Cunning surprises and political drama

President Rodrigo Duterte's "surprise" announcement last Saturday of his retirement from politics should have been a welcome move. Not surprisingly, many do not believe him, suspecting that this could be part of a scheme to convince his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, to run for president.

Sen. Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go pulled his own surprise by filing his certificate of candidacy (CoC) for vice president.

The president, who escorted Go in filing his CoC, himself said PDP-Laban’s standard bearer will be his daughter. “Sara-Go na,” he said in answer to a reporter’s question during an interview.

Duterte and Go defied their own supporters in the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) who endorsed their tandem for vice president and president, respectively, in the May 2022 elections.

Did they consult party leaders in arriving at their decision? Duterte said he was not contesting the vice presidency because "the overwhelming sentiment of the Filipinos is that I am not qualified." Wasn't that an insult to the PDP-Laban faction that spent time and money in going through the process of endorsing the Go-Duterte tandem?

The PDP-Laban faction officially proclaimed Duterte as its vice-presidential candidate and Go as its presidential candidate on Sept. 8. Duterte accepted his nomination on Sept. 17, purportedly to ensure the "continuity" of his efforts to bring progress to the country. Go, who has repeatedly said he was not running for president, rejected the nomination as PDP-Laban's presidential standard-bearer.

On Friday, it was Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao who filed his CoC unexpectedly under the Probinsya Muna Development Initiative (Promdi), a Cebu-based national political party founded in 1997 by the late Cebu governor Lito Osmeña for his presidential bid in the following year's elections.

Pacquiao, who leads one of two warring factions in the ruling PDP-Laban, earlier contested the party's presidency as he vied to be its presidential standard-bearer in the 2022 elections.

As a consequence of his decision to run for president under Promdi, the other faction in the PDP-Laban, led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, declared Pacquiao automatically expelled from the ruling party.

Meanwhile, Duterte-Carpio filed her CoC for reelection as mayor of Davao City. She did this despite her high ranking in surveys of preferred candidates for president. She has her own regional party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, and had refused to join the PDP-Laban. Many believe, however, that this is just a political drama between father and daughter.

On the other side of the political fence, former Education secretary Armin Luistro said on Sunday he "was sure" Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo would announce her decision to run for president before Oct. 8, the last day of filing of CoCs. Luistro is one of the convenors of 1Sambayan, an anti-Duterte multisectoral coalition that endorsed on Thursday Robredo's presidential run.

Robredo was a no-show in her regular Saturday radio program on DZXL but her spokesman, Barry Gutierrez, said the vice president herself would make public her decision when she files her CoC on Oct. 5, the same date in 2016 when she filed her CoC to vie for the country's second-highest post.

Until the last day of filing of CoCs on Oct. 8, we can expect many more and maybe even bigger surprises until Nov. 15, the last day allowed for the substitution of candidates.

Like in previous elections, candidates will resort to all the tricks in the book to win our votes. They can promise the moon and the stars, make fun of themselves to make you laugh or tell sad stories of their childhood to make you cry. We should be cautious and not be taken in easily by their antics.

Given the continuing restrictions on mobility and public gatherings, most of the campaigning will be done on television, radio and the various social media platforms. We will be deluged with disinformation and false claims about the performance record of candidates.

In the midst of all these, we need to be more discerning now in assessing and evaluating the qualifications of each candidate that we are voting into public office. For sure, next year's political contests will be dirtier than the last, given the many platforms where disinformation spreads too rapidly.

On election day, voters can pull the biggest surprise on candidates if we can eliminate those who have mastered the art of making promises they can't keep, those who pull our leg and treat public service as a family enterprise.

Because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the country is deep in debt and the economy is struggling to recover. More than ever, we need responsible leaders who can help bail us out of this mess. Value your vote!


The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.
This column also appeared in The Manila Times.

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