The Duterte Card

“ON the table” was a graphic but alarming signal for the rest of the declared presidential candidates for 2016. On the night of the 21st of November, inCavite, Davao mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte made a statement that shook the political establishment, making himself available to the PDP Laban. Much needs to be done before he is acknowledged as an official candidate. As the race is on to remove Poe from the official ballot because of residency disqualification,to include Duterte as a substitute candidate for PDP Laban.

“ON the table” was a graphic but alarming signal for the rest of the declared presidential candidates for 2016. On the night of the 21st of November, inCavite, Davao mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte made a statement that shook the political establishment, making himself available to the PDP Laban. Much needs to be done before he is acknowledged as an official candidate. As the race is on to remove Poe from the official ballot because of residency disqualification,to include Duterte as a substitute candidate for PDP Laban.

The earlier reading of the SET votes (6-3) went astray with actual result at 5-4 votes with LP Senator Bam Aquino and NP Senator Pia Cayetano crossing over and joining the political bloc, rendering the decision totally a political one. Would the petitioner bring it to the Supreme Court or would that be allowed to rest the Senate victory and pursue the contentious residency issue? Most observers are saying why can’t Poe follow constitutional requirements? I leave that for the good Senator to respond to. Certainly the soundbytes of Duterte about having an “American President” come May 2016 echoes with serious ramifications.

Observers watching the SET ruling were saying Poe will be DQd because of the muscle of LP. Apparently, they wouldn’t want to touch the midterm victory of the party. Imagine the topnotcher being booted out because of birth issues! That wouldn’t look good for LP, setting aside constitutional requirements to get Poe in their slate. Besides the foundling issue has been raised even if it has nothing to do with the presidency. Now, insiders in LP are claiming the residency challenge has more weight because it is documentary evidence. The ball is now with the Comelec and how it rules on the issue gives us a sense on how things are stacked up for 2016.

The Duterte card has been played well. A non-candidate, Duterte is framing and controlling the debate since the last day of filing in October to the present. He has effectively contrasted himself from all the declared presidential candidates. Truly a strategist’s game, Duterte is playing his chess game like a master. He stood out on federalism, public order, service delivery, dealing with politics, politicians and Congress, Yolanda, illegal drugs, development, laglagbala and, lately even APEC preps. The man is not even a candidate and he has, from Mindanao, been calling out and heckling supposed national leaders.

Some would view the Duterteserye as long and winded but these people are missing the point he is making. Duterte is effectively campaigning by maintaining himself in the eye of the storm. And his moves are not trite. Who would even imagine staging a chant in a Makati mall on a Sunday night? Signs of times indeed.

So who is Duterte? Before he is boxed in as a human rights violator, Duterte is first and foremost a Mindanaoan, truly a unique position. Never have we had a candidate for the presidency from Mindanao. That would certainly consolidate the votes for the favorite son of the island. What is not known by majority of Filipinos is that Duterte was born in Maasin, Leyte to Vicente G. Duterte, who served as Governor of (the then-undivided) Davao, and Soledad Roa, a school teacher and a civic leader. Soledad “Soleng” Roa-Duterte served as Davao Provincial Governor from 1959 to 1965, was born in Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte. Lawyer Vicente, prior to being provincial governor of Davao, was once a mayor of Danao City in Cebu. The Duranos and the Almendras are said to be relatives of Digong.

So Duterte is Davao, Agusan del Norte, Leyte and Cebu. He is Mindanao and Bisaya. And because of his no nonsense style of governing for the past 22 years, his brand is much welcomed in NCR and key cities in the country. In fact in an NCR survey (uncommissioned) by a businessman from Palawan last 18 October (day after the filing), the following were noted: 1) without Duterte, Poe (31%), Binay (30%), Roxas (12%) and Santiago (12%); 2) with Duterte, Duterte (33%), Binay (21%), Poe (13%), Roxas (7%), Sabio (6%), Santiago (6%). Duterte eats on everyone but the biggest loss came from Poe (at 18%), Binay (9%) and Roxas (5%). What does this mean? Whether campaign teams would acknowledge it, Duterte is the trump card in a loaded deck.

There are two challenges to a Duterte run for the presidency: organization and funding. And because he is now on the table, organization and funding of the rest will experience some hiccups or major overhaul. And that only means, 2016 is too fluid to call. One thing is sure, the best laid plans of putting several posts for the VP race for LP may have just been ambushed by the Duterte card. You just can’t double cross a Duterte.

With the entry of Duterte, is democracy better served because we have more choices? Or will we see the most transactional campaign ever with Filipinos ending with mixed ticket? We have historically been doing that save for Arroyo-De Castro. Would the mixed ticket be a natural attrition or a last swing by a strong VP candidate ensuring hairline victory (plurality) at the presidential level? At the end, core votes matter and the one with a strong ground organization will win 2016.

Gail Collins once said: “There’s always been that theory that if a candidate can’t run a decent campaign, he probably can’t run a decent presidency. That might be true, although sadly I must admit that running a brilliant campaign does not translate into running a brilliant White House,” or in our case, Malacañang.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TheLOBBYiST.
About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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