VAL G. ABELGAS: Sara and Digong: Like telenovela

PRESIDENT DUTERTE, daughter Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio and Sen. Christopher Lawrence Go

On Friday, October 8, President Rodrigo Duterte pronounced that his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is definitely out of the 2022 presidential race.

“Inday is definitely out, as she has said earlier, (in) oft-repeated statements in so many interviews,” Duterte said.

Four days earlier, Sara’s spokesman Liloan Mayor Christina Garcia Frasco said the Davao mayor has no intention of being the standard bearer of PDP-Laban and that Sara is not even a member of the party. This affirmation came two days after Sara filed her certificate of candidacy for reelection as Davao City mayor on October 2.

On the same day, President Duterte accompanied his longtime loyal aide, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, in filing the latter’s certificate of candidacy (COC) for vice president, the same position that the President had repeatedly said he would aspire for. Go and Duterte had been nominated by the PDP-Laban Cusi wing as the party’s candidates for president and vice president, respectively.

Later that day, Duterte dramatically announced that he would retire from politics after his term ends on June 30, 2022.

On October 8, the last day for the filing of candidacy, Sen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, another loyal Duterte aide who has become the face of Duterte’s deadly drug war, in a move more surprising than Go filing his COC for vice president, filed his COC for president as standard bearer of the PDP-Laban Cusi wing.

It should have been clear as day. Sara is not running for president, and his father is not running for vice president. And De la Rosa and Go would be the PDP-Laban standard bearers.

But speculation persists that Sara would replace De la Rosa on or before November 15, the last day for a person from the same party or coalition to substitute for a registered candidate who withdraws. Sara would then run for president with Go as vice president, or, if negotiations succeed, with former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as vice president, to substitute for Go. Or vice versa, meaning Bongbong would substitute for De la Rosa and Sara for Go.

De la Rosa doused oil on the speculation when he said, in answer to a reporter’s question if Sara would substitute for him later, “Wouldn’t that be better? But I’m not the one making this decision. Because if I’m in charge, if they make me run, I’ll still run.”  Clearly, De la Rosa was made to run by somebody he couldn’t say no to and that his filing for president was intended for something else.

Why is it so difficult for Filipinos to believe the words of the two Dutertes? It’s simple: They have done it in 2015 prior to the 2016 elections, when Sara substituted for her father for Davao City mayor, and Duterte substituted for the virtual unknown Martin Digo for president.

Filipinos have become accustomed to Duterte’s many lies – for example, that he would eradicate the drug problem and corruption in six months, which by all accounts, have only worsened in the six years he has been in office; that he would jet ski to the disputed islands in the South China Sea and fight the Chinese, but look at the Philippines now, almost a province of China; that there was no corruption in the Pharmally deals despite the preponderance of evidence, but well that’s arguable until the court rules so.

Months ago, Duterte said he would run for vice president because, he said, the Constitution does not prohibit him from doing so and so that he could continue his many programs, including, yeah, his anti-drug and anti-corruption campaigns. And to make it look like he meant it, he made the PDP-Laban Cusi wing nominate him for vice president, and Go for president.

Immediately, lawyers and lawmakers reacted and declared that the Constitution does not allow the President from running as vice president, and threatened to bring the case to the Supreme Court if Duterte filed his COC for the position.

Obviously, they’ve been had – all of us Filipinos had fallen prey to another one of his lies. Because he never really intended to run for vice president, and it was – just like all these political dramas in the past few weeks — a not-so-clever ploy to create confusion among the opposition leaders and candidates.

Apparently, the opposition, represented by the 1Sambayan coalition, is not confused at all because it had from the beginning eyed Vice President Leni Robredo as its standard bearer while playing coy with Robredo’s own drama about not being absolutely certain whether she would run for president or run for Camarines Sur governor, or simply retire from politics.

All the while, the opposition has been organizing groups all over the country and across various sectors of society to push Robredo’s presidential candidacy. The ploy was so dramatic, Robredo waited until the penultimate day before the deadline for the filing of candidacy to announce she was accepting 1Samabayn’s nomination and on the same day, October 7, filed her COC for president.

It was all planned all along for dramatic effect – she and her supporters wearing pink to neutralize the “dilawan” tag by Duterte and his trolls; filing as an independent despite being the chair of the Liberal Party to stress that she was there to represent all Filipinos and not just the Liebrals; and the dig against the Marcoses and the Dutertes.

The next day, her anointed running mate, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Liberal Party president, filed his COC for vice president as Robredo’s running mate.

And the opposition supporters and the “Dating Duterte Supporters,” a play of the Diehard Duterte Supporters, were happy that Robredo did not have to accommodate any of the opposition pretenders in Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

But what about Sara Duterte-Carpio? Would she or wouldn’t she run for president? It is easy to think she would not. After all, she said so categorically and her father said so just as categorically. Unfortunately, Filipinos have learned to accept that no statement coming from the Dutertes can be considered absolute and certain.

Look at the facts. For almost a year now, Sara has been traveling around the country to talk to local political kingpins, such as the Marcoses of Ilocos Norte and the Garcias of Cebu. In the same period of time, posters saying “Run Sara Run” with her huge pictures have been posted all over the country – on lamp posts, on bridges, on stores, everywhere. Sara has been swearing in new members of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago, a supposed regional political party that has obviously transitioned into a national party. And for several months, Sara has consistently topped surveys for possible presidential candidates.

Is she willing to give up on all these preparations, the surveys, the obviously unlimited resources, the growing Hugpong influence, the alleged popularity of the Duterte name, and wait for, perhaps, another six years when the Duterte name has turned from allegedly magical to notoriety?

It’s just inconceivable that the young Sara would just drop all these for another three years as Davao City mayor. It simply defies logic. But, again, with the Dutertes, nothing is absolutely certain. So, as they say with K-dramas and Filipino telenovelas, “abangan ang susunod na kabanata.” (On Distant Shore: Val G. Abelgas)