PRESIDENTIAL daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and Bong Go, special assistant to the president (SAP), raged at the same person last week: Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. And partly over the same fuse of a subject: Sara’s and Go’s being coy about running for senator in 2019.
The mayor fumed over Trillanes’s speculation that Duterte would compel Sara to run, first for senator in 2019 and then for president in 2022, if the president’s alleged plan for staying beyond his term would fail.
Go exploded when Trillanes kept harping that the SAP was pretending he would not run for senator when he had been planning all along for the Senate bid.
Trillanes’s potshot was directed more at the father but the daughter was hopping mad. She said that unlike her dad who’d like to see the senator shot, she’d rather have Trillanes stay alive and in pain. Mayor Sara didn’t specify the kind of torture but her threat to make Trillanes “irrelevant” and make him and his friends spend a billion pesos just to cope with her in 2022 tells us there’s something brewing the nation does not know, which must be the reason she is furious.
Go dared Trillanes to a “one-on-one,” with only hints about the form of the face-off: “mano-y-mano” (hand-to-hand combat) or “saksakan ng ballpen” (duel in writing instruments).
It must be more than the poking at Sara and Go about their “will-not-run-but-will-run-in-the-end” stance that Trillanes alleges. In Sara’s case, it’s decidedly more: the claim that her father is planning something that violates the Constitution and his oath as president. Go, however, has little reason to bristle.
In fact, Bong’s eruption may be suspected as being fueled by the plan that he denies: his sally into politics. The more he wades into controversy, the bigger his chance of improving his poll ratings. Which are dismal, as of the April 20 release of Social Weather Stations showed: Go ranked 28-38th place for only 12 Senate seats to be filled.
Not just Trillanes but independent watchers of the news must suspect the apparent attempts to be seen and heard on the national stage. Along with the usual gimmicks of streamers (“Go Ready Go”) in presidential events, he would now talk on national issues and speak for Duterte on matters the public would expect to hear from presidential spokesman Harry Roque. And Go is no longer just photo-bombing in photos with Duterte: he is part of the picture and talking the political VIP talk.
He apparently is in some bind: he would not wish to appear to be seeking the post and yet somehow he must be more visible and better heard to be included in the Magic 12. Mayor Sara’s problem is not being in the winning circle (she’s already 4th-7th, 43.8%, with Sonny Angara, 44.9%). She needs to top the race so she will land in the Senate as a presidential timber.
Denial as an art
Declaring one’s intention to run this early is often not practical, veteran politicians tell the newbies. Having segments of the public push one’s entry to national politics offers added edge: the color of popular support. And denying one’s political ambition can be an art, as Duterte’s strategy in the 2016 campaign must show.
Duterte at the time had been sending mixed signals: deny, tease and hint, then deny--all the way to the deadline period for filings COCs or candidacy papers, Oct. 12-16. On Oct. 12, the Inquirer’s story was headed: “It’s final: Duterte won’t run for president.” That day he wrote a letter to Dabaweños, saying he was sorry “to disappoint” those who spent much and worked hard in his nationwide sorties purportedly to explain federalism. Then, on Nov. 21, he said he would run after all just to stop Grace Poe, who he said was not a full-blooded Filipino. Martin Diño of PDP-Laban vacated a slot that was apparently made ready for him.
Page from playbook
Duterte’s campaign for federalism didn’t work, if the recent opinion poll on what Filipinos prefer is to be believed, but his presidential bid succeeded. Not surprising then if Mayor Sara and Bong Go are borrowing a page from the master’s playbook. It could bring magic again and send to the Senate two more senators who would defend the president to the death.