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MANILA, Philippines – It’s a catch-up game for the campaign team of Rodrigo Duterte.
The Davao City mayor firmed up his decision to run for president only in November giving his hastily formed campaign team a short time to prepare. In comparison, the other presidential candidates, particularly Jejomar Binay and Manuel Roxas II, have been boosting their campaign machinery for years.
Duterte’s is a ragtag team of his closest friends, seasoned political strategists, and volunteers who have organized themselves into a panoply of die-hard support groups.
Add political party PDP-Laban and the staff of his running mate Alan Peter Cayetano into the mix and you have an idea of the team behind the Duterte-Cayetano tandem.
Duterte’s campaign is unconventional for many reasons. For one, it’s the only presidential campaign to be run from outside Metro Manila, from Davao City all the way in the south, to be specific.
All photos by Pia Ranada/Rappler
Secondly, for many core members of the team, this will be their first time running a national campaign. The “neophytes” include Duterte himself who is the only 2016 presidential candidate who has never run for a national position.
The third challenge is their candidate himself who has made unconventional decisions like refusing to show his face in political ads generated by the team (he has acquisced for ads paid for by supporters), and refusing to accept funds from companies with government contracts. This is apart from the profuse cursing and flirting that would usually give image handlers a headache.
Here’s a look at his campaign team based on Rappler’s interviews with its key members:
MRRD – Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte group, FORD – Friends of Rody Duterte group
Evasco consults with a small core group some campaign team members refer to as the “Mindanao Group.” They are joined by seasoned political strategists from Metro Manila.
Composed of 5 to 7 members, they meet regularly either in Davao or Manila to assess how the campaign is doing in terms of messaging and policy. To help them do this, they have a social media and monitoring team.
Members of the group include think tanks and seasoned campaign strategists, a campaign team member told Rappler.
Under Evasco, there are some 8 committees: secretariat, finance, communication, advance party, sortie management, legal, media relations, production and logistics.
Evasco described the entire team as “simple, lean, and small, but easy to manage and carry.”
This is the headquarters of the Pampanga chapter of the volunteer group, Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte (MRRD)
Overall, the team’s organization is more horizontal than vertical. While Evasco, acting only with the approval of Duterte, is at the helm, the numerous support groups often act independently but with coordination from the committees.
Groups like Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte (MRRD), for instance, are financially independent. Allan Garcia, head of MRRD-Pampanga, says they have not asked for a single cent from Evasco’s team. Their new Angeles City headquarters, for example, was a donation from a friend.
Other supporters help out by sponsoring the production of Duterte merchandise like T-shirts, caps, ballers, and even car plates. MRRD has its own national headquarters in San Juan, Metro Manila.
OFW groups from all over the world have only recently begun streamlining their efforts with the main team. But for the most part, they act on their own, even issuing special IDs for OFW Duterte supporters.
Some parallel groups have distinct purposes. PDP-Laban, for instance, is in charge of organizing public rallies. Staff of Alan Peter Cayetano also help organize consultations with various sectors and help in aspects like production and equipment for major events.
The number of volunteer groups that have mushroomed around Duterte pose a challenge in terms of coordination and staying on message, admits a political strategist in the team.
Over the past few months, the campaign team has been fine-tuning its operations.
In terms of developing platform, Duterte and Cayetano sit down with field experts. Recently, the pair has met with economic experts, agricultural experts, even one on culture and the arts.
Volunteer groups start 'piso-piso' campaigns to raise funds
For fundraising, there was enough collaboration to launch a scratch card donation system before it was put on hold because of Comelec rules.
Volunteer groups and PDP-Laban organize public events in their localities. There is improved media coordination, with news outfits receiving multiple press releases and advisories daily. Now, media are sometimes even provided transportation to cover sorties.
Duterte’s campaign team is in for a rollercoaster ride this campaign season. They may be able to depend on a core group of supporters, but they must also deal with Duterte's unpredictability, and the slim margins between candidates that mean every detail counts. – Rappler.com
Read on the campaign teams of other presidential candidates
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.