The Duterte-Grace Poe tandem that almost happened

Those in his inner circle who support his candidacy aren’t giving up just yet. They know that ‘in his heart’ Rody Duterte wants to be president.

Sometime end of January, days after news of the Mamasapano massacre broke, Senator Grace Poe and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte met in a common friend’s home in Quezon City.

At the time, Poe had topped a Pulse Asia survey for vice president.

It was she, according to an insider, who asked the million-dollar question: Is the mayor running for president? If he is, was he open to having her as vice president?

Duterte, who could have had every presidential candidate’s dream running mate, turned it down.

Kayo na lang, Ma’am (You run instead, Madame),” he said.

Some months after, Poe’s numbers began to surge, this time in surveys for president. In the end, it seems it was she who took Duterte’s offer.

It’s easy to see how partnering with Duterte would have worked in Poe’s favor.

She would be increasing her chances of cornering Visayas and Mindanao votes, standing beside a native of Leyte and Davao’s champion.

The personality match would have also been interesting: a team-up of a rough-talking, time-tested local politician and a more sedate, but fresh-faced senator who nevertheless recalls the pro-masses appeal of her late movie star and erstwhile presidential candidate father.

But fate had a mind of its own. This September, as Poe comes closer to declaring her presidential candidacy, Duterte tearfullyannounced he is out of the race.

Never say die

But the loose coalition of groups behind the pro-Duterte campaign is waiting for a more definitive sign that the mayor has given up on 2016.

One reason they’re still hoping: Duterte has made a public announcement but has not yet talked in private with political parties and backers.

Friends of Duterte who have been strongly egging him to run, who have spent their own money on his “campaign,” were just as shocked to hear his announcement last September 7.

In fact, the group had been in a meeting that very afternoon to talk about the nitty-gritty of a presidential campaign budget should Duterte finally declare.

WARM RECEPTION. Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte is greeted enthusiastically by crowds in Navotas and Malabon on September 8, 2015. Photo by Naoki Mengua/Rappler

WARM RECEPTION. Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte is greeted enthusiastically by crowds in Navotas and Malabon on September 8, 2015. Photo by Naoki Mengua/Rappler

When the news broke, the meeting was halted, and bottles of beer called in to nurse the group’s sudden bout of low morale.

But the morale is back up, said an insider, because of the Navotas and Malabon visits Duterte made last week.

Screaming fans, supporters crowding buildings and lining streets all made for a warm reception that has a stronger impact on the brusque mayor than some might think.

September 7 timing?

And then, there’s something about the timing of Duterte’s September 7 announcement.

A close friend of the mayor theorizes that the press conference was hurriedly organized right before a visit of President Benigno Aquino III to Davao City.

Aquino was expected to endorse Liberal Party presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II during the visit, which would have transgressed “delicadeza” if the city was a bailiwick of a rival.

If Duterte announced he was out of the race before then, the political atmosphere would be less charged, goes the theory.

“Charged” is an understatement as some Duterte believers are known to be rabid supporters.

But more than anything, supporters in his inner circle aren’t giving up because they know that “in his heart” Duterte wants to run for president.

Barring family concerns, lack of funds, and his age, Duterte knows his presidency could bring much-needed changes to the country.

His interest in the position is evident in his private activities in the past few months, says an insider.

Despite no public indication of such interest, Duterte has been avidly reading up on issues that would concern a Philippine president, including the Chinese territorial dispute and food security.

More than reading up, he’s been consulting different people, from close friends to experts, on such matters.

Family

But his family’s objection is still likely the biggest contributor to his reluctance.

His daughter, and a former Davao City mayor, Sara reportedly wants her old man to cap his political career on a high note. A presidency, with all its unpredictability, could threaten Duterte’s so far sterling record.

His two wives and girlfriend also don’t want him to run, it is said.

How can the bull-headed, iron-fisted “Dirty Harry” of the south bend himself to the will of others?

It seems, with his family, “he has no bargaining power” and it’s years of being a less-than-admirable father and husband that Duterte now wants to make up for.

Even now, supporters on the inside want to talk to Sara, to convince her to let her father be.

The world outside of Davao is equally reluctant to let Duterte get away so easily.

President Aquino himself said he still wants to talk to Duterte “as to how we can get together, if possible, towards continuing the progress of this country.”

The National People’s Coalition also invited Duterte to a meeting about 2016. The mayor could not attend but that did not dampen the party’s determination to “wait” for him before deciding which candidate they’ll be supporting.

The rest of Duterte’s September schedule looks packed as he is set to make other trips in Luzon.

Sometime mid-September, his inner circle of supporters are hoping to be told, face-to-face, what Duterte really has planned for 2016. – Pia Ranada/Rappler.com