Wenceslao: Duterte magic or bitter pill?

The coming elections have brought about renewed attacks, especially in social media, of liberal democracy represented by 1Sambayan leaders, against rightist forces led by the the Duterte-Marcos alliance. This shows that the next presidential elections would be a rematch of the forces that were ranged against each other in 2016. The 1Sambayan has started planning for next year, with the main goal of having one united slate. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and his sister Imee have opened talks with presidential daughter Sara Duterte.

Caught in the middle is legendary boxer and Partido Demokratiko Pilipino or PDP head Manny Pacquiao, whose initial attempt to present an image of being independent was blocked by members of of the party he is leading who are loyal to Duterte. I don’t know the political fate of the other middle-ground players like Sen. Panfilo Lacson, as the positioning is still ongoing.

Leaders of the Duterte camp know that it would be premature to let go of Pacquiao, who had a following and resources of his own that could split it in half or almost a half. If 1Sambayan succeeds in uniting the liberal democratic forces, then a split Duterte camp would weaken its position considerably. Note that Pacquiao is also from Mindanao. It is thus not surprising that Malacañang has yet to openly attack Pacquiao.

A Marcos-Duterte teamup obviously needs somebody who could provide it with the sugarcoating. Pacquiao can make the Marcos-Duterte teamup a not-so-bitter pill to swallow for the voters. This time around, Duterte alone can’t help in rehabilitating the Marcos name because of his administration’s own misdeeds.

Admittedly, the surveys show that President Duterte is still popular. But populism failed this time around in the US with the defeat of former president Donald Trump. By the way, Duterte is the incumbent, which can be an added boost. But having Pacquiao in its fold would further raise its stock.

And like in the US, Duterte’s base is still formidable. Which means that if 1Sambayan splits, it can kiss its electoral goals goodbye. The strength of that base has already been proven in 2016. And it looks like its core has remained intact, as shown by the surveys. Which is what makes the coming presidential election interesting, even for local candidates.

We all know that when Duterte ran for President, some local candidates wisely pledged allegiance to him and won. Will the “Duterte magic” work this time around? Or is the “magic” still there? Of course, there were other factors why those candidates won. But Duterte’s popularity at that time was sky high.

This reality was not lost on Vice President Leni Robredo, who is lagging behind the Davao City mayor in surveys. Sara can also be a formidable candidate if she runs for President. But even a vice presidential run by the President can be a game-changer. This is a reality that the liberal democrats should prepare for.