FAIR COMMENT | Alito L. Malinao
Is Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio going to run for president in next year’s election? That is still a $64 question that only Mayor Sara can answer.
But if we are to interpret the events during the last few days, it is becoming clear that she will run. And if she runs, she will be a formidable opponent and those also in the running will have to think twice about their chances of winning in the upcoming polls.
Last October 23, Mayor Sara, just recovered from Covid, flew to Cebu City in a private plane to attend the birthday celebration of party-list Representative Yelda Romualdez, wife of House majority leader Martin Romualdez. Also at the celebration was presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and he and Mayor Sara met but it could not be ascertained what the two discussed during the meeting although in a diplomatic way, Mayor Sara said her party, the Hugpong ng Pagbabago, will support BBM’s quest for the presidency.
But what was intriguing was Mayor Sara’s answer to her supporters to wait when asked if she has already decided to run for president. In a text message later to lawyer Bruce Rivera, one of her supporters, she said “Kadiyot ha kay gahunahuna pa ko. (Wait for a while, I’m still thinking” in answer to Rivera’s query on what her plans are after meeting with Marcos. Is this an indication that she is still thinking of running for president despite her vow to support BBM’s candidacy?
While in Cebu City, Mayor Sara also met with her supporters, including Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia and other Cebuano political leaders. Some of her supporters chanted “Sara All,” a spin from the popular “Sana all” mantra of GMA-7 used in its vaccination campaign.
One major newspaper in Manila recently carried a photo of Mayor Sara raising the hand of senatorial candidate Mark Villar at a posh coffee shop in Las Pinas City owned by the Villar family.
Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, the presidential candidate of the Cusi-wing of PDP-Laban, also made a courtesy call on Mayor Sara in Davao City. After his meeting with Sara, dela Rosa told the media that he reminded the mayor that the deadline for substitution is fast approaching and that she should make her decision now.
Everybody knows that Senator dela Rosa is only a stand-in for Mayor Sara who could just slide back to his Senate seat if Mayor Sara would decide to run and substitute him as the candidate of the ruling party. This is still possible before November 15, the final date for substitution of candidates.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has been saying that what Mayor Sara could do is to join the PDP-Laban and presto she will be the party’s candidate for president.
Of course, substitution is a travesty of our democratic processes and several legal minds have been calling for disallowing substitution except in the case of death of the candidate. But since the Omnibus Election Code has not been amended yet, the substitution of Senator dela Rosa by Mayor Duterte-Carpio is still legal and we will just have to accept this.
My hunch is that despite his public statements to the contrary President Duterte is silently pushing Mayor Sara to run and succeed him as president.