Duterte-Marcos gets going

Everyone was looking at Chiz. And then Bongbong happened.

Before yesterday, the man to beat for the vice presidency was Senator Chiz Escudero. The primacy of Escudero, running mate of Senator Grace Poe, forced the other presidential candidates to look south of Manila, to the traditionally bloc-voting Bicol region.

The result of the effort to deprive Escudero of the estimated six million votes of the Bicolanos—his supposed margin of victory, all things being equal— has made the race for the highest post in the land look like a regional election, with all of the candidates claiming roots in the land of the fiery, labuyo-laced dishes. Leni Robredo, Antonio Trillanes, Gringo Honasan and even Alan Peter Cayetano (through his wife, Lani, of Tiwi, Albay) all trace their roots to Bicolandia, just like Sorsogon’s Escudero.

But because Chiz’ popularity extends beyond the provinces of Bicol, he was still picked as the frontrunner. Robredo will probably have the biggest chance of taking away Bicolano votes from Escudero, but she will need all the machinery and resources of the administration Liberal Party to defeat Chiz in the rest of the country.

Then Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos declared for the vice presidency yesterday. And suddenly, the vice presidency isn’t all about Bicol anymore.

And the race for the second-highest position in the land just got a lot more interesting—and got out of the Bicol region, as well.

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Marcos has long been courted by Vice President Jejomar Binay to be his running mate. But Bongbong has declared that he has decided to turn down Binay and will support Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte instead.

It appears that Binay is already convinced that Marcos is not moving over to his United Nationalist Alliance party. And so, a very reluctant Honasan has been pressed into service as Binay’s running mate.

But why did Marcos decide to forsake Binay and embrace Duterte—who has not even declared as a presidential candidate—instead? The first paragraphs of Marcos’ statement explain:

“I have decided to run for Vice President in the May 2016 elections.

“All these talks of teaming up with certain leading political candidates have been mere speculations.

“I flew to Davao City on Wednesday and consulted with Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. He was gracious enough to promise me his support, should I decide to run for Vice President. I, too, will support Mayor Duterte if and when he runs for President.

“Regarding Vice President Jejomar Binay, I was invited to be his vice presidential candidate. There were initial talks between our supporters. But any teamup with the Vice President must be rooted on a shared vision for our country, a common platform of government as well as political perspectives.

“Unfortunately it would be difficult for me to tame our political differences.”

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The question, of course, is: Will Duterte run?

Having already answered that question in the affirmative in a previous column, I will say now that I am, more than ever, convinced that he will. Now that Marcos has all but declared that he will run with Duterte and only with Duterte “if and when” the feisty mayor decides to do so, I think the Davao mayor has already made up his mind, as well.

I am also convinced that Duterte will make a very viable candidate, apart from being a clearly differentiated one among the Manila-centric bets who have already declared their intentions. I also suspect that the Davao mayor will easily vault into the top three or top two positions in the current rankings, as soon as he declares for the presidency.

As one prescient political analyst said of the mayor, Duterte has a tremendous upside. And with Marcos as his running mate, the mayor of Davao’s solid Mindanao following will be balanced with the Northern Luzon bailiwick of the Ilocano senator.

Geography aside, Duterte and Marcos make a fine pair ideologically, as well. The mayor’s tough law-and-order platform goes well with the thoughtful, deliberate reputation of Ferdinand Marcos’ son. Neither of them have been identified with the current Aquino administration, either, something which would certainly attract the votes of those who think the other candidates are all (or mostly, anyway) surrogates of the Yellow regime.

Duterte-Marcos looks to be the perfect antidote to the blandness and interchangeability of the current crop of candidates. What remains to be seen is if this hot, new pairing is as good as it’s been advertised.

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