DESPITE her repeated pronouncements that she will not run for president next year, not a few people are still hopeful Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio will change her mind with a bit more prodding.

Duterte-Carpio has been reluctant to launch a presidential bid, even with surveys listing her as the preferred choice to be the next occupant of Malacañang.

When her father, President Rodrigo Duterte, accepted the nomination of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) to run for vice president, the mayor said she was closing the door to a presidential run since she and her father agreed that only one Duterte should run for a national position.

Days later, the President made a surprise announcement that he would retire from politics and endorsed Sen. Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go as his replacement for PDP-Laban's vice presidential candidate.

This reignited hopes that Duterte-Carpio would reconsider and finally join the presidential fray.

Hopes were dashed, however, when she filed for reelection as Davao mayor.

Instead, Sen. Roland "Bato" dela Rosa filed his candidacy as the PDP-Laban's standard bearer.

If his recent pronouncement that "60 percent she's not running, 40 percent she's running" is any indication, dela Rosa could very well be warming up the spot if and when Duterte-Carpio decides to substitute for him before the November 15 deadline lapses.

In the words of former chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo, "the clock is ticking" for the "puzzler" that is Duterte-Carpio.

"The reaction of Inday Sara to the growing political enticement for her to seek the presidency was one of pleasure and reluctance. She was neither here nor there, a classic political Mona Lisa. Her smile was as enigmatic as her pronouncements," said Panelo.

"Initially, she maintained a noncommittal stance, then she eased it by making the door ajar by issuing a statement that she was open to it, and she would make a series of consultations with various sectors," he said.

But the mayor, who asked for privacy after her camp disclosed she had contracted the coronavirus disease recently, has been relatively quiet.

"The ball is now in her hands. Beyond cavil, Sara Duterte has the presidency for the taking," Panelo said.

"Will she respond to the voice of the people? Will she accept the challenge to lead the country hurled to her by the gods of destiny? Will she fulfill her appointment with history? The clock is ticking," he said.