Mayor Duterte, before his decision to quit on his presidential ambition, was considered the most “au-thentic” of the presidential wannabes (presidentiable is not a word). His reputation of toughness and his supreme ability to co-exist with the Revolutionary Left in Mindanao, were complementary to this perception of authenticity. He is perceived as largely unafraid.
Even in the urban areas of Luzon, Mr. Duterte had legions of admirers, especially the law-and-order types who think that politicians, by and large, have been soft on the scums of the earth. Pacifists like myself (whose energy to fight was exhausted during the Marcos regime) are wary of Mr. Duterte but those who view criminals as natural-born and not shaped by the grimness of their circumstances, were ready to embrace the Davao mayor’s presidential ambition.
Voters looking at the “character” aspect of the wannabes were also part of Mr. Duterte’s sizable con-stituency. And they came from across all the economic spectrums: wealthy, middle-class, poor and very poor. The platform – federalism – never mattered to those held in thrall by the mayor’s tough and fighting words. A revolutionary government, except in tin-pot, faux democracies in the sub-Sahara, cannot be a presidential platform in modern times.
Now that he has begged off from the 2016 race, we have to answer this question. Who will get the votes intended for the tough Davao City mayor? Will they go to the camp of Mr. Binay? Or Senator Poe? Or, Sec. Roxas? Or, will they just hold on until a Duterte clone comes along and enters the race?
Or, “ none of the above” after Mr. Duterte’s big decision.
If only the precious polling done had a question on “Choice Number 2,” the task of finding out would have been easier. Political scientists can just buy copies of the mainstream polling already done and dig through the numbers. But at this stage, with no CoC filed, I think the question of “Choice Number 2” has yet to be asked by the polling firms.
Who among the three major wannabes hews closely into the Duterte mold?
Mr. Roxas, despite his occasional efforts to play cop roles, is not. He is a technocrat and his moments of pique are just the kind Elon Musk reportedly inflict on his faltering, not-up-to-par subordinates. Ms. Poe, despite the tough guy roles played by his dad in the movies, is not. Mr. Binay, despite sharing the skin tone of Mr. Duterte, is not. All three are mainstream politicians who would think twice about de-claring a state of revolutionary government. The three would rather work within the existing system, instead of offering a radical overhaul of the existing structure.
With no polling done of Choice Number 2 and with none of the three remaining wannabes in the mold of Mayor Duterte, taking a crack on who would inherit the votes meant for Mr. Duterte gets tougher.
Looking at poll history offers a very thin evidence on who is more adept at catching the votes from a collapsing campaign. It is, indeed, very thin. In the 2010 vice presidential elections, Senator Legarda’s once-competitive vice presidential run collapsed. She then competed in a three-cornered fight with Mr. Binay and Mr. Roxas and she and Mr. Roxas were the main competitors.
Instead of her votes getting sucked by Mr. Roxas, Mr. Binay was the second choice of the Loren votes and this paved the way for Mr. Binay’s slim lead over Mr. Roxas in the 2010 VP elections, a reality that Mr. Roxas cannot accept even up to now.
Question. Cannot Mr. Duterte endorse his choice for president to settle that unanswered question ?
No. Endorsements have very little value in the Philippine context. And Mr. Duterte cannot endorse anyone of the three without denting his credibility. All of the three dread the words “federalism” and “revolutionary government” and any endorsement from Mr. Duterte will have a very hollow ring.
While every movie star, every big name in politics, every sports hero is believed to carry a certain en-dorsement weight, this is not true in our political context. The same applies to Mr. Duterte.
With the question on who would inherit his votes unsettled, the withdrawal of the mayor from the race will make the presidential race less exciting. Philippine presidential elections need an outsider like Duterte who can bring an out-of-town perspective to presidential debates. I will not vote for him as I fear he will take the country to World War III. But I am willing to listen to him and make his pitch. And test the strength of his ideas against the ideas of the competition.
One more thing. It is about time for a big city mayor to make a serious run for the presidency.
The last time a big city mayor was set to run for president – and all forecasters said he was going to win it – was during the time of Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson. A heart attack aborted that plan. Since then, no LGU leader ever attempted to run for president.
Should Mr. Duterte reconsider, and pursue his presidential dream anew, no one will accuse him of be-ing a flip-flopper. He should not abort a precedent-setting run and disappoint his legions of admirers.