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MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 26 October) – It’s barely three weeks to the deadline for the substitution of candidates for the May 9, 2022 elections, but the country is still waiting for the final list of aspirants for president and vice president. And it’s all because Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte may yet spring a surprise like her father, President Rodrigo Duterte, did in 2015 – running as a substitute candidate. (But does this tack still surprise us?)

Reports have it that the mayor met the Marcos siblings in Cebu to talk how she and her Hugpong ng Pagbabago party can help the candidacy of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. But if that was the only agenda, it wasn’t worth traveling all the way to Cebu and exposing themselves to the risk of contracting COVID-19. Zoom would have suffice to accomplish the whole thing.

Most would have believed the reports if not for the fact that the ruling party’s registered presidential bet [for now], Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, is an obvious placeholder. The same can be said of Senator Lawrence “Bong” Go, its vice presidential candidate [for now, too]. It may interest readers to know that, unlike the other candidates, the two senators, both personally loyal to the Dutertes, have not issued statements on the policies they would push if elected.

The Cebu meeting therefore could only mean the start of brainstorming on the better formula for 2022 – should it be Bongbong-Sara or Sara-Bongbong? It must have been a heated exchange granting both are determined to be the administration standard bearer. The late dictator’s son could no longer flaunt his inexhaustible wallet as leverage because the president’s daughter can easily retort that his father can mobilize government resources to her advantage. Besides, Bongbong carries the stigma of having already lost to Vice President and now presidential aspirant Leni Robredo in 2016.

Bongbong knows the odds but he is racing against time. If he waits and settles for the vice presidency, he will be 70 by the time the term of President Duterte’s successor ends. By then, his health may no longer allow him to pursue his political ambition. Even if he settles now for the vice presidency and wins, will voters still be enamored with an ageing candidate? For sure, more dynamic and more charismatic politicians will have emerged.

On the other hand, Mayor Sara knows that now is her best chance to run for president – assuming she covets the post despite the repeated public denials. After his father steps down next year, she will cease to be relevant. That’s why her supporters are egging her to run – now.

So here we have two aspirants – one bent on running, the other putative at the moment – who both realize that now is the time to cross the Rubicon.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at hmcmordeno@gmail.com.)

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