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Duterte magic?

THE filing of candidacy certificates is at the midpoint and we are seeing major parties with incomplete slates and more and more guest candidates will be accommodated to get the 12 candidates for the Senate. It appears that there will be no clear coalition, and that the PDP Laban, NP, NPC and LP will try to get six to nine in their respective lineups, opening up three to as high as six slots to independent candidates. Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) failed to rise to its promise of uniting everyone and securing a coalition for the Duterte allies. It remains a regional party for the Davao provinces. It remains to be seen if it can consolidate and convert the 23 percent of votes in the island of Mindanao. If it is able to do so, a national candidate will just have to look for the remaining 7 percent of the minimum 30 percent required for a senatorial candidate.

Without the so-called Duterte slate, there will just be Duterte candidates. As of this writing, only former PNP chief Bato de la Rosa has filed his CoC. Of the other two of the RoBaGo team, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. appears to be hedging without an anointment from PRRD himself, while SAP Bong Go has yet to file.

When HNP barnstormed in Ilocos, the Davao City mayor introduced the so-called Duterte-endorsed candidates as three women (Cynthia Villar, Pia Cayetano and Imee Marcos), two from Davao (Bato de la Rosa and Bong Go), presidential spox (Harry Roque Jr.), and two “warring” brothers (Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito). Reelectionist Sonny Angara would often join the group.

What are the political strategies of PRRD to get his candidates to win in the House, Senate and the local governments? Apparently, there is no clear-cut strategy since his political affairs adviser has been busy going around the country using his office and position to already campaign early. There is no effort to clearly intervene in open races at the local and congressional level, intervene in the sense of putting new faces to change the nature of our politics. Everyone is left to their own means. And this does not augur well for the last three years of the Duterte administration.

From earlier statements, PRRD told candidates that they cannot expect money from him and that they should go to their mother units and not PDP since it does not have money. He also said that he would go around and endorse them, but that’s about it. The danger with raising hands is that PRRD has been raising everyone’s hands. Of late, the political officers of a former president has been called to strengthen PDP but whether it can deliver is another thing. Then again, the wonders of Smartmatic appears in the horizon. Not much has been said about the issues surrounding its use in 2010, 2013 and 2016, save the statement from PRRD himself that votes will be counted correctly.

The seven reelectionists (Angara, Aquino, Binay, Ejercito, Pimentel, Poe and Villar) lead pre-campaign preference surveys, save for two who are sliding down. These are Sen. Bam Aquino who has lost traction despite a prolific legislative record and Sen. JV Ejercito who, of late, has worked hard for the passage of universal health care and the Department of Housing, both key measures responding to top issues in every surveys and yet is not converting well with the entry of Jinggoy Estrada. On the Estrada-Ejercito siblings, the surveys are in fact signaling that they want only one of them. Historically, we have never had siblings in the Senate or siblings running at the same time for the Senate.

Binay and Poe have consistently stayed away from the so-called Duterte-endorsed candidates, preferring to do it on their own. Binay is using UNA while Poe is yet to reveal which party she is running under.

The talk is that Aquino will file as an independent. But Aquino has to seriously consider a House option, a detour because of a very volatile ground that wants blood against any Liberal Party national candidate. And Bam is not just a Liberal, he is an Aquino. More and more local candidates want payback for the kind of politics the LP dished out against them in 2013 and 2016 and these are from huge provinces like Cebu, Cavite and Pangasinan, to name only a few. Sen. Koko Pimentel, on the other hand, would probably need to respond to a legal question on his reelection bid. Some are saying that he has already completed two consecutive terms, while others say it has to be full six years per term. Potential opponents for 2022 are looking at filing a case on this issue which only a ruling from the Supreme Court can settle.

Filing is not yet over but it seems there are more independents for the midterm. Until we are able to change the Constitution and adopt a federal-parliamentary type, money politics will dictate the races in both the national and local campaigns. Money is the milk of campaign politics.

The National People’s Coalition, or NPC, might just be able to put together 12 names under its banner courtesy of its highest-ranking member, Senate President Tito Sotto. The Nacionalista Party is building a strong local presence that could get them to become the predominant majority party. The NP is fielding more candidates at the municipal and city level in a very strategic fashion.

If PRRD needs a second wind, he has to string together victories in the Senate and the House to control these chambers and get his legacy agenda out. If he wants a progressive nation, he will have to stick his neck out and get progressive leaders to win at the local level, and not just in Mindanao. We cannot have a change in the extractive nature of our politics without an active intervention by PRRD.

Does PRRD have a coat-tail? Can he make candidates win by pure endorsement without money, machinery and Smartmatic? Or, without the three, PRRD, by allowing a free-for-all, controls everyone, thereby playing his strategist hat to the hilt from afar? PRRD threw away the playbook in 2016. By the looks of it, he is doing so again. By adopting a “you’re on your own” position, he may actually be recreating an old strategy he often dishes out in Davao City. At the end, a strong candidate gets to cling to the King’s coat-tail. Disheveled and full of mud, a hand comes out and pulls one across the winning line. Hard to watch this if one is not keen on Duterte’ brand of campaign politics. Political observers must look for the Duterte signs and not just the raising of hands.


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