POLITICAL propagandists on radio in the past few days have been talking about Sara Duterte-Carpio, Davao City mayor and the President’s daughter.
She arrived in Cebu Thursday (March 21) for a two-day campaign sortie of her party Hugpong ng Pagbabago’s senatorial candidates. Noise of the local drumbeaters about Inday Sara, as she is popularly known in her city where she’s running for reelection unopposed, is not about her role as campaign manager of Hugpong.
It’s about her alleged “meddling” in Cebu politics. She was scheduled to raise the hands of Edgar Labella and Mike Rama in Cebu City, Gwen Garcia and Daphne Salimbangon in Cebu province, and a few others competing for the top seats in local governments.
The allusion to being an interloper is silly. Mayor Sara leads the Hugpong, which started as a regional party in Davao but has since grown into a national party. It is fielding candidates for senators and, beyond the Davao arena, it is taking sides in local battles all over the country.
Motive in endorsement
Her motive is being questioned, at times criticized: She might run for president in 2022. Mayor Duterte-Carpio herself said she would decide in 2021. Apparently, the mid-term elections in May are not only a referendum on the first half of the father’s term but is also preparation for the daughter’s possible succession to the highest office of the land.
In setting her 2021 deadline, she said last Feb. 18 that the quest for the presidency requires money, machinery and the “wisdom and guidance” of the “Panginoon” (she didn’t specify which God, the Catholics’ or her dad’s).
What she has been doing since September 2017, when Hugpong was launched, is about machinery: making it operational, honing it and increasing its efficiency; and recruiting political leaders and helping them earn or keep seats of power. The more Hugpong senators and mayors and governors it can help get elected this May, the more formidable Hugpong will be.
It can then expand alliances and campaign resources. As to the third factor, God will come unbidden but it’s better to be ready if He does.
IOUs to collect
That is apparently what Sara has been doing: traipsing all over, not just for her would-be senators, also for local officials who, once elected, would be part of the “super-majority” in Congress and among local government units. She is raising hands now; later, she will be collecting on IOUs that her support has been earning. Add them to what Digong can get from PDP-Laban and other candidates he has been rooting for.
On endorsements, it is not puzzling why local party propagandists have been saying hand-raising is effective for candidates they cheer but wasted on rivals they beat up on the air. Sara has complicated their job: the bets she chose to endorse are not all on the same side.
Some of her choices don’t even match with those of her dad’s. In some localities, Digong raises the hand of a candidate while Sara raises the hand of the rival. Worse, they say the Hugpong leader sometimes endorses two persons squabbling over the same post.
In September 2017, Digong said Sara is “the most qualified” to be the next president. “You want someone with the same style as mine? I couldn’t find any other better candidate.” He later said it was a “joke,” but his tribute to Sara’s qualities of leadership still surfaces now and then.
Cebu propagandists say her endorsement won’t help if the candidate whose hand is raised has serious adverse issues. Maybe. But her clout in the next three years will stay, barring an act of God or some unconstitutional change of national leadership. And appreciation of her influence can awe voters too. That’s mostly the reason her endorsement is as much sought for as it is debated on.
The imponderable is how the fight will end up if the candidate backed by Sara faces a rival supported by the president. Or two competing bets both hand-raised by her.