THE entry of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte into the 2016 presidential race is a game changer as he is likely to take votes away from Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II and hurt survey frontrunner Senator Grace Poe, political analysts said Sunday.
“He is a game changer, not in the sense that he will be the frontrunner. Nor will he likely change the top one and top two posts held by Senator Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay,” said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.
“He is a game changer because the votes will now be spread around and one candidate will lose votes more than the others. And it is Mar [Roxas] who will really suffer from this development. In previous surveys, Roxas was in the third spot while Duterte was in the fourth. If Duterte performs well, he can easily dislodge Mar for the third spot,” he added.
Casiple said Roxas’ bailiwick—the Visayas—will likely go for Duterte, who is also very popular among Mindanao-based voters.
But Casiple said it is unlikely for Duterte to dislodge Poe because she is already “too high” in recent surveys.
“Even if she loses some votes to Duterte, I think she will still be the frontrunner,” he said.
Antonio Contreras, the political science professor from De La Salle University who filed a disqualification case against Poe before the Commission on Elections, said Duterte’s entry could also change the votes in the Senate Electoral Tribunal that recently dismissed a separate petition filed by Rizalito David to oust her from the Senate on questions about her citizenship.
In the SET, Senator Pia Cayetano, the sister of vice presidential candidate Alan Peter Cayetano, had voted with the 5-4 majority to dismiss the disqualification petition.
But Contreras said Duterte’s decision could spur Pia Cayetano to change her vote, since Duterte could choose her brother as his running mate.
In fact, he said, the Cayetano siblings had earlier gone to Davao City to convince Duterte to run for President.
Over the weekend, Duterte said he would run for President because he was angered by the SET decision that said Poe, a foundling, was a natural-born citizen and therefore qualified to sit as a senator and to seek the presidency.
“I cannot accept an American president,” Duterte said, referring to Poe, who had once renounced her Philippine citizenship to become an American citizen.
Senatorial candidate Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, and other House leaders welcomed Duterte’s change of heart.
On Saturday, Duterte announced at the Iloilo Convention Center before the Philippine Gastroentrologists Society that because the SET was “flaunting the Constitution,” his presidential candidacy was “on the table.”
Later that evening, at a birthday party of his friend, lawyer Alfred Lim in Cavite, Duterte said he was definitely running for President.
Romualdez said Duterte was a welcome addition to the presidential race, saying he will be a good leader because of his “malasakit” (compassion).
“He will definitely add spice to the presidential contest and I believe Mayor Duterte will make a good President,” said Romualdez after the Davao City mayor confirmed he will run for President next year.
“Mayor Duterte has been a good friend and is close to my heart.The Taclobanons appreciate the fact that the mayor immediately came to their rescue after the Super Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ flattened Tacloban City and several other areas in Eastern Visayas in November 2013,” Romualdez said.
“When he learned about the extent of Yolanda devastation in Tacloban, Duterte immediately provided the much-needed help for the victims and survivors, such as engineers, medicine and relief packages,” Romualdez said.
The ruling Liberal Party and administration allies welcomed Duterte’s announcement, but said their standard bearer is “capable of waging a good and clean battle to win the presidency.”
“We welcome Mayor Duterte’s entry to the presidential race, but we are not threatened,” said party-list Rep. Carol Jane Lopez of the You Against Corruption and Poverty, a staunch Roxas ally. “One thing is for sure, we have our own brand and strong campaign message and platforms of government to sell, which are both anchored on the continuity of the straight path. Secretary Mar remains formidable and strong and the most qualified… among the presidential candidates. It’s a democratic country and everybody has the right to seek the presidency for as long they are qualified.’’
Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexie Nograles, a stalwart of the National Unity Party, endorsed the presidential bid of Duterte, who may team up with Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party.
Nograles said the country needs a strong leader with an iron fist to implement the full force of the law.
“I am one with the people of Davao and the entire nation in supporting Mayor Rody Duterte for President. In times like these where peace and order are sorely lacking in the country and we are facing terrorism within and outside our shores, where injustice prevails and the rule of law is set aside at the whims and caprices of the powerful, we need a leader who is decisive…who wields an iron-fist against transgressors of the law, but cares for the downtrodden and the victims, who is swift to act and results-oriented, one who comes from the Filipino masses and whose heart belongs to them. We need Rody Duterte to lead us to a better Philippines and a more peaceful future for all Filipinos to share,” Nograles said.
Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, a stalwart of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, which is believed to be supporting the tandem of Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero, agreed that Duterte would be a welcome addition to the presidential race.
“We hope to hear his platforms of government if he does finally decide to run for President. But yet again, the NPC is still undergoing its deliberative and consultative process of selecting its choice for the presidency in 2016 to support,” he said.
The Davao City mayor is being seen as a substitute presidential candidate of the Partido Demoktratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan to which he belongs, after his party mate Martin Diño withdrew his certificate of candidacy for President.
Earlier, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, president of the PDP-Laban, said Duterte is not obliged to run in next year’s presidential polls despite the party’s designation of him as a substitute candidate for President based on a resolution approved by the party’s national council.
Pimentel said members of the PDP-Laban would not force Duterte to run though they want them him to join the presidential race.
Duterte has up to Dec. 10 to file his CoC for President.
Also on Sunday, Escudero slammed Duterte for attacking Poe.
“Mayor Duterte does not need to hit Senator Grace and use the decision of the SET in her favor as an excuse to run,” Escudero said.
“In fact, quite the contrary, an unfavorable decision against Senator Grace could have been a putatively better excuse, according to some analysts,” he added.
Escudero, the running mate of Poe in the upcoming polls, issued the statement in the wake of Duterte’s pronouncements that Poe cannot run for President because she is not a natural-born Filipino citizen.
Reports quoted Duterte as saying that he was terribly disappointed with the decision of the nine-man tribunal that junked Poe’s disqualification case over question on her citizenship.
Escudero said that while he respected Duterte’s opinion, he disagreed with it.
“Even the SET disagrees with him,” he added.
“Laws are used to render justice, not injustice, and I believe the SET rendered justice to Senator Grace Poe and all other foundlings similarly situated. As the saying goes, those who have less in life should have more in law’” Escudero said.
“Other than the barefaced allegation by the opponents and detractors of Senator Grace that she is not a Filipino, there is no iota of evidence that even suggests that she is American or any other nationality for that matter,” he added.
Cayetano, who was at the same party as Duterte in Cavite when he said he would run, could not be reached for comment.
Before his announcement Saturday, Duterte had consistently said he is not interested in seeking the presidency.
Duterte’s spokesperson Pete Tiu Lavina said in his Facebook account: “Now that Mayor Rody Duterte has come out openly about his possible run in 2016, attack dogs of other camps were instantly let loose.
“Expect the black propaganda to intensify again similar tio the failed attempt to portray the mayor as suffering from stage 4 cancer. Expect too ‘eager beaver’ Palace hands to try to book the mayor for alleged human rights violations and link him to the so-called DDS (Davao Death Squad).”
Still others will try to stop him by questioning his substitution.
Poe’s spokesman,Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, said they welcome Duterte’s decision to run for president.
“The more choices the people have the better. Clearly his entry to the presidential race will raise the discourse on issues this coming elections,” he said.
“Though we are saddened and do not agree with the position of Mayor Duterte on Senator Poe’s citizenship and the status of foundlings, his decision to seek the presidency will make our democracy stronger and more vibrant,” he said. With Rio N. Araja