pondering her political plans.

As the VP took her time making up her mind, Pacquiao and Moreno filed their COCs for president.

At that point, the talk was that VP Leni would run for any post that Bongbong Marcos would aspire for. This apparently triggered the sniping from Mayor Isko (who was openly miffed over the calls from the VP’s supporters for him to withdraw) that fighting Marcos should not be the only reason for seeking the presidency.

Are these irreconcilable differences? In Philippine politics, there are no permanent enemies – as we can see even in the Senate slates.

*      *      *

Who might be willing to drop his presidential bid and support VP Leni? Will labor leader Leody de Guzman withdraw for a united opposition front?

De Guzman, who chairs the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, says he’s open to talks. But he told us on The Chiefs last Monday that he sees no candidate with a track record of genuinely fighting for his main campaign advocacies: an end to contractualization or endo, scrapping of rice tariffication, and genuine representation for workers rather than big business, billionaires and people “who live in subdivisions.”

Being a non-billionaire who lives in a middle-income subdivision, I felt automatically excluded.

Against this message of exclusion, the inclusive approach propounded by Senate president pro tempore Ralph Recto has more resonance.

Recto is a supporter of Isko Moreno, who launched his presidential bid on a platform of national healing – figuratively and literally, with Doctor Willie Ong as running mate.

We’re waiting for the rift between Yorme Isko and VP Leni to heal.

Or maybe it won’t happen. Some in the “pure” opposition camp believe they can live without a united front, since candidates presenting themselves as the middle forces – Pacquiao, Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Moreno – will eat more into the votes of the administration rather than the opposition.

So these opposition stalwarts aren’t overly concerned about whoever will finally constitute the administration tandem by Nov. 15.

Those ranged against the administration should pray that this doesn’t turn out to be fatal overconfidence.

SARA DUTERTE-CARPIO
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