Even on SONA day, a Sara Duterte endorsement from the House Speaker

Even on SONA day – or especially on President Rodrigo's final SONA day – there's subtle electioneering for 2022.

Perhaps the earliest to reveal his hand is House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, who, before concluding his House session opening speech, dropped a cloaked endorsement of his preferred presidential bet, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the President's daughter.

Nawa’y ang Pamana ng Pagbabago ng isang Mayor President ay lalo pang maramdaman at mapakinabangan ng mga Pilipino ngayon at sa darating na panahon,” he said.

Tulad ng mga dakilang Agila sa Ka-Dabawan, nawa’y patuloy na sumahimpapawid at lumipad ang Pamana ng Pagbabago sa ating inang bayan,” he added.

(May the Legacy of Change of one Mayor President be further felt and enjoyed by Filipinos in the future. Like the great eagles in Davao, may the Legacy of Change continue to soar and fly over our motherland.)

It was a smooth transition to a conclusion after speaking of the importance of a united House, of the pandemic, and of the 2022 budget. However concise, the message was clear.

In the event that Sara decides to run and in the event that she wins in 2022, she, like her father, will become another “mayor president.” 

The image of the Davao eagle, meanwhile, has become associated with Sara, thanks in part to Velasco’s own Sara promos.

On Sara’s birthday last May 31, Velasco gifted her with a production-quality music video urging her to run, complete with a message that sounds like the source material of his SONA speech allusion.

Ang Agila ay isang dakilang simbulo ng tapang at malasakit. Mula sa himpapawid, maingat at mapagmasid nitong binabantayan ang kanyang lalawigan, at lagi siyang handang umaksyon at ipagtanggol ang kanyang mga inaalagaan,” Velasco said, referring to Sara, in his note that accompanied the video he posted to Facebook.

(An eagle is a great symbol of courage and care. From the sky, it carefully watches over its land, and it is always ready to fight for those it nurtures.)

He ended his post with the hashtags #SaraAll and #SaraAgila.

Before the birthday greeting, Velasco had explicitly shown his close ties with Sara. When he seized the speakership from Alan Peter Cayetano in October 2020, he dined with Sara. When his daughter was christened in September 2019, Sara was a godmother. The name of Velasco's daughter is Sara, named after no other than Sara Duterte.

As for his own prospects, Velasco said in early morning on Monday, July 26, that he planned to run for reelection in 2022. He just wanted Sara to run for president, and her father to be her vice president.

And, this early, Velasco is obviously securing his place on the eagle's wings. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.