Inday Sara

The broader view - Harry Roque - The Philippine Star

The country’s most formidable woman turned 45 on May 31. Vice President Sara Duterte, whose character and agency brought her success in local and national politics, chose to have a low-key celebration with her loved ones in Davao City. Knowing this public servant of the first order, she will always be a mother and family woman first.

Inday Sara’s political union with President Bongbong Marcos is stronger than ever, which I underscored in my previous column. Their mutual respect insulates the relationship from politicking and power-tripping within and outside the UniTeam alliance. The Opposition remains a non-factor in this matter. At the launch of Pier 88 in Liloan Cebu, PBBM admitted candidly that he remains a fan of Duterte – his ‘best friend forever’ or BFF. The Cebu event also occasioned the first public appearance of the education and anti-insurgency head with Speaker Martin Romualdez. As public knowledge, the two had a political parting of the ways. I am not sure whether they have already patched up their differences. But I am confident that nothing and no one can cast the relationship asunder at this point.

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On the eve of her birthday, the Vice President climbed the country’s highest peak, Mt. Apo. Is this portentous of things to come in the future? In my interview with online news Politiko last week, I was asked if the shake-up in the House leadership would lead to a political realignment of forces relative to the 2028 presidential race.

While it was too early to talk about the next general election, I said anything is possible in Philippine politics. And Inday Sara is the person to beat should she run for president. Why? She has the support of PBBM as well as the general public. She continues to leverage the resources of national agencies under her authority to address the basic socio-economic needs of the public, particularly the disadvantaged sectors. For instance, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) will expand its satellite offices to nine to ensure the faster delivery of livelihood, medical, burial and disaster-related assistance to qualified beneficiaries nationwide.

I also cited the following politicians as potential presidentiables: Senator Robinhood Padilla, who topped the 2022 senatorial race, Senator Risa Hontiveros and former senator Ping Lacson. For vice president, I mentioned Romualdez, Senator Imee Marcos and Senator Bong Go as possible candidates.

A few days later, Duterte came out on top of the first non-commissioned presidential survey for 2028 conducted by Tangere, a full-service market research firm (Manila Bulletin). With a voter preference of 39 percent, she would win if the election was held in May. This is unsurprising. Thirty-two million Filipinos elected her as our first majority vice president since the 1980s. Duterte continues to enjoy the highest public trust rating among the top officials in the land based on the April surveys of Pulse Asia and Octa Research Group.

In the mobile-based survey conducted between May 22 to 24, Senator Raffy Tulfo ranked second with 30 percent. Duterte and Tulfo had a huge lead over former vice president Leni Robredo, Senator Grace Poe, Senator Imee Marcos, former senator Manny Pacquiao and Romualdez.

In my view, the Opposition party might field Hontiveros as its standard-bearer. She can build on her political support base in Metro Manila, Bicol and Panay region. I doubt if former VP Leni would run again. No losing presidential candidate has won the presidency on a second attempt, like in the case of former senator Lacson and the late senator Raul Roco.

For now, the battle seems to be between Duterte and Tulfo, who both have a considerable following. In terms of media coverage and attention, Tulfo, being a veteran broadcast journalist, has the upper hand. I am not aware if there is a press corps that covers the Office of the Vice President. From what I know, the journalists assigned to the education department also cover other news beats. The Senate reporters, meanwhile, are among the most seasoned and proactive media workers in the land, which work to Tulfo’s advantage. But since the presidential election is still five years away, the electorate has ample time to scrutinize and weigh in on the performance of these public servants.

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Who do I see as Sara’s possible running mate? Previously, I mentioned the Speaker as a good option. I am also intrigued by the possible Duterte-Imee Marcos tandem, which could replicate the North-South juggernaut of last year’s BBM-Sara UniTeam. If Manang Imee decides to run as VP, I believe my good friend Martin would give way to his cousin.

In our political history, the idea of two female candidates gunning for the country’s highest elective posts is unprecedented, even subversive. However, the combination of these two trailblazing and boundary-pushing women might just achieve the improbable. (On a side note, one of the Politiko hosts floated the idea of an Hontiveros-Leila de Lima tandem to counter the Sara-Imee team-up. I replied that I would be more than happy if the Opposition fields Risa and Leila in 2028. It would guarantee a sure-win for Inday and Manang.)

Duterte can also team up with either Senators Sonny Angara or Win Gatchalian. When she initially entertained thoughts of a 2022 presidential run, her camp considered Angara or Gatchalian as a running mate.

The possibility of a Duterte-Padilla tandem also exists. With former president Duterte as party chairman, I do not think PDP-Laban would contest the candidacy of Sara. Another option for Sara is Senator Mark Villar, one of the best Cabinet members in the previous administration. They are both silent but competent and efficient public servants.

These are my personal conjectures based on my reading of the current political landscape. A lot of things can change between now and 2028. I am certain, though, that Inday Sara is working closely with PBBM to serve the best interests of the Filipinos and the country.

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