, July 19, 2024

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So Sara Quits the Cabinet. But Where’s the Narrative?

  •   3 min reads
So Sara Quits the Cabinet. But Where’s the Narrative?
Screenshot DepEd Philippines Youtube Channel
By Joey Salgado

A Vice President quitting the Cabinet is not your usual story. It’s definitely not a filler. It’s a major story, what newspaper editors would call banner headline material. 

Imagine the political implications: Vice President Sara Duterte resigns from the Cabinet a mere three months and 12 days before the filing of candidacies for the mid-term elections. Historically, administration candidates for the Senate breeze through the mid-terms on the wings of public adulation for the incumbent president. But satisfaction and trust in President Marcos Jr. has been sliding since last year. The Vice President is a casualty of growing public resentment. To stop the bleeding, she needs to dissociate, and fast. 

Besides, her father, former president Rodrigo Duterte, and brother, Davao City Mayor Baste Duterte, have been leading the offensive against the administration since January. She has not disavowed or condemned their scurrilous attacks on the President, who happens to be her boss. She even attended these gatherings, to the dismay of the First Lady. 

Two years after being elected as a team, the relationship between the President and the Vice President has deteriorated from warm to ice cold quicker than a broken thermostat. 

So imagine the Vice President, now free from playing nice, as the “leader” of a freshly-manufactured opposition campaigning for her chosen candidates. Imagine a possible realignment of political parties, mass defections even, with Sara Duterte of the House Duterte as a rallying figure and Davao City as their bastion, their Storm’s End, from where they will plot to regain King’s Landing.  

But as I scan the dailies and online chatter two days after the resignation, the much-hyped political quake is turning out to be as politically inconvenient to the administration as a gentle pinch on the sides. 

To paraphrase a line from Stephen King’s "Shawshank Redemption,” the anticipated shock vanished like a fart in the wind.

Oddly, the Vice President’s supporters and detractors share one sentiment: it’s about time. No one was surprised. They all wondered why it took so long. 

Only her true believers described her irrevocable departure from the Cabinet as a loss to public service. On the BBM side of the fence, and even on the kakampink aisle, the signs all read good riddance.

Neglecting the Frame

For someone touted as the frontrunner in the 2028 presidential elections, the Vice President, or her handlers, failed to seize the media opportunity to shape the narrative, how political players, commentators, and the public would view her resignation and its implications. 

They should have anticipated that the Vice President’s resignation would be analyzed as a display of character. Her two-year tenure at the Education Department will be probed to validate assertions of competence and readiness to lead the nation. They may support or undermine her, but the bounds of the discourse, the frame, should have been set. 

The Vice President’s brief speech, aired live on mainstream and social media platforms, was a disappointment. Her statement was wanting not only in rhetoric but in substance.

Vice President Duterte and her team failed to state their case before the public, leaving her action and motives in the hands of critics and online pundits. They have allowed others to define her. 

Her supporters are not doing a bang up job either. One of her unofficial spokespersons said the Vice President now becomes the “leader” of the opposition. But other than supporting her father’s drug war, shielding a doomsday pastor from accountability, and posting a video greeting in Mandarin, the Vice President has not, now or in the past, shown a dedication to deeply-held values or principles.

Vice President Duterte’s backers might have deluded themselves into believing that her resignation would move the ground with such intensity that it would send the present Palace occupant quivering and having acid flashbacks of February 1986. But so far, the reaction from the Palace has been an eloquent dedma.

First published in Rappler.

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