President Rodrigo Duterte’s political strategists do not see a strong opposition to come out in 2022 when the national elections are held, but they are not taking any chances and would rather have a single candidate for president backed by the outgoing leader.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo does not see a fractured team that he said will continue whatever legacy Duterte would leave, however.
Not even talks of the President’s open endorsement of Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go as his preferred “next president” and several groups’ wooing of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the president’s daughter, to consider trying for the top national post could create a chasm in the administration team, Panelo stated.
“It will not happen,” he said in an interview with Daily Tribune’s online program “Straight Talk” on Tuesday.
“Only one of them will run. It is either Mayor Sara or Senator Bong Go,” Panelo reiterated.
Neither of the two, however, have openly expressed interest in becoming Duterte’s successor.
Go has always been adamant entertaining questions about his political plans and the President’s supposed endorsement of him.
Duterte has introduced Go as “my president” or “the next president” on quite a number of occasions already. Go claimed the thought of seeking a higher office has “not crossed (his) mind”.
Duterte’s daughter, Sara, also claimed she has no plan of seeking a national position.
Her supporters, however, have initiated a “Run, Sara, run” campaign nationwide. It aims to convince her to take the driver’s seat of her father’s team in 2022.
Panelo believes Sara’s team will be unbeatable, claiming the opposition has yet to assemble a strong, credible team that could beat the administration’s possible candidates.
“There’s none that could draw in the big votes,” Panelo said. “There are no names that stand out in the opposition, really.”
A group, 1Sambayan, is attempting to forge a single alliance of various opposition groups for a single, unified ticket.
Panelo is among the Palace officials said to have been considered by Duterte to fill his senatorial slate, along with Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez and several others.
While former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos is also being mentioned as a probable presidential candidate, Panelo said he will choose the younger Duterte in the event that they face each other.
“If they clash, I would choose Sara. Because I was the one who launched it,” he said.
Panelo used to lawyer for the Marcos family.
Meanwhile, Panelo said he sees no reason to cancel or postpone the 2022 general elections amid the surge in the number of Covid cases in the country.
“It’s not going to happen,” he said.
In another development, the young Duterte on Wednesday confirmed leaving for Singapore for “personal health management”.
In a statement, Duterte said she will be on a five-day leave and was given a foreign travel authority by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to travel overseas.
“I am on leave from 6-10 April 2021,” she told reporters. “I have a travel authority to Singapore from the DILG. The reason is personal health management.”
“All protocols for return to Davao City including RT-PCR testing and 14-day quarantine have all been pre-arranged,” she added.
In September last year, Duterte also went on leave “for medical purposes”. She designated her younger brother, Vice Mayor Sebastian “Baste” Duterte as acting mayor of Davao City. (With Michelle Guillang)