The Bongbong-Sara juggernaut

By: Artemio V. Panganiban - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | November 14,2021 - 08:30 AM

All the while, I thought Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio would vie for the top post. I thought she would be the substitute candidate for president of the Lakas-CMD Party of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) and that Bongbong Marcos would be her vice-presidential mate. The big surprise is she is indeed running under the aegis the Lakas, but only for the VP slot.

Between the two, I thought that Sara was the more capable and more electable candidate. As mayor of Davao, she has shown gutsiness and strong leadership, without cursing God, the Pope, the US president, or the fairer gender. Unquestionably, she has the credentials of a college degree and of passing the bar exams, compared with Bongbong’s much-derided study at the pedigreed Oxford University and the elitist Wharton School of Business. Besides, at 43, Sara would resonate glowingly with the vast majority of the electorate.

Aside from being older at 64, Bongbong carries a megaton of baggage. While his being a Marcos would bring him the command votes of the Ilocanos, nonetheless, he will have to answer for the alleged $10 billion stash of his parents, much of which had been judged by the Supreme Court as ill-gotten or ceded voluntarily by his father’s cronies to the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

The suits to cancel Bongbong’s certificate of candidacy (COC) will be a major baggage during the campaign. Lodged before the Commission on Election (Comelec), the petitions are anchored basically on two grounds:

(1) His conviction via a final judgment of the Court of Appeals for his failure to file and pay his income tax for the years 1982-1985 and his failure to reveal his conviction in his COC constitute “false material representations” which, under the Omnibus Election Code, disqualify him from holding any public office, or at least show “moral turpitude;” and (2) Under the Tax Code, anyone who fails to file tax returns or to pay the tax thereon is “perpetually… disqualified from holding any public office…”

To be fair, I will not venture my opinion on these suits until I hear Bongbong’s answer or comment on the petitions.

For now, let me just say that any decision of the Comelec is appealable to the Supreme Court. The lengthy proceedings can affect Bongbong’s run positively or negatively. If our people will believe the charge of tax dodging, he will be voted out. But if his handlers can turn the suits into persecution, he may be viewed as a victim and an underdog. Since our people love underdogs, he could gather even more momentum.

Despite the political muscle of Sara and the heavy baggage of Bongbong, the tandem would be Bongbong-Sara, instead of Sara-Bongbong. But even a Bongbong-Sara team will be formidable as it would unite the Solid North with the Solid South given Inday’s dominance in Mindanao and the expected endorsement of Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia whose daughter, Liloan (Cebu) Mayor Christina Garcia-Frasco, is Sara’s spokesperson.

What I did not anticipate completely is the counter-move of the PDP-Laban to field anew Bong Go for president and President Duterte (PRRD) for vice president. Unimaginable it is that the father would oppose his daughter in a public display of a family dispute.

This intramural within the ruling dynasty will adversely affect Bongbong, because PRRD can join the disqualification battle against him. And with the President weighing in, the cards would definitely be weighed heavily against the junior of the former dictator.

Moreover, since Sara is running under the aegis of GMA, this could mean a frontal battle between the two cunning presidents and, of course, their respective dynasties. Consider that GMA is running unopposed for a congressional seat in Pampanga. With a Bongbong-Sara victory, she could be the incoming speaker (again) in 2022.

The other candidates will have to face the reality of a daunting Bongbong-Sara juggernaut and a looming Bong-PRRD offensive. How will Leni Robredo, Isko Moreno, Manny Pacquiao, and Ping Lacson find their way in this confused and confusing political turmoil considering that the deadline for substitution is nearly over? Will this division in the ranks of the pols in power benefit the opposition? Will it unite Leni, Isko Moreno, Manny Pacquiao, and Ping Lacson? Or will they be encouraged even more to pursue their separate quests in the hope that they could win via a plurality in this multi-pronged election?

These questions deserve a future column.

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TAGS: Bongbong-Sara, GMA, Lakas-CMD Party of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio

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