The first reason why the aborted Duterte presidential campaign was truly a downer is the most obvious one – he would have been a competitive candidate with a clear shot at the presidency.
Of the top politicians competing in next year’s election, Sen. Sergio Osmeña 3rd is the one most grounded on data, a realist who looks at polling data with real impartiality, the anti-Erice. In contrast with Rep. Erice who speaks of his wish list –“ President Mar” – instead of realistic expectations, Senator Osmeña knows that politics is undergirded by data, not a “wish ko lang” mind-set. Mr. Osmeña knows that politics is science, not an LP meme.
Mr. Osmeña’s candid preference to run for senator under Mayor Duterte was not a personal or ideological preference. It was not even a “Mindanao thing” or a law-and-order thing. It was a realistic take on the situation on the ground which said Mayor Duterte would have pulled it off had he pursued his presidential plans. Mr. Osmeña wanted to run with a winner and in his view that was Mr. Duterte.
There was data to back Mr. Osmeña’s preference to run under Mr. Duterte. Remember that even with all his tentativeness, Mr. Duterte was either in a statistical tie with the LP’s anointed. Or, polling better than Mr. Roxas. That was impressive polling. It would be more impressive once you add this fact. Much of the clamor for him to run came from Mindanao leaders and had yet to spread to the two other major regions.
Of course, online reactions to presidential politics do not constitute hard data. But the comprise a show window to what many of the young people who do social media and who do Internet postings think and feel. In this area, Mr. Duterte was the runaway winner. Commentaries from netizens are dominated by pro-Duterte posts.
Then, if we go down to the level of the people I mostly interact with, the lumpen ploretariat, the runaway choice was the candidate who would deal with criminals with an iron fist, Mr. Duterte.
With the decision of Mr. Duterte not to run for president, the viability of a presidential candidate from Mindanao was not tested. To the grief of many political leaders from the region and Mindanaoans themselves and they have a point.
Mindanao is the only major region that has yet to turn out a president and a serious run by a presidential candidate from that region would have brought intense intensity to the 2016 elections. A Duterte run would have answered these questions. Would Mindanao voters rally behind a native son en masse as was their vow? Would Mindanao voters, by a display of solidarity, get past the proven and legendary voting power of the Lingayen-Lucena corridor, the region with the most votes in the country ? From the standpoint of presidential representation, the Mindanao score is zero. Visayas has had three– Osmeña, Roxas and Garcia. But in terms of representation, it is Central Luzon that is the source of envy of Mindanao.
For one reason or another, Central Luzon, a cluster of seven provinces in Luzon’s heartland, has been dominant and over-represented in placing tenants at the Palace and this fact is not lost on the Mindanao leaders.
Post martial law, three of the six presidents (Mrs. Aquino, Mrs. Arroyo and the incumbent) come from just two provinces of Central Luzon (Pampanga and Tarlac). So did the two presidents who were voted in from the inauguration of the Republic to the proclamation of martial law (Ramon Magsaysay from Zambales and Diosdado Macapagal from Pampanga). More, the recently reconfigured Central Luzon makes Aurora a member-province. From Quezon to the second Aquino president, Central Luzon has turned out a grand total of six presidents.
Mindanaons are challenged by this fact and this is uppermost in their minds. Central Luzon has turned out six presidents and we are still zero. Mr. Duterte, had he not backed out, would have tested to the hilt the resolve of the Mindanaoans to elect a native as president.
The third is the LGU factor. No big-city mayor or provincial governor has dared to run for the presidency. The late Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson would have been the first and the kingmakers thought he would run roughed over the opposition. But a cardiac arrest aborted Lacson’s presidential run and since then no one has dared to run for president from a city hall or from the provincial governor’s office.
Our prominent LGU leaders can only look with frustration and envy at the successful presidential runs of state governors in the US, from the big states (Reagan’s California) and small states (Bill Clinton’s Arkansas). There, a former governor-turned peanut farmer can just decide to run for president and win and that was the case of Jimmy Carter.
What is it with our LGU leaders that they can’t even ambition for the presidency? Mayor Duterte was supposed to break that spell and do magic for the LGUs.
We may not really know the compelling arguments that aborted the prewsidential run of Mayor Duterte. Definitely, he forfeited an opportunity to make a historic run and break formidable glass ceilings on behalf of his region. Certainly he broke the hearts of Mindanaons.