Duterte camp digs in as Binay, Roxas, Poe trade barbs

Edwin G. Espejo

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Duterte camp digs in as Binay, Roxas, Poe trade barbs
Duterte's supporters say whatever decision the Davao city mayor makes, they are ready with a 'fighting' machinery and political organization throughout Visayas and Mindanao where they believe his appeal is strongest

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – With only a few weeks to go before Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte makes a final decision on a presidential run, his close aides and political advisers are digging themselves in.

The maverick mayor has been relegated into the background following the endorsement of President Benigno Aquino III of ally and personal friend Manuel “Mar” Roxas II as the ruling party’s standard-bearer.

Maribojoc Mayor Leoncio Evasco of Bohol, Duterte’s former chief of staff, said the Davao mayor has chosen to keep a low profile, knowing the media would feast on Aquino’s endorsement of Roxas.

He said they will be in for a big surprise should Duterte decide to run for president, but declined to categorically say if he would. The Davao mayor would announce his final decision himself, Evasco said.

Duterte has repeatedly denied a presidential bid but has been moving around the country and laying out his agenda as president.

The ‘real Duterte’

Evasco believes Duterte successfully bared his true self when he guested at the primetime Sunday show of Vice Ganda last month. (READ: Duterte backs same-sex marriage on Vice Ganda show)

“The funny guy that millions saw on TV is the real Duterte.  I have known him personally and up close. He is not only funny and comical. Duterte has an unbridled sense of humor when he is by his real self,” Evasco said.

National media coverage will never be the same under a Duterte presidency, he assured.

A political analyst who asked not to be named because of his closeness to people in Duterte’s media campaign said the image of the 70-year old politician in Vice Ganda’s show has resonated with the masa or the class CD crowd.

“It balanced his personality and image. What he is offering and the kind of leadership he is exuding is resonating [with the people],” he said.

'FUNNY' DUTERTE. Davao city Mayor Rodrigo Duterte candidly answers questions about politics, same-sex marriage, and his fear on ABS-CBN's Gandang Gabi Vice. Photo from Instagram/@ggvofficial

Evasco said, however, that Duterte should make himself more visible and appear on more prime time TV programs  to improve his name and face recall. He believed that the mayor is already “coming strong in Mindanao and to some extent in Visayas.”

He also believed that Duterte’s “May Tapang and Malasakit (Courage and Concern)” TV ads in June have captured the imagination of people unfamiliar with his brand of politics.

Evasco said Duterte’s appearance in the Vice Ganda show should dispel the “evil” Duterte his critics have been painting him to be. (READ: Duterte: ‘Am I the death squad? True’)

“Here is a guy pictured as a human rights violator but gamely dances with kids and with Vice Ganda on nationwide television.  How can you say he is evil?”

Duterte showed his vulnerable side when he almost shed tears and spoke with a cracking voice upon his arrival in Davao City from Tacloban which was reeling from the devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). He has also been quietly supporting and visiting children cancer patients in Davao City – far from the tough hombre image he loves to portray in public.

Duterte has so far maintained the political high ground. He refuses to throw mud at Senator Grace Poe, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Roxas. Binay’s camp has been trading barbs with Poe and Roxas.

Is Duterte running or not?

Christopher Go, chief of staff of Duterte, is certain his boss is running for higher office next year but would not say it if would be for president or any position.

There are those who believe that Duterte should make a decision very soon if he wants to play a significant role in the presidential race, and in the crucial scramble for fund sources. Observers believe a presidential candidate needs to raise P10-15 billion to give the presidency a shot – not necessarily a sure win.

Evasco said, however, that Duterte would not go out of his way seek to funds from supporters.

“We are very much in the (political) super highway.  Those who are weak in their belief in Digong (Duterte’s popular name), will give up on his style.  We will start with who are left because they will be our diehard supporters,” said Evasco.

But it seems almost now certain he is running: Didn’t Duterte say he will run for president if Roxas picks Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in the administration senatorial line-up?  And didn’t De Lima also say she is 80% almost certain to run for senator? The two have been at odds over the alleged human rights violations of the mayor.

Whatever decision Duterte makes, Evasco said they have already built a fighting machinery and political organization throughout Visayas and in Mindanao where they believe Duterte’s appeal is strongest. – Rappler.com

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