Will there be three Dutertes in the Senate? | Inquirer Opinion
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Will there be three Dutertes in the Senate?

Vice President Sara Duterte detonated two bombshells last week. First, she disclosed that her father and two brothers will all run for senator in the 2025 elections. Second, she divulged that her brother, Davao City Mayor Sebastian “Baste” Duterte, is eyeing a presidential bid in 2028.

VP Sara repeated her revelations, four days later on June 29, that three Dutertes will vie for Senate seats in the midterm elections. They are former president Rodrigo Duterte, Davao Rep. Paolo “Pulong” Duterte, and Mayor Baste. On the next day, however, former president Duterte contradicted his daughter and said that he’s finished with politics and will not run for the Senate. The former president’s denial is bereft of value, judging by his history of unreliable disavowals.

There are many interpretations that can be made of VP Sara’s revelations. She may merely be deflecting the barrage of attacks against her after her resignation as education secretary. The Duterte family may have released a trial balloon to test public opinion on the viability of fielding three family members for the Senate. The announcement may have been made to instill fear among Duterte critics because it warns every one of the possibility that they can return to Malacañang, in which event there will be vengeance for those who persecute them.

The Senate has been a family affair for some time now. In the beginning, it was a case of a family member who has finished the limit of two terms, being succeeded by another family member. More recently, there have been multiple cases of two family members serving at the same time. There’s sister-brother Pia Cayetano and Alan Peter Cayetano, the duo brothers Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito, and mother-son Cynthia Villar and Mark Villar. If the Dutertes succeed in clinching three Senate seats next year, it’s another degenerative evolution in the kind of Senate that we now have.

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But more than recording an unprecedented feat, the election of three Duterte senators will reverberate with strong political implications. It will mean two things. One, the Dutertes remain strong contenders to retake the presidency in 2028 despite efforts to sideline them. Two, there’s widespread people’s dissatisfaction with the Marcoses. The strong showing of the Dutertes will be fueled by disenchantment with the Marcoses for the latter’s failure to improve the people’s lot.

The election of three Duterte senators will send shivers down the spines of politicians who have suddenly found the voice to defy, abandon, or make the Dutertes accountable for their sins. These include Mindanao politicians who have dumped the Dutertes for the Marcoses, lawmakers who deprived Sara of confidential funds and who have been emboldened to investigate the bloody drug war campaign of the Duterte years, and members of the Marcos-Romualdez political dynasty who are ingrates in the eyes of the Dutertes.

The election of three Duterte senators will prompt the Marcoses to move heaven and earth to prevent the Dutertes from winning Malacañang in 2028 because that will greatly endanger both their political and physical survival. The Marcoses have four years remaining to throw everything, including the kitchen sink, to stop the Dutertes from retaking the presidency. This early, the Marcos camp will expectedly use all means to prevent the three Dutertes from even winning in the Senate.

On the other hand, if the Dutertes lose in 2025—or if only one of the three wins with unimpressive numbers—they will have diminished chances of retaking Malacañang in 2028.

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What about VP Sara’s disclosure that it will be Mayor Baste who will gun for the presidency in 2028, and not her? It’s a possible ruse to deflect critics’ attention from VP Sara in the meantime. But it’s equally possible that it’s true.

From what can be observed of VP Sara, she doesn’t have fire in her belly that makes her zealously determined in pursuing the presidency. She acts, looks, and sounds uninspired and unmotivated in seeking the country’s highest post. Her decision not to pursue the presidency in 2022—when she was survey frontrunner and her father was incumbent president—showed that she was unsure, nervous, and lacking in confidence. Her reliance on the politicians who convinced her to merely run for vice president, plus her blind trust that the Marcoses will show gratitude by supporting her in 2028, show her to be politically naïve. One also gets the impression that she’s ill at ease with a critical press and prickly opposition figures. Her stint as education secretary likewise demonstrated that she has inadequate skills and insufficient wherewithal to preside over a humongous bureaucracy. How much more the gargantuan and complex network of agencies of the national government?

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This early, a blockbuster fight looms large in our country’s political horizon. As in the past, the public will get entertained but everyone will go home empty-handed, except for the winning candidate’s camp.

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