Duterte’s House Divide (Part 2 of 2)

In my last column, I talked about the “Curse of Incumbency” which refers to the inability of candidates endorsed by the incumbent President to win the Presidency which seemed to be the trend post-EDSA elections. This is rooted in the “law of diminishing political returns” in which the popularity of the President declines over time. As such, association with an unpopular outgoing president usually is a “kiss of death” for the administration’s candidate.

For a while, it looked like the Duterte administration could break the trend. He has a net-satisfaction of +60, which is the highest satisfaction rating any outgoing President has ever had. Duterte, however, has become the first incumbent President not to have a surrogate candidate in the 2022 Presidential elections.

Why is this the case? Well, blame it on the decision of Sara Duterte to run as Bongbong Marcos’ VP, leading to the consolidation of voters. A comparison of the September and January Pulse Asia surveys is crucial. In the September, Pulse Asia survey- which was held before the filing of COCs, Sara Duterte led all candidates with 20%, followed by Bongbong Marcos (15%); Domagoso (13%); Pacquiao (12%); Poe (9%); Robredo (8%); Lacson (6%); Cayetano (4%); and Go (3%).

Sara’s lead in the polls was tenuous. She had a huge 47% rating in Mindanao, but was tied for 1st place in Visayas with Pacquiao. She was a dismal 3rd place in NCR and Luzon, indicating that she did not have the same appeal to Luzon-based voters as her father had in 2016.

In the meantime, her father’s political party was heavily pushing for Bong Go-Rodrigo Duterte tandem. The President had even confirmed his desire in August 2021. If Rodrigo Duterte were to push through with his Vice-Presidential run, it would sink Sara Duterte’s only clear asset- her 40 point lead over her closest competitor in Mindanao, Manny Pacquiao.

Sara Duterte also had much better numbers in the Vice-Presidential race. Senate President Vicente Sotto was her only main rival for the position. Isko Moreno was in the Vice-Presidential survey, but rumors had been swirling that it was “President or bust” for the Mayor of the City of Manila.

So, in a simple case of Presidential arithmetic, Sara Duterte slid down to the Vice-Presidential race as the running mate of Bongbong Marcos. With her Mindanao base and Marcos’ ancestral “Solid North”, it was the tandem with clearest advantage. It also had the benefit of eliminating her father, Vice President Rodrigo Duterte from the race. He would never run against his own daughter.

Bong Go was also forced to withdraw his bid for the Presidency. The President’s endorsement was enough to bring him to the Senate, but not to the Palace. The November Laylo survey showed that only 9% of Filipinos would vote for him. He was competitive in Mindanao as a whole (20%), and good numbers in the Zamboanga Peninsula (39%), CARAGA (21%), BARMM (21%), Davao Region (18%) and Northern Mindanao (16%).

However, the presence of Manny Pacquiao, who was also from Mindanao and to whom half of the ruling party (PDP-Laban) had sworn allegiance, put the nail in the coffin in Bong Go’s presidential ambitions and paved the way for the consolidation of voters behind Bongbong Marcos.

IMG Source for Photo in graphics: mayorduterteforpresident.blogspot.com

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