Antonio V. Figueroa
The presidential election is still five years away but the way things are shaping, even in the absence of partisan fireworks, the next fight for the country’s top post will arguably be between two national figures from Davao. Although vice president Sara Duterte ahas yet to declare her intent to follow in her father’s political footsteps, the social media machinery has started to grind in favor of Sen. Raffy Tulfo whose YouTube account followers have breached the 26-million mark.
To the uninformed, Tulfo and Sara come from Davao region. The difference, though, is that the legislator traces his roots to Manay, Davao Oriental, on the eastern seaboard where his Japanese mestiza mother was from, while Sara, of German descent, is from Davao City.
While both have yet to toss their hats in the presidential arena, the likelihood of a first-time senator becoming the next Philippine president is slowly shaping up. This reminds us of former US President Barack Obama who was an Illinois senator before joining the presidential fray.
It is an accepted fact that the rise of new political stalwarts from southern Mindanao can partly be credited to the popularity of former President Rodrigo Duterte who engineered the 2019 victory of Davao senators Ronald dela Rosa and Christopher Lawrence Go, known as errand boys.
Today, the elder Duterte’s diminishing credibility is nowhere near being saved. The recent scandals involving police officers are widely blamed on the pampering he did during his watch, and the impact the abuses committed against the public has turned the national police institution into a focus of incredulity and discredit.
The collapse of Duterte’s credibility is sure to rub on Sara’s bid for the presidency, and there’s no gainsaying that her substandard performance as education secretary is another issue. In her first year as vice president, she has been linked to sensitive issues like intelligence funds and red-tagging. Worse, her accomplishment as Cabinet secretary is not even worth a mention. To pundits, she is more of a city mayor than a national official.
On the other hand, Sen. Tulfo, despite his image as a benevolent toughie, has credibly pursued public welfare issues without letup. Even in private life before joining Senate, he was defending the cause of the hoi polloi using common sense, resilience, and doggedness in resolving snags brought to his attention. That image has been enhanced even more in his new position.
As a woman, the public perceive Sara as a lady thug based on the viral episode where she was showing hitting the sheriff for refusing to stay tentatively the execution of a court order. Expectedly, justifications promptly flooded the social media but a large population of whose who commented preferred to hurl vitriol and tirade against her.
From a larger perspective, the rise of two political stalwarts from Davao affords the national partisan landscape better choices on the kind of people Mindanao can offer to lead the country. But consequent to the unconvincing of leadership of her father, she becomes the immediate victim, which makes her presidential bid very difficult to sell despite the bloated ‘unity’ label.
Sen. Tulfo, non-stop in his efforts to expose the oversights, misconduct, and neglect gnawing the bureaucracy, has built an image that is not even comparably close to the performances peddled by many individuals voted into public office. His sense of urgency is impeccable, something that is not tangible or visible in the case of Sara who has been passive to the numerous inconsistencies her father had committed while in public service.
Whoever wins in a situation where two Davao politicos are presidential frontrunners, the eventual winner (or loser) is Mindanao, a promised land destroyed by the insouciance of a Manila-centric governance, and an independently rich territory fed in the past to the elements of insurgency and secessionism.