AMONG the lesser known candidates for senator is Samira Gutoc, which is a pity because she is one of the really qualified ones.
We interviewed Gutoc on Frankahay Ta last Tuesday and learned that she is the daughter of the former Philippine ambassador to Saudi Arabia, earned both her baccalaureate and master’s degrees at the University of the Philippines where she also excelled as a student leader; and that she is a journalist, a relief worker and peace advocate.
She joined the relief efforts in Yolanda-devastated Tacloban and dodged bullets in Zamboanga during the MNLF siege and during the battle of Marawi. Was she already thinking of running for public office when she did all these, we asked her. Never, she replied, invoking the Ramadan to emphasize that she was not lying.
Told that some people who have been watching her are comparing her to the late Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago because of her perceived feistiness, Gutoc said she was flattered by the comparison but said “Miriam is Miriam, Samira is Samira,” noting that the late senator has already reached legendary status while she is only starting.
During a campaign rally for the administration senatorial slate at the Plaza Independencia early this year, President Duterte raised Edgardo Labella’s hand in a gesture of support for his candidacy as Cebu City mayor.
Last Tuesday, the President went a step further. In a video that was apparently recorded in Malacañang, he did not only endorse Labella, he campaigned for the PDP candidate. Even more significantly, he resumed his attack on Mayor Tomas Osmeña, although he did not identify him by name.
Some months back, Duterte not only scolded Osmeña but threatened to slap him if their paths crossed. Soon after, the rumor mills churned out reports that Osmeña was going to be suspended; that it was only a matter of time.
Osmeña surprisingly kept silent, but it was a wise move. The talks of suspension faded and Duterte did not say any more word against Osmeña, fueling speculations that he has gone soft towards the Cebu city mayor because of the intervention of mutual friends.
What could have prompted the President to resume his attack on Osmeña? Could it have been the latter’s protracted quarrel with the leadership of the Cebu City Police? Or did he just want to show to the Cebuanos the huge difference in character between his candidate and the other one?
Some people are quick to say that the Duterte video is a game changer. I think it depends on how his supporters in Cebu react to his endorsement. Will the tens of thousands who gave the President a runaway victory here in 2016 listen to him and follow his instructions? Or will they defy him by voting for Osmeña?
Labella’s allies and campaign handlers are confident that pro-Duterte voters will heed his call for them to vote for the vice mayor. We will see on Monday if they are correct.