2022 PH Elections - Voices

[Newspoint] A desperate sell

Vergel O. Santos
[Newspoint] A desperate sell

David Castuciano

Drafted or not by the coalition, Sara herself, despite all her dramatics, seems very likely to run

Sara Duterte has been the first, and so far only, prospective presidential candidate to be presented openly for next year’s elections. It’s not a coalition draft; it’s too early for all that. She also tries not to say anything that might be taken as a declaration of intent to run, although her inability to hide her delight at the prospect of a presidential run is declaration enough.

She is opening her mouth more and oftener publicly, and attracting considerable media attention. If she seems acting coy, she is only being her father’s daughter – the “drama queen” he called out once, when, even by his own cloying standards, he thought her going overboard.

Daddy Rodrigo himself had kept saying no to a presidential draft in 2016, surrendering to the slavish clamor of partisans only when it reached that certain orchestrated pitch. True to his aberrant nature, he took power with authoritarian alacrity once elected. The rest is grim history.

But why the rush in Sara’s case? Well, she is a desperate sell. She has no leadership credentials. She is mayor of a small provincial city only by dynastic inheritance – from her father. She should be able to show something for all the favors her city has received from the national government her father has been running, virtually proprietarily, but she can show nothing. Yet she is being positioned to succeed him. The reason is plain: Leaving a telltale trail of scandals – treason, repression, summary killings, corruption, onerous contracts and debts, not to mention costly blunders from incompetence, notably during this pandemic – he simply cannot trust any successor to ensure his escape from accountability and jail other than one who is a direct lineal blood relation.

But trouble was created for Sara the moment she was thrown into the fray, even before any actual fray, with the terms of engagement duly laid down, could be declared open. Predictably, she is seen making a preemptive move on her rivals for the draft at the risk of fracturing the coalition. If these rivals decide to run all the same, they are bound to take votes from one another, her included, and only improve the opposition chances.

Drafted or not by the coalition, Sara herself, despite all her dramatics, seems very likely to run. When she does she will be running on faith, hope, and mendacity. In fact, her promoters have been at pains dissembling for her. Of course, it’s no easy trick to bring off; even in the learned hands of magicians, it works only on audiences predisposed to be fooled.

They’re trying to disengage Sara from Rodrigo, trying to sell her prospective run as boldly defiant of Daddy’s express objection to it. That, I must say, is funnier than any Duterte joke I’ve heard and also too unusual a testament to a father’s unworthiness for emulation to be genuine, however deserving the father may be.

The scheme is simply unworkable, an instant giveaway, for any Duterte. Duterte is no cheap name like mine. Mine allows for the easy escape of losing yourself in the teeming multitude. But being a Duterte, fair or not, you are automatically singled out, branded for life. And the closer you are to the defining Duterte the more you are marked. Which is Sara’s precise problem.

Rationalizing around her immutable genealogical makeup, her promoters can at best point out that she is only half Duterte. I imagine they are now scrambling for redeeming qualities on her Zimmerman side. But what for? Easily and decisively, the point is proved puerile by Sara’s unmistakable acquiescence in her father’s despotic and corrupt rule. Her own high-profile and proudly acted part as diplomatic, political, and social muse, outranking the common-law wife he has taken after his first, full-fledged wife won her annulment case, says it all.

If the tactic were for Sara to dissociate herself from her father, even for mere political show, wouldn’t she come across as more credible and respectable running on her married name – Carpio? Apparently, she is not herself ready to concede that the Duterte name, with the untold notoriety it has become associated with, may have lost its fooling power.

Desperation, they say, breeds delusion. It may hold true for the voter who, dying for a quick lift from generations of poverty and general inequity, picked Duterte in 2016. Desperate or not, Rodrigo Duterte himself is definitely deluded; that is certified to judicially and clinically no less. But I’m not so sure his delusion doesn’t work to his own advantage.      

He is thinking of running for vice president, hoping to be able to go around the law that prohibits a president seeking a second term, although as vice president an ex-president becomes potentially a two-term president. If the way got cleared legally for Duterte and if he won the vote for vice president, he’d have been able to fool the national electorate twice.

In fact, he has begun floating his campaign line: There remains much more for him to do. – Rappler.com