Malilong: Cast in stone

·3 min read

With less than four months to go before the filing of certificates of candidacy, President Duterte made his clearest hint yet about his political plan after the presidency or, perhaps more accurately, the lack of it. In a wide-ranging interview with religious sect leader Apollo Quiboloy, Duterte said he is not keen on running for Vice President.

On or about the same time that the President gave the interview, former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano advised Duterte to not run for the office that he once sought and lost. Don’t run for Vice President because you might only be hurting your legacy, Cayetano said. Be an elder statesman like former President Fidel Ramos.

It is presumptuous to say that Duterte listened or will listen to what Cayetano has to say about his future or his legacy. The President is his own man. But Cayetano’s advice is the most sober yet among the many comments I’ve read in the midst of a determined push by a powerful bloc in the PDP-Laban to convince Duterte to 1) run for Vice President and 2) choose his presidential candidate.

Over the course of the last five years, Duterte has repeatedly said that he was tired of being the President and mused that if only he could resign. Why would he allow himself to go through the same torment for another six years, especially since those who are urging him to give it another try envision him to be not the usual, spare tire type second-in-command but the real power wielder?

But power is seductive and Duterte might just give in to temptation and declare, okay but only for six more years. That could happen especially when you consider how he vehemently disavowed any presidential ambition in 2016, only to eventually change his mind. Still, there is no reason to believe that he did not mean what he said during his interview, done with a man of religion, no less. He even said that he already has “certain people” in mind who would succeed him and, bad news for those behind the Run Sara Run campaign, it’s not going to be his daughter.

It certainly is not going to be Sen. Manny Pacquiao either. In fact, Duterte had choice words for the administration party president in response to his observation that Duterte’s stance on the conflict with China over the West Philippine Sea was not strong enough. “Mag-aral ka muna nang husto,” the President told Pacquiao. When somebody tells you to study more, it is not exactly a ringing indorsement, is it?

Pacquiao should be ruing the day he made that comment. The President had in the past referred to Pacquiao as presidentiable and while he is known for cracking jokes, a lighthearted indorsement would have been better than none at all or worse, derision.

With the President’s immense popularity, an indorsement coming from him would have made the battle for the presidency more than half won for Pacquiao or anyone, for that matter. Now, Pacquiao will have to paddle his own canoe or, more appropriately, to lace his own gloves. He would still be a serious contender, with or without the President’s support, but think of the head start he would be enjoying if Duterte would raise his hand.

So if not Sara and definitely not Pacquiao, who is/are the person/s that Duterte has in mind as successor? Ping Lacson, a friend suggested. Didn’t he just declare that he will run for President if Senate President Tito Sotto agrees to become his Vice President? And didn’t Sotto just announce that he will run for Vice President only under Lacson? “It’s cast in stone,” Lacson said, referring to the tandem.

How some people must be fervently wishing now that Duterte would declare with the same certainty his choice for successor.

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