FOR those who are addicted to the power emitted by Malacañang, the next five days can be a hell of suspense. They might as well brace for a Yolanda remix as if keeping their borrowed fortunes depended on surviving a disaster that may or may not happen between now and November 15.

As the deadline for allowable substitution of candidates approaches — that would be on Monday, November 15 — the partisan crowd is caught in some "frenetic anxiety" searching for that drama that somehow would make a rerun of 2016 smell less like spoiled leftovers.

Early on, a faction of the mythical ruling PDP-Laban party headed by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi pushed for the presidential run of Sen. Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go, with President Rodrigo Duterte himself as Go's vice presidential running mate. Something happened on the way to the party, however, as Go ended up filing his candidacy for vice president instead.

Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel, representing a rival faction of that illusory ruling party, swatted some thunder away from the hidden script when he made known what he suspected as Go's eventually yielding to the President's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio. Koko, of course, is co-author of that genre in political hacking and trickery. In 2016, his party — still relatively free of flies and other species of political insects at the time — masterminded the substitution of a placeholder by Duterte, who went on to win the presidential contest.

The deadline for the filing of candidacies tentatively ended on October 8, but Sara subbing in was nowhere to be found. Instead, Cusi fielded an unlikely bench player — Sen. Ronald de a Rosa. Sara meanwhile filed her own certificate as a reelectionist candidate.

The constituency that supports the Duterte administration now braces for a replay of 2016. The November 15 countdown is on.

It is unlikely that scriptwriters and bookers will deploy a complete copy of the initial offering. Sequels seldom sell, casts and all being equal, unless a fresh repackaging compels buyers to take a second look. Pre-selling binges have taken shape and kibitzers should be thrilled watching them. A key task of course is to determine how much market share the Duterte brand can still command given that remorse buyers have sprouted from the 2016 fool fest.

By most indications, "Run, Sara, Run!" remains at the top of the agenda. But the proposition has been growing from iffy to complicated by the day. Power addicts and their kind, including of course those who have benefited from the administration and risk losing their connections in the event of reversal at the polls, hope this is all part of the build-up for a dramatic burst of appeals for Sara to concede and finally accept the challenge.

Former presidential legal adviser and senatorial candidate Salvador Panelo believes that despite what he calls "imponderables," Sara should run, saying millions of supporters clamor for it. He further explained that "the roaring multitudes would not budge nor agree. They await with frenetic anxiety the verdict that will launch either a thousand anguish and a flood of tears or triumphal jubilation." He probably does not need to say that breathing life to his own candidacy is dependent on her running.

One can speculate that the Sara conundrum spills over the entire horizon of a bewildered constituency. Her partisan crowd hardly consists of competing interests; they include political dynasties, their enablers, and wagers who vote with bank checks. With the ultimate prize that appears all hers for the taking — if pre-poll surveys would have their way — consolidating support for her candidacy, unlike those of potential rivals that need to coalesce to put some semblance of a fight, should not go through obstacles tough enough to overcome.

The imponderables can lead her crowd to turn to offers with compatible features. In this regard the Bongbong Marcos candidacy should come in handy. While at this though, one may wonder how his own ambitions may have added to the puzzler (again in the words of Panelo) that Sara has become.

It is to the lasting credit of politics being able to present alternatives in the art of the possible, of making impossible deals and deal-making possible, and of getting through hell or high water just to reach a desired destination. Because of this we trust that the Dutertes and Marcoses of this world will find a way to carry on with the clenched fist, signifying disrespect for human rights as supposedly a necessary trade-off for maintaining public order and driving economic progress to higher levels. It is then up to non-believers in the truth of that trade-off to oppose, whose numbers at the polls, barring the usual cheating here and there, should decide the fate of the nation.

Plan Bs, all the way to Ns, must exist — no matter how shallow Cusi's bench is, in consideration of the mental hygiene of power addicts who keep on counting their money — and there we see Bato de la Rosa with his valiant pose. No, don't call him a placeholder, he protests, while sporting a Sara-branded t-shirt when he filed his candidacy at the Comelec.

In later interviews he said that although he is serious about running for president, he is also willing to be substituted by Sara. Up to this point there is no sign of a substitution happening — yet.

My bet is that the last-minute drama that unfolded in 2016 will be in full display again on or before the deadline comes to close, but probably with its own unique subplot. It is like saying that aborting the substitution script has about the same probability as that of a two-minute kiss not ending up with somebody getting undressed.

Email: [email protected]