Malilong: Go Bong Go

·3 min read

INITIALLY dismissed as a joke, the push to draft President Duterte as PDP-Laban candidate for vice president in next year’s elections is getting more serious. Will he give in to the clamor of his people?

It has not been done before. Hundreds of term-limited local chief executives run for vice governor or vice mayor every election cycle to make sure that they are not far removed from power while waiting for the next election but the idea of a sitting president “sliding” to the vice presidency was unheard of until this year.

Of course, it can be done. What is prohibited by the Constitution is the reelection of the president, not his running for any other office. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for instance, ran for Congress, eventually becoming its speaker, after she stepped out of Malacañang.

But who is he supposed to run with, the senior partner he will theoretically play second fiddle to for the next six years? The plan’s plotters have chosen to play coy. Let Duterte choose his candidate for president, they said.

There are only two obvious choices in my book: his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara, or his long time former aide, Sen. Bong Go. Between the two, Sara is the less likely to be chosen because a Duterte-Duterte tandem will push to the limit the people’s tolerance of political dynastycism. Besides, the younger Duterte can win on her own without her father backstopping her.

On the other hand, Go needs Duterte as political wingman for him to be able to contend for the presidency. Go (and another Duterte protege, Bato dela Rosa) were faring badly in the pre-election surveys in 2016 until Duterte came to their rescue. I’m sure that experience is not lost among Go’s backers.

Note also that the Duterte for vice president movement surfaced not very long after the president “joked” that Go wanted to become president. Go’s friends may have taken the supposed joke as an endorsement. And perhaps rightly so.

Go’s backers are not wrong about a Go-Duterte ticket being formidable. But it has its flaws. Both are from Mindanao -- from the same city, no less -- and that may alienate the president’s allies in Luzon. Go-Duterte can carry Mindanao handily but they still need the votes from the National Capital Region and the rest of Luzon to be assured of victory.

Then there is that wrong messaging about a Vice President Duterte being able to ensure continuity of his programs. This is unfair to Go or for that matter to any Duterte-designated presidential candidate because it portrays him to be just a puppet on a string. The PDP-Laban has to revisit this narrative. Duterte’s president may be indeed designed to be purely ceremonial but there’s no sense in rubbing it in.

The Go-Duterte may yet turn out to be a ruse to divert the opposition’s attention from the real candidates. Or may be not. Go Bong Go doesn’t sound too bad as a campaign blurb to rival Run Sara Run in that event, does it?

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