AT FIRST, many people thought that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) was a local party, regional at most, to coalesce Mindanao leaders into a strong political bloc and, as side purpose, to shut out her pet peeve Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez from his power base in Davao.
Since Alvarez’s expulsion as speaker and earlier replacement of Aquilino Pimentel III as Senate president, the two top officials of PDP-Laban have been effectively undersized in their own party. The intramural within and defections to, or alliances with, the now attractive HNP may soon exact its toll: a weakened ruling party.
As of the weekend, HNP forged alliances with three national parties (Nacionalista Party, National People’s Coalition and National Union Party) and six local parties in NCR, Bohol, Zamboanga del Norte, Ilocos Norte, Pampanga, and Misamis Oriental.
More would be joining and make HNP a national party, with local parties “begging and badgering,” as Gov. Imee Marcos described efforts of the NP chapter in her province to hop into the bandwagon.
Alliance with HNP by local parties may influence local politics across the country, Cebu City not excluded. Already, there is talk of Barug Team Rama jostling with BOPK to join HNP, where both camps see “clout, resources and connection” to the president.
Vice Mayor Edgar Labella and his group under Barug, already affiliated with PDP-Laban, may feel uncomfortable and insecure. What if HNP would pick BOPK as its Cebu ally or, even if HNP would have Barug in its fold too, how would that affect the flow of aid and Duterte backing during the 2019 elections?
Whatever HNP’s “beliefs, mission, vision and thrust,” it is surely committed to supporting the administration and political agenda of President Duterte.
There it is: its Sara’s party but for Duterte’s ultimate use. Clear but also not clear enough since only a few, he and his inner circle, know what precisely is in his mind about the next three years or so.
On his role in the transition to federalism, Duterte has been giving mixed signals whether he would lead it or give way to other leaders. On life after 2022, the end of his term: he said he’d step down but would not close doors to a possible extension of term.
HNP would help push Duterte’s plans: for himself, Sara and the rest of his family. If not for extension of power, then for his protection once he is out of office. Look what the past three presidents faced.
Vehicle for 2019
HNP could be a vehicle for Sara’s bid for senator next year and beyond. While she keeps repeating she won’t run, she might be “forced” to run: her dad used that stance in 2016 and even his aide Bong Go has aped the idea or his own senatorial pursuit. Should Duterte decide to give way to another leader, why not his daughter who could benefit from his mass base and goodwill? Their own party, along with PDP-Laban, would be useful.
PDP-Laban would still be the president’s party but there’s also Mayor Sara’s HNP to lean for support or fall back on.
Again, what is President Duterte up to? That remains the larger question because it is unimaginable for the daughter to go into a political venture this big with her party without the father’s blessing, initiative and co-planning. Success of the enterprise in fact relies on the father’s support.
There may be a series of changes in the political landscape in years to come: power entrenched or layered, for longevity or succession. Things that are happening may already signal what lies ahead.