Sat. May 28th, 2022

I am not fan of Pia Ranada and Rappler. In fact for most part, I find their roles in Philippine journalism horrific, for most part Ranada has been the biggest pest in the Malacanang Press Corps, and Rappler of course as an American news website.

Neither am I about to expound those statements further.

This article is how I was amazed that Pia Ranada can write after all, and deal with a topic savored with human interest and surprising objectivity. She can pen good feature away from the bigoted editorials masked as news that Rappler is famous for.

I am talking about her May 8 article, “Duterte’s impact on the 2022 elections”: Rappler looks into why President Duterte stayed ‘neutral’ in the presidential elections and his stance’s impact on top candidates.

Ranada opens with – “It’s almost unthinkable, a waste of political capital to some, that a popular president would refuse to endorse a presidential candidate to succeed him.”

She proceeds and I will quote freely – “the neutral stance confounds most especially because one candidate, no less than the frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is partnered with Duterte’s daughter. It would have been the easiest decision for Duterte to endorse him, strategically. In fact, his national party went ahead and did just that.”

She picks up other’s observations, – “ ‘The more he says that he will not endorse, the more it gives a leeway for Sara Duterte and Marcos Jr. to really be perceived as supporters or are the candidates of President Duterte,’ said Dindo Manhit, president of Stratbase ADR Institute, a think tank that has been commissioning electoral surveys.

“Manhit cites data showing that in the months that a Sara Duterte presidential bid was thought possible, Marcos Jr.’s ratings were hovering at 20%. 

“ ‘But when they (Marcos and Sara) consolidated, they suddenly hit 47%. That was late October. Then when you remove Bato de la Rosa and Bong Go by December, he goes up to 50%,’ Manhit told Rappler in an interview.”

She makes an impression, “These movements within Duterte’s coalition have appeared sufficient to establish big chunks of the public to consider the Marcos-Duterte tandem as the tandem with the President’s blessing. After all, the President and his daughter still share the same family name.

“But Duterte’s neutral stance has also, perhaps unexpectedly, benefited opposition candidate Leni Robredo, by giving wiggle room to some pro-Duterte local executives to support her.”

 She notices some complications – “Thus, Duterte’s unwillingness to choose a presidential candidate has also weakened PDP-Laban in that some of its members have declined to support the candidate its leadership has chosen.

“Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, the ‘third force’ candidate has also benefited to a lesser degree from Duterte’s neutrality.

Skin in the game

“Duterte claims ‘all’presidential candidates sent emissaries to him seeking his endorsement. Only Marcos was able to get a meeting, arranged by Duterte’s partymate Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.

“But even with that personal touch, Marcos failed to get an endorsement. 

“While mum on his presidential bet, Duterte has been actively campaigning against senatorial candidates he does not like – Richard Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Leila de Lima, and Antonio Trillanes IV.”

A father’s grudge

She poses a question – “He knows a lot is at stake for him in this election. So why stay mum on the most critical race of all – the presidential race?

“Analysts theorize it could be two factors influencing one another: Duterte’s personal irritation at being sidelined in his daughter’s 2022 decision and his unwillingness to take a high-stakes gamble.

She cites more third party opinions -“ ‘It is consistent with observations that President Duterte is driven more by emotions on matters that he disagrees with,’ political science professor Herman Kraft told Rappler.

“Like in the 2019 elections, Duterte’s tendency to make political decisions based on personal circumstance proves he is no institution-builder. If he was, he would have used his considerable political capital to turn his party PDP-Laban into a kingmaker.

“Instead, his party had to wait for him to make up his mind and only when it was clear he would not endorse anyone did they make the decision themselves to back Marcos. But the party endorsement came late and was perceived as weaker than if Duterte had also personally backed the choice of Marcos.

“ ‘I did not like what happened,’ Duterte told pro-Duterte blogger Byron Cristobal in an interview after Sara formalized her vice-presidential bid before the Commission on Elections.

“He assumed that Sara’s decision was not hers, but that of Marcos, who, interestingly enough, first offered the position of his running mate to Duterte himself.”

Bong Go saga

Ranada probes closer – “In those critical mid-November weeks where the 2022 electoral landscape was quickly changing, Duterte still had a horse to bet on – his loyal aide Senator Bong Go.

“Go had yet to withdraw his presidential bid. It was in fact Duterte who had urged him to seek Malacañang, after Go shed tears about Sara’s last-minute decision to run for the same post he was vying for at the time.

“ ‘Sabi niya tatakbo si Inday (Sara Duterte), magwi-withdraw na lang siya. Ayaw na niya. Sabi ko, ‘Bakit ganoon? Nag-umpisa ka na.’ Eh ‘di tumakbo ka na lang ng president. Eh ganoon lang pala ang gagawin sa ‘yo eh. Eh di kasa ka na,’ Duterte recounted.

(He said Inday was running, so he was withdrawing. He didn’t want to do it anymore. I said, “Why? You’ve already started. Just run for president. If that’s what they’re going to do to you, load up.)

“With Go still in the game, Duterte had every reason to hit his aide’s chief rival, Marcos. Hence, the ‘cocaine addict’ and ‘weak leader’ attacks from November 18 to 22.

“Duterte’s criticisms of Marcos dominated headlines for weeks and inspired all sorts of reactions from everyone. Marcos, Moreno, Manny Pacquiao, and Panfilo Lacson even got themselves tested for illegal drugs.

“But it was short-lived. The moment Go withdrew his presidential candidacy, Duterte lost any personal reason to campaign hard for anyone, or attack anyone. His Marcos diatribes stopped after Go decided to back out.” 

Last two minutes

She dares ask – “Could there be an even simpler reason for Duterte’s ambiguity? Could the 77-year-old Chief Executive just be too tired to participate more actively in this election season?

“Even in political rallies, Duterte talks about being spent. He would like nothing more than to go back to his house in Davao City. He wants his freedom back.”

Ranada expounds, – “ ‘I’ll be a civilian na in a few days,’ he said May 3, his last rally with PDP-Laban.

“ ‘Now that I won’t be president anymore, nobody can dictate what I do. I will go riding on a motorcycle and roam around. And I’ll search for drug peddlers, shoot them and kill them,’ he said May 6, in Davao City, during his last rally of the campaign period.”

She speaks again of his faithful aide – “When Go, back in mid-November, explained to a room full of PDP-Laban governors why he was having second thoughts about running for president, he supposedly mentioned Duterte’s health as one concern.”

She supports this with others in his official family, – “ ‘ He did not want the President to experience the rigors of the campaign. He took pity on the President who, at his age, would have to lead a campaign,’ said Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Jacinto Paras then, explaining to Rappler what he heard Go say.”

She finally becomes appreciative of the President’s details – “During the months of the 2022 campaign period, Duterte was busy signing a slew of enrolled bills into law, visiting typhoon-hit or eruption-affected areas, holding weekly meetings about the pandemic, and going around the country with the greater freedom afforded him by the lowering number of Covid-19 cases.”

And finally, Pia Ranada gives him the benefit of the doubt – “In the 2022 elections, Duterte gave up his agency to determine, in any meaningful or personal way, his successor. But maybe for the three-decade politician on his way out from the highest elected position in the land, there are battles you can afford to sit out.”

A photo that appears to say, I’ve got my eye on you!

Conclusion

I had to truncate the article first because it got sidewinded into political theories that brought the focus on the candidates when I am concerned about the Duterte narrative more. Second because it was getting too long.

But my point here is that this lady can write, and write well. But she has wasted her time serving as a cannon-fodder for her organization that has been so much influenced by American donations to put down a president than to notice what he was doing to serve a country.

Here she vindicates herself as a writer of substance and depth.

Ranada got into basic questions on Duterte that I myself asked when I personally campaigned for a candidate on the other side of his Hugpong party in 2007 of all places in the third district of Davao.

What other noticed was the hard hand he devotes to his political enemies. What I noticed was that this man is captivated by story-telling that he would run rings around the players in a campaign.

Sure he announces his own candidate, but he always keep an eye as to who really can play to his narrative of development, who can bring the best to the people, who can change the political environment to opening it to outside investments.

At the end of the day, who can bring the greater good to the community catches his eye more for the long run.

He does not care if the candidate is yet unprepared, he will invest time.

Look at Leoncio Evasco, from the enemy of the state to his administrator. Look at Bong Go, from a mere son of a confidant cum public servant to a senator.

As for Pia Ranada, yes she is young and will go places, but she has to reign her activism, and devote more to the kind of journalism that is based on the facts on the ground. 

For the entire article of Ms. Ranada, read:

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