I was talking to a bunch of out of town visitors the other day and, as what seems to be happening more and more frequently of late, our discussion eventually turned to Davao’s most famous attraction – Mayor Rody Duterte. Because of the extensive media coverage about his possible run at the presidency, the mayor – who was not exactly unknown before all this frenzy began – has become a bigger political star in the eyes of my guests – and the rest of the country.
After blowing through the usual topics of curiosity – from the his alleged involvement with the DDS and occasional moonlighting as a taxi driver, to the city’s renowned campaigns against drug pushers, smokers, and drivers who feel the need to speed beyond 30 KPH – we eventually got to the question that was foremost in their minds: Will Duterte run for President?
Not having had the opportunity to talk to the mayor himself, I will not claim to have a definitive answer. But after picking the brains of those whose social and political orbits revolve much closer to the alleged candidate, I would estimate that fully ninety-nine percent of the people involved in the Duterte for President movement believe he is going to run. The only caveat is that, since the remaining one percent represents the still noncommittal opinion of the mayor, majority rule definitely does not apply.
So the next question is, why hasn’t he announced his decision – whatever it is?
There are several possibilities floating around regarding this. Some think that the mayor isn’t really serious about running and is only using it as a way to leverage concessions from the other presidential wannabes. Then there are those who feel that he is merely waiting for enough funding support before he commits to the campaign. Some speculate that he is a trojan horse for another candidate, for whom he would throw his support and captured votes at the right time. And still there are others who believe that the mayor is telling the truth when he says that he has no plans to run, and all this is simply being driven by the people around him.
As for myself, my guess is that he is holding back for the same reasons that kept Floyd Mayweather from taking on Pacquiao five years ago. Just like Money May, Mayor Duterte also has an unbeaten streak to protect. And as tempting as the presidency is, I cannot imagine that it is an easy choice to risk for the mere possibility of winning. It has to be a certainty. In line with this, if the numbers continue to become as favorable as the latest polls, I expect the chances of his running will increase as well.
Now presuming he does go for it, what are his chances of winning? Seriously.
Again basing on the most recent surveys, if Poe runs, everyone can go home and we might just as well hand her the keys to the palace. But since this is not yet a given and the vice presidency still remains an option for her, the possibility of a three cornered fight between Duterte, Binay, and Roxas for president still looms in the horizon. If this happens, I see Mayor Rody as having the inside track in becoming a minority president like Ramos in 1992.
The recent acrimonious history between Poe and Binay, which observers credit for the decline in the VP’s popularity, could mean the majority of those who would have voted for her as president would now go for either Roxas or Duterte. In this case, owing to his populist, celebrity-like image, Duterte should have the upper hand particularly in the areas of Mindanao and in the class D and E groups. It is also for this same reason that Binay can expect a further decline in support in favor of Duterte as the contrast between their candidacies become more and more pronounced. These developments should be enough for the mayor to come out with a slim margin of victory over Roxas, with Binay coming in third.
Once the issue of his running is settled, the next big question for the mayor would be his choice for vice president. While there may be many who are imminently qualified for this position, I feel that the best course would be for him to run solo and simply endorsing Poe for the position. By supporting her, the mayor not only benefits from Poe’s strong pull among those sectors where he is relatively weak, but also avoids the distractions of having to carry a less popular running mate that does not contribute anything positive to the campaign.
The last big question that remains, and one that goes directly into his ability to govern effectively after he wins, is wether or not he can do for the country what he has done for Davao?
The answer to this is crucial to his inherent attractiveness to the masses, and the point on which his whole candidacy turns. Just like Binay’s ganito kami sa Makati pitch, if Duterte can convince the rest of the country that the Davao experience can be replicated in every barangay, town, city, and province he should be a shoe in as the next resident of Malacanang.
But then this must be balanced against the inevitable attacks against his human rights records and persistent rumors connecting him with the summary executions of criminals in Davao. With De Lima, Rosales, and other hounds baying at his heels, it is entirely possible that they would be able to convince a significant enough portion of the population to reject the Duterte Doctrine of Discipline, and thereby pose a serious obstacle to his candidacy.
In this regard, his campaigners should not be led to a false sense of security owing to the unquestioning love of this city for its mayor. Davao after all is Davao, and its unique historical experience stemming from the lawlessness of the 1980’s makes it predisposed to Duterte’s style of governance. This is something that his campaign handlers should be always be cognizant of, especially when presenting the Davao model to other communities for example and emulation.
Because while Davaoeños have had the benefit of decades to grow into what we are now, trying to force the same on the rest of the Philippines in a shorter period of time would be like cooking those proverbial crabs by dumping them into an already boiling pot of water – expect a lot of trashing around.
Finally, there are those who say that the presidency is a matter of destiny. If this is true, then it is truly an honor to be a Davaoeño at this time when the fate of one of our own can lift the whole community – and the country – to heights yet unreached.