Duterte’s VP choice improves his odds

Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Nov 27 2015 02:16 PM

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has chosen Alan Peter Cayetano for his running mate in the 2016 election. His representative filed today at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) main office his certificate of candidacy as substitute presidential candidate for the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

We still don’t know if Duterte will be allowed to replace anti-crime and anti-political dynasty activist Martin Dino as PDP-Laban standard-bearer. But already, he’s set the political landscape aflame.

Also today, Duterte withdrew his certificate of candidacy for the Davao mayoralty race. His feisty daughter, Sara, also former mayor, is expected to substitute for him.

Aides and supporters believe those disillusioned by months of shadow boxing will come back once campaign season starts.

We don’t even know the numbers of disappointed supporters. On social media, I see only a small group of genuinely turned-off fans. Most comments about his urong-sulong style come from people who’ve always disliked the strongman from the south. The bulk of his supporters kept faith even when Duterte read what sounded like an unequivocal retreat.

WATCH: Duterte says sorry, won't run for president

Wooing Duterte

Since they expressed intentions of running for higher office, Cayetano and fellow Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. have wooed Duterte.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, another presidential aspirant, has publicly picked Marcos as her running mate. But the son of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos has yet to name her as his principal.

Marcos and Cayetano are practically tied in vice-presidential surveys, behind Senate colleague Francis “Chiz” Escudero.

A Pulse Asia survey commissioned by ABS-CBN and conducted from August 27 to September 3 this year, showed the two men getting seven percent of voters’ nods.

A subsequent survey from the same firm, conducted from September 8 – 14 with a bigger group of respondents, showed Marcos slightly advancing, with 13% to Cayetano’s 9%.

Marcos bagged 24% and Cayetano 20% in a recent Metro Manila Pulse Asia survey, commissioned by Duterte supporters. The survey firm says it is a tie based on number of respondents and margin of error.

Why Cayetano?

Those figures made it easier for Duterte to choose Cayetano, despite Marcos' so-called “Solid North” clout.

Duterte is close to both men. But he gives props to Cayetano’s doggedness in courting him. He also acknowledges the younger man’s capabilities. Marcos was once a governor; Cayetano, like Escudero, has a solid legislative record.

Political analysts and University of Sto. Tomas political science professor Edmund Tayao says the lawmaker from Taguig City "will provide finesse, a soft touch, which many think is lacking with the mayor."

Maybe, but I don't think Duterte gives much thought to finesse.

The shadow of the Marcos dictatorship gave Cayetano the edge. Duterte was a former activist and is close to the underground Left. But his actions and pronouncements indicate he’s not much bothered by human rights baggage.

On the other hand, many who like his strongman persona remain opposed to Marcos, on grounds of his family’s ties to massive corruption. Part of Duterte’s charm is due to his perceived distaste for corruption.

And there is the Muslim vote. During the Senate Mamasapano hearings, Cayetano was very hostile towards the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the biggest Muslim rebel group.

Marcos, however, chairs the committee in charge of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law. He is also the author of a version that turns the measure to slush. His father triggered widespread rebellion among Mindanao’s Muslims and memories of massive bombings and attacks linger.

I asked Norodin Alonto Lucman, who has filed as senatorial candidate and is expected to be on a Duterte slate: How does he feel about his bet choosing Cayetano as running mate?

His answer: “Honestly, do we have a choice? Bongbong Marcos is a liability in Mindanao although it was assumed that he will deliver the North and Western Visayas votes. That is wishful thinking. Bisaya and Mindanaoans will vote for Duterte, hands down. Cayetano is a good prop but he might learn a thing or two about humility with Mayor Duterte.”

But for most voters, it’s not a package deal.

Escudero – also not seen as a friend of the MILF -- had more than double the preference rate of Marcos and Cayetano in Mindanao in the Pulse Asia Sept. surveys. (His lead is bigger in the Visayas.)

The MILF-influenced voters can always choose Rep. Leni Robredo, staunch backer of the BBL. The Bangsamoro under the MILF’s influence also dislike Mar Roxas despite their leaders’ ties to President Benigno Aquino III.

We won’t know how Robredo’s doing nationwide until new survey results come out in December. The widow of the late interior secretary Jesse Robredo lags behind in Metro Manila.

Cayetano's ratings may get a boost from Duterte. But in choosing him, Duterte may cement the support of Filipinos who like him but are leery of the Marcos name. Besides, those who like Marcos may be expected to vote for him, too.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.