It’s complicated

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

At the rate relations have been going downhill between the Marcos and Duterte clans, the current administration should be hoping that it won’t be replaced by one led by another Duterte.

Rodrigo Duterte, as the nation has seen, doesn’t easily forget, much less forgive. And he doesn’t hesitate in using whatever power is at his disposal to exact revenge.

His two sons are showing that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. What about his daughter the Vice President? In 2011 when she was Davao mayor, Inday Sara slugged a court sheriff four times on the face for carrying out a demolition order in a shantytown in the city.

As first daughter in the previous administration, Inday Sara reportedly worked to unseat Pantaleon Alvarez and replace him as House speaker with her ally Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. When the two women tried it again under Marcos 2.0 (denied by GMA), the President’s favorite cousin Speaker Martin Romualdez gave them a rude awakening about who’s in charge in the new dispensation.

While VP Sara doesn’t cuss as much as her father, she’s not beyond issuing snide remarks. The difference is that her father openly identifies the targets of his insults; the VP doesn’t name names, even if the identity of the target of her barbs is easy to guess.

As the week started, a video circulated, showing the VP slowly eating slices of green mango that she dipped in ginamos, a type of Visayan fish paste, and talking in a mix of Visayan and Tagalog.

Near the end of the video (which so far hasn’t been shown to be a deepfake), she asked if her companions knew “another name para sa mangga.” Someone asks, what? She replied with relish: “Mangga…gamit.”


Maybe the VP was just being playful with her companions, although compared with her father with his wicked humor, she comes off humorless. Or maybe the video was again directed at an unnamed someone she dislikes.

Who’s the user she might she be alluding to? It was as cryptic as her post advising an unnamed tambaloslos – a mythical creature with oversized balls – to rein in his ambition.

You’d think the VP would have learned her lesson from the tambaloslos episode. Only one person felt alluded to, and he and his allies promptly hit her where it hurts, junking her request for P650 million in confidential funds for this year.

*      *      *

How much of the UniTeam rift is speculation and how much is real?

In Honolulu on Nov. 20 last year, President Marcos said he didn’t want the VP impeached, she was doing good as secretary of education, and his ties with his 2022 running mate were “excellent.”

Asked by reporters if there were cracks in the vaunted UniTeam, BBM replied: “I don’t think so. Mas tumitibay pa nga eh” – the bond was in fact getting stronger.

Last Monday, facing journalists working for the foreign press, he was asked about his ties with the VP and the Duterte family.

BBM replied with a wry chuckle, “It’s complicated.”

He maintained that his ties with the VP since their tandem in the 2022 campaign haven’t changed. Still, she’s a Duterte and daughter of his most formidable critic.

Between “excellent” and “complicated,” what happened?

Perhaps BBM has seen the 2009 romcom “It’s Complicated,” starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, about complicated entanglements.

In romantic relationships, complications can lead to a breakup. Are the cracks in the UniTeam irreparable?

And if they are, what’s in store for the Marcoses post-2028?

*      *      *

BBM has said he entered politics for the survival of his family. That family still has hundreds of pending cases involving ill-gotten wealth, many of which will surely remain in litigation when he is no longer in power. His mother is appealing a conviction for seven counts of graft.

It’s unclear if BBM remains the administrator of the Marcos estate, which has yet to pay a whopping P203 billion in estate tax including penalties.

For now, he says he’s focused on running the government, and will leave legal entanglements to the lawyers. But once out of office, he will have to focus on his legal affairs, especially if he is replaced by someone hostile to him or his family.

His cousin the Speaker, the person widely seen to be maneuvering for continuity of their clan’s political influence, is languishing in reputable surveys behind the VP.

With Romualdez looking like he can’t win in a presidential election, the Dutertes have openly expressed suspicion that Marcos 2.0 is pushing for Charter change to stay in power beyond 2028 – a move that would scuttle the chances of VP Sara for the presidency.

The Ate ng Pangulo, Senator Imee, is faring better than Romualdez in the surveys, but she’s allied with VP Sara and these days seems to be outside the Palace kulambo or mosquito net. After Ferdinand Junior, will Filipinos pick Imelda Marcos Junior as his replacement? Is she even interested? And will cousin Martin go along with it?

For survival and continuity, the Speaker may have to give up his ambition (as the VP advised the tambaloslos) and instead support a compromise candidate. At this point, only Sen. Raffy Tulfo is topping the VP in the surveys for “presidentiables” in 2028.

Tulfo has said 2028 is far from his mind. Will Tulfo, who is reported to have roots in Davao and ties with the Marcoses, change his mind and shed his independent political stance to win the Solid North? Considering his popularity across the country, however, does he even need to align with anyone?

Reconciliation with the Dutertes is another option for the Marcoses, to guarantee continuity. The possibility is looking increasingly remote, but one can never say never in this land of complicated entanglements.

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