THIS is not about an alliance between President Rodrigo Duterte, an incumbent, and former senator Bongbong Marcos, one who by all indications was denied his rightful place to become an incumbent.
This refers to the emerging alliance between Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, one that this early may already be sending some people either into throes of ecstasy or suffering sleepless nights.
Actually, an alliance between a Duterte and a Marcos is already naturally proven to be formidable, and it has a constituency that is real and not just imagined.
There is reason to believe that it was the Marcos votes that provided President Duterte the necessary firewall to thwart any attempt to cheat him of victory in the May 2016 elections. An analysis of the election results reveals that the margin between the votes of President Duterte and his running mate Alan Peter Cayetano was so huge, even as the same is true with the margin between the votes of Bongbong Marcos and his presidential team mate Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. This would suggest that there were millions of Duterte-Marcos voters, or many Marcos voters, who did not carry Miriam and instead voted for Duterte. It can likewise be said that millions of Duterte supporters junked Cayetano and instead opted for Bongbong Marcos. Unfortunately for Bongbong, and unlike that of the President, this was not enough to make his lead beyond the reach of a massive electronically mediated cheating operation that came like a thief in the night.
But certainly, what is more exciting in the upcoming 2019 elections is the brewing alliance between Governor Imee and Mayor Sara, two strong women with powerful and compelling narratives, and both daughters of strong Presidents who generate highly polarized depictions of being either idolized or demonized, depending on which side one sits in the political divide.
The narratives of Ferdinand Marcos and Rodrigo Duterte will definitely loom big over an alliance between Imee and Sara. There is no doubt that supporters will deploy the image of the strong and effective leadership of Presidents Marcos and Duterte, even as it is almost a certainty that critics will harp on the authoritarian streaks of both men. Genetics and inherited traits, from the good to the bad, will be given much focus by supporters and detractors alike.
However, it will be most unfair to imprison the narratives of Imee and Sara in the images of their fathers and their surnames. These two women have proven their mettle in public service and have carried their own brands of leadership that may not necessarily mirror those of their fathers. Imee as governor of Ilocos Norte and Sara as mayor of Davao City are intelligent women leaders who have shown records of good governance.
Imee runs her office with the typical affability of what many describe as a “babaeng bakla” that endears her to her constituents. She has a charming sense of humor and a down-to-earth personality that easily disarms.
Sara runs Davao with a different kind of charm, and a little bit of pleasant aggressiveness, clearly manifested for example when she once smacked the face of a sheriff. She also has the ability to put her father in his place, like when she recently advised people not to take the President seriously on matters of religion since he is not a priest, pastor or imam.
Sara Duterte-Carpio formed a new political party, the Hugpong ng Pagbabago, and has recently confirmed the alliance between her party with Imee Marcos. This alliance is further reinforced by the fact that Sara’s Hugpong will begin its nationwide recruitment of members in Ilocos Norte, Imee’s bailiwick.
The political optics of an Imee Marcos-Sara Duterte-Carpio alliance creates a compelling narrative of a north-south partnership that will cultivate the already well-grounded constituency composed of the millions of Duterte-Marcos voters and supporters. The geopolitical basis for the partnership resonates nationally even if the main actors are local officials.
What is interesting about this alliance is that Imee and Sara appear to be at odds with the two leaders of the House of Representatives. It is not a secret that Imee Marcos had a spat with Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas, while Sara Duterte-Carpio has a history of conflict with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. It will be interesting to watch how the Marcos-Duterte alliance will engage Fariñas and Alvarez, who are both members of the PDP-Laban, and their allies both locally in Ilocos Norte and in Davao, respectively, as well as in the national political realignments. It is also going to be interesting to watch how PDP-Laban will be affected by this alliance, further complicated by the fact that the President himself is reported to be forming his own party separate from Sara’s Hugpong.
What is equally exciting to watch out for is how the alliance of these two women will impact those who accuse President Duterte of misogyny. From using the hashtag #Everywoman to the now globally recognized and award-winning, at least by Time magazine standards, hashtag #BabaeAko, anti-Duterte women campaigners, who happen to be also strongly anti-Marcos, have painted an inclusive discourse of standing up for women. With the emergence of an Imee Marcos-Sara Duterte-Carpio alliance, the women behind #BabaeAko will be forced to lay down their cards in relation to how they will position their politics in the face of two strong women asserting themselves in a male-dominated world of Philippine politics, considering that these are daughters of men they hate and demonize. It is on the manner how #BabaeAko will react to Imee and Sara that they will be tested if they are indeed pro-women, or that they are merely partisan feminists, and that it is not the gender of Imee and Sara that matters to them but their fathers’.
In the end, an Imee Marcos-Sara Duterte-Carpio alliance is an exciting political development. A Marcos-Duterte alliance in 2019 may just plant the seed of a Marcos-Duterte tandem in 2022. If it does develop into such a thing, and regardless of who ends up on top of the ticket, this will certainly be a challenge both to the male-dominated Philippine politics and to the feminist movement in the country. It will also challenge those who support President Duterte but hate the Marcos brand.