[ANALYSIS] Elephant in the room: Sara Duterte

Many of these new endorsements for Leni Robredo and Isko Moreno are twinned not with their running mates but vice presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. These should actually be ringing alarm bells.

Elections are a numbers game. In an ideal world, they should also be about principles. That includes the courting and handling of political alliances and treatment of one’s running mate.

Supporters of Vice President and opposition presidential candidate Leni Robredo and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno of Aksyon Demokratiko have cheered every report of endorsements by politicians identified with President Rodrigo Duterte.

These should actually be ringing alarm bells.

Many of these new Leni and Isko endorsements are twinned not with their running mates but vice presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

In Maguindanao, Moreno’s first major Mindanao foray, the call for ISSA (Isko-Sara) was so strong that his campaign manager Lito Banayo had to ask Aksyon’s presidential bet Willie Ong to avoid coming.

The Garcia political dynasty of Cebu first agreed on their united support for the President’s daughter, before splitting into Marcos and Moreno camps in the presidential race.

In Bicol, where rival politicians came together to back the candidacy of fellow Bicolano Robredo, many veterans like Albay Representative Joey Salceda were pointedly silent about her running mate, Senator Kiko Pangilinan. The Congressman is a known Sara fan and even urged her to run for the presidency.

In the Visayas, only Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas are the confirmed Leni-Kiko backers.

Negros Occidental Governor Bong Lacson was hailed for standing his ground on Robredo, getting a big part of the cheers during her March 11 Bacolod City grand rally. But, a few days later, he told SunStar Bacolod that he was backing Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, not Pangilinan, for vice president. Sagay City Mayor Thirdy Marañon and Cadiz City Mayor Salvador Escalante are known to be Leni-Sara campaigners.

The Leni-Sara push is stronger in Eastern Visayas, where eight mayors first endorsed Robredo while stressing their loyalty to the daughter of the President. They were followed by Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone, whose curious endorsement cited the President. On his heels came Northern Samar Governor Edwin Ongchuan, with the same script.

Evardone, a PDP-Laban official, even said he sought Duterte’s permission and got the President’s blessing.

Both Robredo and Moreno, who have welcomed all these endorsements, should be asked to parse this trend. It’s like NoyBi in 2010 but out in the open.

It’s probably not reasonable to ask them to reject their new backers. But they should be more vigorous in telling their supporters why they shouldn’t vote for Sara.

Moreno’s political character is more nebulous than Robredo’s – a reason why he’s called “Duterte lite” by critics. (READ: The making of Isko Moreno’s pro-Duterte 2022 strategy)

The Vice President, first choice of the President’s fiercest critics and those who feel strong about blocking a Marcos return to Malacañang, has a greater responsibility to explain not only how she views the issue but also how her supporters can safeguard Pangilinan’s votes.

Expedient or not, there’s a political, moral, and intellectual disconnect in Leni-Sara. There’s also grave danger post-election, if Robredo wins.

If the prepared questions during the Commission on Elections’ presidential debates (starting March 19) don’t tackle this issue, maybe Leody de Guzman, as fierce a Duterte and Marcos critic as Robredo, should raise the issue. – Rappler.com

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