, July 18, 2024

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A Power Move or Classic Duterte Misdirection?


  •   3 min reads
A Power Move or Classic Duterte Misdirection?
Photo : Ceslou, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons I Sabastian "Baste" Duterte Facebook page | Philippine House of Representatives, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
By Joey Salgado

Just when you thought you didn’t need reminding that the mid-term elections are just around the corner comes this announcement from no less than Vice President Sara Duterte that three Dutertes will run for the Senate in 2025. That would be former president Rodrigo Duterte, Rep. Paolo Duterte, and Davao City Mayor Sebastian “Baste” Duterte.

Elections are usually dismissed by cynics as circuses. But this is Barnum & Bailey via Star City bonkers. 

The immediate reaction from the Duterte hordes ranged from the ecstatic to the delusional: the Dutertes are sure winners and their political heft emanates from the people’s desire for a return to the “Duterte style of government.”

The more level-headed observers, a dying breed for sure, see several motives behind this shocker of an announcement.

One is that this is a “float” intended to gauge the level of public support for the so-called Duterte brand. 

With the names of three Dutertes included in pre-election surveys, their camp can gauge their winnability as a bundle or as individual candidates, especially when the father, recently resurrected on social media but visibly suffering from the ravages of age and the absence of remorse, appears in no condition to withstand a grueling campaign. 

By October, when candidates start filing their certificates of candidacy, we might have just one of the brothers, if not both of them, running for the Senate, banking on residual loyalty mainly concentrated in Mindanao.  

The other motive is necessity. The Dutertes know they will not be able to cobble a decent and viable ticket to take on the administration slate in 2025. Better to have three Dutertes running and damn the public outrage rather than have three empty seats during campaign rallies. 

Then again, it could be a test of loyalty, a call for the troops to line up behind the Dutertes especially when rumors of high-level defections to the Marcos camp are getting louder with each passing day. Are you listening, Senator Bong Go? 

‘Swarming’

But winning the election may not be the objective at all.  There is the possibility that the Dutertes will run so they can continue hammering at the administration and the President, undermining or sabotaging his policies, consolidating their base, and sowing disunity under the cover of campaign rhetoric. It’s the political equivalent of China’s swarming tactic in the West Philippine Sea.

The administration may succeed in electing most if not all its candidates, but the incessant assaults from within, like termites eating at the foundations of a house, will leave a society broken, a nation dissembling, perpetually bickering, divided and ungovernable. Such disunity, conspiracy theorists would say, benefits a third party. 

Surfer Dude

The Vice President also hinted that her brother Baste might run for president in 2028. Her political future, she implied, remains unclear.

Mayor Baste is the surfer dude who became mayor. He is the same dude who called on President Marcos Jr. to resign during a prayer rally. And recently he became the online tormentor of the perpetually grinning Senator Go, his father’s long-time aide and confidante. 

What makes Baste qualified to be president? From no less than his father came this glowing endorsement, made in February 2017.

“‘My youngest son is a jerk,” he said in a nationally televised speech, delivered, according to a BBC report, “in a mixture of Tagalog, English and the Visayan dialect.”

This revelation could be considered as a classic “deflect” move, meant to transfer public attention, and all the bad vibes it entails, from the Vice President, who is the presumptive presidential bet of the Duterte oppositionists, to her pa-cool and pa-nonchalant mayor bro.

But perhaps I’m reading too much into the announcement. Old men with laptops and plenty of time on their hands tend to do that.  I have forgotten that this is trademark Duterte: if you can’t convince them, just confuse them.


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