by Perry Diaz
With the election only nine months away, the Philippines’ political merry-go-round is spinning in circles. You don’t know who’s with whom or who is running against. Honestly, it’s too soon to speculate who would be pairing as presidential and vice-presidential running mates.
But the strange thing is that in Philippine elections, the presidential and vice-presidential teammates don’t have to win as a team. The presidential candidate can win while his or her vice-presidential teammate could lose. In other words, it’s free for all or “matira ang matibay” – survival of the fittest – which is the case with so many candidates running for the same position. Looking at the presidential wannabes, the most prominent president is Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. But Bongbong has been non-committal with his “I’m keeping my options open” remark when asked the question. But everybody seems to agree that he will eventually declare his candidacy by October 8, 2021, the last day for filing a certificate of candidacy. The question is: What would he be running for – president or vice president?
Two things that would determine what he’s going to run for are his age and his mother’s age. Bongbong will be 64 on September 13 and his mother Imelda Marcos is already 92. It’s always been her wish to see Bongbong follow in the footsteps of his father. He’ll be 70 years old by then and Imelda would be 98. She’d be too old to enjoy her dream of seeing Bongbong become president; that is, if she’s still alive by then. Bongbong can’t wait for 2028. He must run and win in 2022. And it will be for president. No ifs or buts.But what about Sara Duterte-Carpio? Is she running for president? Bongbong’s sister Imee Marcos has been lobbying for her brother to run as Sara’s vice president. She describes it as a political marriage “made in heaven,” between the Solid South and the Solid North.
But why would Bongbong settle for vice president when he can be the president? Hasn’t Bongbong thought that he’s expendable to the Duterte family’s quest for dynastic political power? If Sara had to run it would be for president. And to add more power to her candidacy, she’d pick her dad over Bongbong as her running mate. That’s where the calculus is: Duterte-Duterte tandem. The old man Duterte believes that he’d win the vice presidency hands down. But Sara had made it known that if her dad will run for vice president; she doesn’t want to be president. So, there you go: there would be no Duterte-Duterte tandem.
Where does Bongbong fit in this jigsaw puzzle? Just leave him to wither in retirement? Unthinkable. Mama Imelda would die of a heart attack if he gets out of the presidential derby. Heck, he’s got tons of moolah to buy the presidency.
Perhaps, the question should be: Does Sara need Bongbong to win? Would it be fair to speculate that she can win the presidency with or without Bongbong?
At 43 years of age, she has the mental and physical capacity to run a rigorous campaign. She’s been preparing for it. She can pick Sen. Bong Go as her vice-presidential running mate, who’s been dying to get a shot at the vice presidency or even the presidency. But like everybody else, he’s keeping his cards close to his chest. But everybody knows he’s positioning himself close to the top. He’s always standing behind President Duterte, ready at his beck and call.
Last August 24, President Duterte announced at his weekly TV show his intention to run for vice president with Bong Go as presidential standard-bearer. However, he later said that if his daughter Sara runs for president, he would drop the idea of running for vice president. That doesn’t seem right.
The only reason why Duterte would run for vice president is to enjoy immunity from the International Criminal Court (ICC) that has been going after him for allegations of crimes against humanity. He strongly believes that the vice presidency would shield him from prosecution by the ICC.
According to Sara, her father gave her two options: one asking her to endorse the Go-Sara Duterte tandem and the other is to take in Go as her VP if she runs for president.
Now, if this is going to happen, there would be a problem with the pairing of Bongbong and Sara, who said she’s willing to run as Bongbong’s running mate. And if Duterte insists on running as vice president, Sara will not run. She’ll give way to her dad. That would leave a Bongbong-Duterte (the father) tandem. Go will be out of the equation. But that would be okay with him. He doesn’t have any ambition anyway. He’s running because Duterte wants him to.
Lately, rumor has it that Imee Marcos wanted to run for vice president. That’s according to President Duterte who revealed that Imee is courting Sara to form a possible tandem in 2022.
Duterte said Imee is going to Davao City to persuade Sara to seek the presidency and be her vice-presidential running mate. However, President Duterte claimed that Marcos’s plan to team up with Sara in the 2022 national elections would not thrive because his daughter is not interested in joining the presidential race, which nobody believes.
Now if Sara is going to run for president, what would President Duterte do, who earlier said that he’s not running for vice president if Sara runs for president? If that would be the case, it would pave the way for Bongbong to run for vice president. Now, the question is: Would Bongbong settle to be Sara’s vice-presidential running mate?
We’re back to square one again: the question of Bongbong’s age. At 64, six more years and he’d be a septuagenarian, an age that would force him to look beyond the horizon and see what’s in store for him as he approaches the sunset of his golden years.
Is it time to retire and enjoy watching his grandchildren reach adulthood and follow his footsteps into politics? Not bad for someone who came back from a life in exile to climb the tortuous mountain of politics.
And now, he’s close to the apex of his political life. And just one more step closer to the top. Does he have the will and stamina to face the last challenge of his political struggle presumably against vice president Leni Robredo? We’ll see.
Quo vadis, Bongbong Marcos?
PERRY DIAZ is a writer, columnist and journalist who has been published in more than a dozen Filipino newspapers in five countries.
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