Malilong: Duterte for vice president?

Frank Malilong
·3 min read

WHO will be the PDP-Laban candidate for President next year?

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the matter was discussed during a “consultative meeting” in Manila on March 8. In case you’re wondering what a Cabinet member was doing in a political gathering, Cusi happens to be a vice chair of the ruling party.

They’re not saying if a consensus was reached on the issue of the 2022 PDP-Laban standard bearer during the meeting, but two days later, Cusi was in Cebu to ask local party leaders to sign a petition urging President Duterte to run for Vice President.

Party president Sen. Manny Pacquiao is not amused. Apparently, he was not in the March 8 gathering when it was decided to draft a petition asking Duterte to “slide” to Vice President to ensure that “government will be able to expeditiously and effectively deliver our people, our communities, our economy back to good health.”

The other day, Pacquiao not only disowned the resolution as “not sanctioned” and “not authorized,” he publicly scolded Cusi for politicking amid urgent national concerns. “Do not poison the minds of a few members of our party,” the party president sternly admonished one of his vice chairmen.

The sight of politicians piously invoking a national emergency as reason not to talk about politics is one too many in our little corner of the earth. Most, if not all, of the time, it is baloney.

His having been blindsided in the decision to draft the Duterte-for-vice president petition is good reason for Pacquiao to be miffed, of course. But something tells me there is a deeper and more personal reason behind his rather disproportionate reaction. He could have privately called Cusi to stop what he was doing instead of publicly castigating him. But he did not.

Pacquiao is known to harbor presidential ambitions. Is it possible that the leaders who attended the consultation meeting have in fact agreed on their candidate for President and it was not the national boxing icon? Corollarily, is the request to ask Duterte to run for No. 2 part of the scenario to boost their choice bet’s confidence and convince him to discontinue acting coy and declare unequivocally that yes, he was in the hunt for the presidency?

Who could their choice be?

Let me answer that with more questions: Is it coincidental that during the last few days, Duterte brought up the idea of Sen. Bong Go succeeding him in the Palace at least twice? Is it also a coincidence that Cusi is a known Go ally and that the people who arranged his meeting with local leaders last week were also close to Go?

Go was present during the two instances that Duterte endorsed him for President and both times, he said that his former boss was joking and that besides, he was not interested in the presidency.

What happened two years ago may be instructive. When his name was first floated as a possible candidate for senator in 2019, Go fared badly in the surveys, along with Bato dela Rosa. But after Duterte actively campaigned for them, Go and dela Rosa won comfortably.

Is it possible that Go’s backers realize that Duterte has to do something more than just mount a similar campaign for Go in order to make him win the presidency and that this something more means agreeing to be his former assistant’s running mate? Duterte remains hugely popular; he can easily pull along another candidate to victory.

It’s a possibility, Manny Pacquiao notwithstanding. Queerer things have happened in Philippine politics, you know.