POSTSCRIPT / August 29, 2021 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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A Marcos-Duterte tandem still likely?

SHUFFLING the cards of late, we still see Bongbong Marcos coming out as a logical candidate for president paired with a Duterte for vice president in the May 2022 national elections.

We end up with this powerful, albeit hypothetical, combination probably because we start from the arbitrary assumption that Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., turning 64 in two weeks, must run for president next year.

With his mom Imelda already 92 years old and, we presume, still longing to see the family returning to the Palace in her lifetime, Bongbong has to run and win in 2022. The Marcoses can’t wait for the 2028 train that will be six years too late.

His elder sister senator Imee has been saying that former senator Bongbong who vied in 2016 for the vice presidency and lost, is running again in 2022 – but she is careful not to specify for what position.

She swims meantime with the current speculation that her friend Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio would run for president with Bongbong as her VP partner in a political marriage that Imee describes as “made in heaven”.

“The most obvious thing is if the Dutertes have the solid South, we are assumed to have the solid North… Political wisdom says that if you think of the numbers, it looks good, like a really solid tandem,” Imee said in a TV interview Thursday.

Assuming Bongbong does run for president, a logical VP partner would be a powerful Duterte ally – either Digong Duterte, 76, himself, or his headstrong daughter Sara, 43.

Despite the seeming logic of Bongbong teaming up with Sara (as VP), some people claiming to be privy to their conversations say that Sara would pursue the presidency herself with or without Bongbong. A number of politicians, meanwhile, have offered to run as her VP partner.

Without announcing that she would run for president, Sara has been projecting herself as the worthy successor of her father now ravaged by age and the pressures of the presidency and the pandemic.

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TUESDAY night in his weekly TV show, the President announced his intention to run for vice president with his long-time aide now senator Bong Go as standard-bearer, although the latter has shown reluctance in playing full-time president.

But the President put a dampener on that news by saying that if his daughter Sara runs for president, he would drop the idea of seeking the vice presidency.

Duterte has to remain a power to contend with to protect himself. He is willing to go down to being a spare tire as VP thinking that would enable him to continue enjoying immunity from lawsuits after his term ends at noon of June 30 next year.

Sara indicated recently on her Facebook page that her flight path may change with the fickle political weather. She warned: “I ask the nation to read my message from the point of view of a politician and nothing else.”

Her message was about her father giving her two options: one asking her to endorse the Go-Duterte tandem being pushed by the administration PDP-Laban party, and another suggesting that she takes in Go as her VP bet if she runs for president.

But unlike her father who had announced his intention to run for vice president (because the Constitution bars his reelection), Sara has created just by her heightened visibility an impression that she is eyeing the presidency.

Her projection has boosted her stock reminiscent of her father’s taking the quantum leap from the Davao City mayorship to the presidency.

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DUTERTE need not slide down to being vice president to protect himself after his term. That awkward maneuver conjures up images of him serving under his former aide. Besides, his theory of the VP being clothed with immunity is debatable.

An alternative is to cultivate and help install a successor skilled in the use of power who will commit to cover his tracks, especially those leading to his hidden wealth, and not to deliver him to the avenging hounds preparing to chase him wherever he may hide.

He cannot secure that protection from Go, not for his lack of loyalty or willingness to shield him, but because his former aide despite his now being senator is simply not presidential material. It would require massive manipulation to make him win the presidency in 2022.

His daughter Sara would be the best choice if they could iron out domestic issues, but she would be somewhat handicapped as a protector with her every move drawing microscopic scrutiny because of their family relationship.

He may be better off firming up ties with other potential successors like maybe Marcos, who could just be waiting for the right time to declare his candidacy. Other presidential aspirants are either antagonistic to Duterte or do not have a reasonable chance of making it.

With the congenial ties between the Dutertes and the Marcoses, it should not be difficult to work out (if they have not done so) an agreement for mutual accommodation and assistance.

Sara as vice president could be the Duterte link in a Marcos administration, with an understanding for her moving up after Bongbong’s term. By that time, she would have ripened into a major power player.

All this, of course, is pure speculation on a locked-down Sunday. But if the broad lines materialize more or less, it would mean that:

*VP Leni Robredo, if chosen by the opposition coalition as its standard-bearer, would have a return bout with Bongbong Marcos, this time for the presidency. It will be an interesting battle with Duterte forces openly allied with Marcos loyalists.

*The Marcos dynasty could be expected to unload more of its fabulous hoard to ensure the victory at all costs of the late President Marcos’ son and namesake.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 29, 2021)

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