My apologies for having been “absent” last Monday. I was planning to jot down my Monday article after the Sunday lunch, while my grandchildren were playing in the living room. I suddenly felt dizzy, and after a quick blood pressure check, my son-in-law brought me to the doctor. Happily, it was nothing serious. It must have been the stress and the stress-eating of the last few days, plus so many less-than-restful nights.
The week that passed was quite eventful in a bizarre way. But let me just recount the Friday (Oct. 16) experience.
At around 10:30 that Friday morning, I was informed that the private plane that was to bring Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was taking off at the Naia. No less than the plane’s owner, who himself went on that flight, confirmed this. I figured that if they fly back from Davao by 1:30 or thereabouts, it would be a photo-finish still to beat the 5:00 p.m. Comelec deadline. But not to worry, I was told. A chopper would be waiting at the hangar to bring the mayor to the helipad at Century Park Hotel in Vito Cruz, which would be at most a fifteen-minute ride to Intramuros.
While having lunch at Bonifacio Global City, my friends and I received an internet-posted copy of Inday Sara Duterte’s CoC for Mayor of Davao City. In our excitement, we did not bother to check whether it was duly received by the Davao Comelec office. We just jumped with joy, and assumed the long wait for the Digong Duterte run was over.
En route to Intramuros at around 2:15 that Friday afternoon, I got a cryptic text message from the plane owner: “Mukhang malabo na. Am still here at Davao airport.”
I called up a lawyer-friend, whose firm, I assumed, would have prepared the documents for filing. No, they did not have a special power-of-attorney to file for the Davao mayor, just in case. By then, we were already straddling Bonifacio Drive beside the Intramuros Golf Course. Oh my God!
Getting down past the Comelec and near the BF Condominium after the Ayuntamiento, I immediately called Davao. This was past 2:30, to my recollection. And I could imagine the scene inside the simple home of Mayor Duterte. The “movie in my mind.”
He was still holed up inside his room with a family member. Not Inday Sara, who had earlier signed her CoC in anticipation, even perhaps—resignation to the inevitability of her father’s presidential run. The mayor still refused to sign the notice of withdrawal of his mayoral CoC filed Thursday before the Davao Comelec by his city administrator and chief-of-staff, with whom I was on the phone that Friday afternoon.
I will not break confidences about the family drama that was happening in those precious moments leading to the deadline.
The Saturday before (Oct. 10), the mayor repeated to me the problem of his wife Elizabeth, who was suffering from cancer, and refused further treatment in Singapore at a specialty hospital bearing her own name. She had asked him not to run, and have time for the children instead. (The three children were all grown-up adults, but a suffering woman thinks of all her children as kids nonetheless.)
Later Saturday evening, upon entering the small sing-along bar which was his nocturnal hang-out, and where close friends from all over the country congregated, in what seemed to be a final reunion before the filing, Duterte strode right beside the pianist and belted out a number of songs. No speech, just singing. In retrospect, that scene seemed a foreboding of the gut-wrenching events of Friday the 16th.
It was already 3 p.m. on Friday the 16th. There was no way he could make it to Manila. There was no special power of attorney for somebody to file in his stead. The only way was for someone to file as a candidate of his party, the PDP-Laban, so there would be a window for the possibility of substitution before the Dec. 10 deadline.
Phone calls were made (not by this writer) to PDP head Senator Koko Pimentel. But my friend was told that the good senator wanted clearance from the mayor himself, for good reason.
By 3:30 that afternoon, I left Intramuros for home. We had a “waiting room” in a watering hole near the Luneta but I did not bother to drop by. “Bahala na si Batman,” I thought. “Que sera, sera (What will be, will be).”
Reaching home at a little past four, I switched on the TV, and monitored the scenes at the Comelec. A series of phone calls from the “intervenors” peppered the anticipatory watch of the “countdown” to 5 p.m. Finally, at 4:40 p.m., I was told that Martin Dino, PDP-Laban stalwart in Manila, had entered the Legal Department office and would file his certificate of candidacy for president.
Later that evening, while preparing dinner, my daughter sobbingly uttered: “Bakit ganoon? Para namang pinaglaruan niya ang aming mga sentiments.” In my mind I could imagine that so many other young netizens must have felt abandoned.
I could not respond. I could not tell her about the drama inside the Duterte household that must have been quite painful to the mayor, but which in his characteristically tough-talking stance, he hid from the public while he was being interviewed by Anthony Taberna and Gerry Baja over their Dos por Dos teleradyo show that Friday evening.
Duterte cried when he saw the dead bodies sprawled in Tacloban the second day after Yolanda left. He weeps unabashedly when he sees a young cancer patient in a care center he built for them in his city. But before the public, in a public interview, he had to hide the feelings welling up in his heart because it was a choice between the desire to answer the public clamor, and the private entreaties of family, especially that of a woman whose life was being eaten up by cancer.
Which probably explains why he bitterly denounced in that interview an attempt by a blogger a month or so ago, to falsely “expose” that the mayor himself was suffering from a cancer of the throat.
Epilogue: Saturday night, the mayor was in Manila to attend a birthday of a friend. The following night, he attended another social event, much smaller and more intimate, with close friends. Going up to the venue at Greenbelt 5, he was mobbed by the public, some pleading with him to run, even if the deadline had passed.
A Rappler journalist happened to be on the scene, and using her cellphone to record an impromptu interview, he uttered, “may December pa naman,” after repeated “kakulitan” about whether there was still a chance that he would change his mind.
And to the readers of The Standard, if I were to be asked, my answer is “still… ewan.”