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‘The die is cast’

Asked whether there was any chance he might change his mind on his Saturday night pronouncement that he would run for president, Rodrigo Duterte last Monday, this time in Greenhills, San Juan, said, “The die is cast. I have crossed my Rubicon.”

So that’s it. After the Comelec has accepted his Certificate of Candidacy as candidate for the nation’s top post by way of substituting for Martin Dino of the PDP—Laban party, along with a new Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance (Cona) granted by the same political party, Duterte joins a field composed of VP Binay, Secretary Mar Roxas, Sen. Grace Poe, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, and Ambassador Roy Seneres.

The number of candidates approximates the same number that we have had to choose from for all the presidential elections since 1987 when the Constitution was ratified by the people. In 1992, we chose FVR over Miriam, Danding, Mitra, Imelda, Salonga and Laurel. In 1998, we voted for Estrada over De Venecia, Roco, Lim, Villanueva and De Villa. In 2004, Comelec and Congress proclaimed GMA over FPJ, Ping Lacson, Roco, and Villanueva, and some others whose names escape me at the moment. In 2010, we chose PNoy over Erap, Villar, Gibo Teodoro, and Dick Gordon. 

Three other major candidates gave their tongue-in-cheek “welcome to the fray” statements. Poe’s spokesperson Rex Gatchalian said “the more the merrier”, although questioning the mayor’s tirade against his “foreign” principal. Jojo Binay’s spokesperson, Joey Salgado, echoed the line. Mar, mismo, said basically the same thing. Miriam has so far declined to comment. Roy Seneres was present at the party of Atty. Fred Lim in Dasmariñas, Cavite when Duterte announced his decision, and together they posed for pictures, both being sons of Mindanao (Seneres grew up in Butuan City).

Right after Oct. 16, Comelec’s first deadline for filing CoC’s, which caused a lot of consternation among Duterte believers because he did not file, a businessman who earlier wanted an immediate read of the public pulse commissioned an NCR voter preference survey of those who filed their presidential candidacies.

The field work was done on Sunday, Oct. 18, for a quick turn-around reading, using 1,200 respondents. But due to Typhoon ‘‘Lando’’ bringing heavy rains in Metro Manila, the field researchers had to stop at 1,136 respondents.

Teddyboy Locsin texted the results to friends: For President: Poe-31 percent, Binay-30 percent, Roxas-12 percent, Santiago-12 percent, and single digits for five others which included Seneres, Sabio, David (the guy who filed DQ cases against Poe), Pamatong, Syjuco, others.

But the businessman asked the research firm to include another question, which asked something hypothetical: Since Comelec rules allows for a party to substitute another candidate should anyone who filed on Oct. 16 withdraws or is disqualified, with a deadline of Dec. 10, 2015, and if the names by then were the following, who would you vote for? (I am translating from the Tagalog-worded question). This time, the long list included Rodrigo Duterte.

The results (NCR only): Duterte 33 percent, Binay-21 percent, Poe-13 percent, Roxas-7 percent, Santiago-6 percent, No answer-9 percent, and the others getting single digit votes. 

Locsin and I know the survey group, and we can vouch for its integrity and capability.

It will be interesting to watch the next round of public surveys. I would surmise that the major research companies did a similar template, considering that up until last Saturday night, Duterte was a declared non-candidate. But the buzz in social media, as in traditional tri-media kept everyone still speculating on a possible Duterte run, fueled by the feisty Davao mayor’s pronouncements on various national issues, from tanim-bala to the insurgency poblems, and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano’s supporters kept pursuing their desire for the latter to run as Duterte’s VP, to the point of airing television ads.

Unfortunately, as I learned from sources, SWS did their last-quarter reading the third week of November, possibly no longer covering the Saturday night Duterte announcement. Pulse Asia’s field research is supposedly ongoing. And certainly, the Roxas, Poe, and Binay camps, may have commissioned by now their own private surveys to test the post-Duterte announcement. Which means such surveys should do their field research after Nov. 30, likely Dec. 4 onwards, just before the Simbang Gabi starts.

We cannot tell when SWS and Pulse will release their findings, whether before or after Dec. 10. And since the Duterte inclusion may have been an “embargoed” question by private subscribers, it will only be leaked to media by the subscribers themselves, which Pulse and SWS may or may not confirm publicly.

For political analysts and strategists though, the private NCR survey of Oct. 18 offers a benchmark. First, NCR, with its more than six million registered voters, is 11-12 percent of the national vote; second, in time, the NCR sentiment permeates and influences the Lingayen to Lucena corridor, which all told, is 40 percent of the national vote. Save for native-son votes, as in Batangas will go for a “kabayan”, e.g. Laurel and De Villa in ‘92 and ‘98, even if they lost, and Pangasinan for Joe de V in ’98 who eventually was a far second to winner Erap, that vote corridor is the formidable territory which defines the election results.

You have to win in the Lingayen-Lucena corridor, or be a close second, and gather more votes from other regions as Numero Uno, to be declared the 2016 winner.

Duterte’s entry becomes a true game-changer because he is the only Mindanaoan (excepting of course my town-mate Roy Seneres) running. And Mindanao hungers for one of their own, never having had a serious chance to win until now. Mindanao counts for 23-24 percent of the national vote.

Duterte was born in Maasin of the then-undivided Leyte. His father comes from Danao City in Davao, who migrated to Davao along with his Agusan-born wife in the 50s.

Visayas has 20 percent of the national vote. Of this, some 8 percent are Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) in speech, 2 percent speak Waray, and the other half (10 percent) are Cebuano-speaking. Even half of Masbate in Bicol speaks Bisaya. And how many Metro-Manilans trace their roots to the Bisaya nation?

The last Cebuano-speaking president was Carlos P. Garcia of Bohol. He won last in 1957, trouncing an Ilonggo, Jose Yulo, an Ilocano, Manuel Manahan, and a Tagalog, the venerable Claro M. Recto. That was two generations ago. I was in short pants and going to elementary school when Magsaysay died and Garcia won election in 1957.

The question is, will Rodrigo Roa Duterte consolidate this huge bailiwick of Mindanao plus the Bisaya nation? And by how much? The next question is, will the NCR indicators of a Duterte upswing be sustained, and after his announcement, will it grow further and eventually spread to Regions 3 and 4, and in the next four and a half-months infect the rest of Luzon?

Indeed, for all the suspense he has generated by his unorthodox style of leadership and his colorful language, solidly founded on his unparalleled accomplishments in Davao City, Digong Duterte is THE game-changer for 2016.

Topics: Lito Banayo , ‘The die is cast’ , Rodrigo Duterte
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