A Pulse Asia survey that showed Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte topping other presidential contenders this month is a culmination of sorts for the Mindanaoan official, whose avowed refusal to run for the presidency was upended by what he claimed was the unacceptable ruling of the Senate Electoral Tribunal that recognized Sen. Grace Poe’s citizenship as Filipino.
In statements he issued that were picked up by both traditional and social media, the Davao City mayor said all bets were off and that his candidacy was on the table with the SET ruling.
What followed next was a wave of rallies that included one in UP Cebu, where supporters voiced their appeal for the mayor to confirm his candidacy. But like Poe, Duterte encountered a bump on the road when it was learned that his substitute (decoy?) candidate Martin Dino ran for the wrong position (Pasay City mayor) rather than the presidency.
Like Poe, whom Duterte cited as the reason for reconsidering his presidential bid, the erroneous certificate of candidacy served as the stumbling block for him to enter as a substitute candidate of the PDP-Laban.
Thus, in a way, the two found themselves in similar straits under different legal circumstances. Different boats to be sure, but both rocked by legal troubles that can threaten their 2016 election plans.
But it’s not as if the mayor doesn’t know how to wiggle out of this legal challenge. One of his political allies, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, is a bar topnotcher. And he has the fortune of having former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes on his side.
Both Poe and Duterte will have the legitimacy of their candidacies dragged into protracted legal disputes that Filipinos will find too tedious and tiresome to assess. Thus, they will look into other areas that they think will matter to them.
After lagging behind in surveys, Duterte’s sudden resurgence is partly explained by the Aquino administration’s latest string of failures: the monstrous traffic jam, deteriorating mass transport system, corruption in the airport and in Customs, and so on.
It also helped that Duterte had won some support from officials in the Visayas and Mindanao as well as earned some interest among social media users in Luzon looking for other potential candidates for the presidency other than Poe.
Speaking of Poe, her supporters have brushed aside the latest Pulse Asia survey as something of a fluke, caused no doubt by Duterte’s own hemming and hawing that may have turned a lot of people off but also drew in some people intrigued by what this mayor from the south can offer to them aside from the motherhood statements offered by other rivals.
It’s more than a month away from 2016 and a lot of things can still happen but this early, the presidential race is offering Filipino voters yet another alternative choice.
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