(IN OCTOBER 2014, two persons, one an “ex” and the other a reluctant “to-be” president met in Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City which started the early simmer of the political pot ( call it “kaldero” if you wish) as an early prelude to the 2016 presidential elections.)
“BODY LANGUAGE” — Former President FIDEL RAMOS and Davao Mayor RODRIGO “Digong” DUTERTE met in Davao City sometime in October 2014 two years before the 2016 elections. In that encounter, their public body language and the reports that ensued were “combustible” enough to start a political fire. And kept political tongues wagging.
Allow me give you some “inside” story, if I may, to somehow clear the air or further muddle it, depending on how one looks at it. But first, a word of caution. I have not gotten the prior permission of FVR nor of Mayor Duterte to disclose what took place behind closed doors as most of what they talked about were for “our ears” only.
Earlier, I got a call requesting me if I could arrange a “one-on-one” between FVR and Mayor Duterte during FVR’s overnight Davao visit. This was no big deal because the former president , in the long time I knew him up close, would always seek “private time” with hosts, especially with close friends for re-unions and informal chats. So I requested BONG GO, the mayor’s “forever man-friday” to arrange things. In a jiffy, I got word that it was okay and so I and PAUL DOMINGUEZ, an FVR “boy” like me, were at the 17th floor of Marco Polo Hotel that Thursday afternoon chatting with FVR. He just met with one of his friends in the BIMP EAGA, MS. SUSAN CHANG from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.
After a while, the Mayor walked in with a bunch of reporters trailing him. Paul and I conducted them to the boardroom and when they both got seated, I and Paul headed for the door leaving the two behind saying: “We’re just outside.” But, oooops, FVR called out: “Where are you two guys going? I need you both here”. It sounded like an order from the “boss”. So Paul and I stayed and shut the door, but only after the coterie of media men with cameras had their “photo ops”!
Truth to tell, not anyone of us talked about any endorsement of Mayor Digong for the presidency nor did we egg him to run for president, as some quarters had been speculating. However, I must admit, a possible Duterte candidacy for the presidency was at the back of our minds. It was just a friendly chat between the two — “stocktaking” and updating each other around the table — and reminiscing. We threw on the table a few tidbits. But Mayor Duterte, for most of the time, was quiet, only intently listening.
FVR talked about his own experience when he ran for president. He recalled how he even had no political party when he started. He even lost the presidential nomination of the administration party, the Lapiang Democratikong Pilipino (LDP) to House Speaker RAMON MITRA. But then despite the odds, he nevertheless ran — and won — against a phalanx of heavyweights like MONCHING MITRA, DANDING COJUANCO, MIRIAM DEFENSOR SANTIAGO & IMELDA MARCOS.
He recalled how he had to doubly work harder and had to leave Mindanao in the last leg of his campaign to focus on Metro Manila as he was losing heavily there. He talked about not relying totally on politicians, although they helped deliver the votes, but generated support from private groups, NGOs, volunteers, mostly non-politicians. He talked about the parable of an “oil drop” in a big lake. Not one drop but many drops then gradually a thousand drops can make a difference, FVR said. He also talked about former Indonesian President LUCILO BAMBANG, his colleague at the West Point Academy in the US during their cadet days who called on him and sought his advice on his (Bambang’s) presidential plans. “I told him what I am telling you now,” FVR said.
Meanwhile, Paul Dominguez shared what he learned about the results of a public survey where it was established that most people or voters choose candidates on the basis of what the candidate can do to them personally — or are “perceived” to be able to do to the voters. Or how the candidates will handle things that personally matter to the voters themselves and not on the basis of whether or not they are corrupt or are perceived to be corrupt.
I recalled that in my recent Mindanao-wide travels ( Iligan, Butuan, Surigao, Cagayan de Oro) ordinary folks or the “masa” whom I talked to, still had not changed, thus far, on their support for Vice President Jojo Binay as their candidate for president in spite of the frequent media bashing he was getting. I recalled what one political analyst in Iligan told me his theory or estimation that “the political fates of Binay and Duterte are now closely linked and intertwined; that they are inversely proportional to each other”. Meaning, if Binay further drops in the next surveys, Duterte will have a good chance of becoming the next president; if Binay however recovers or stabilizes and arrests the fall, Duterte will have a hard time winning. It was his political calculus that smacks right into today’s realities. It remains to be validated though by the election results but that analysis was interesting to note.
Then there was a discussion on how times have greatly changed due to technological advances in cyberspace with the swiftness and almost instantaneous transmission of information to the big, wide world in a flash by a flick of a touch. Hence, even political decisions to run and campaign for public office can be communicated much later in the day and candidates who are ahead in announcing their candidacies much earlier need not necessarily enjoy a big advantage over a johnny-come-lately guy. So there’s no urgency of any early announcement as yet for the 2016 Elections.
There were other intimate items that need not be disclosed here. Of course, obviously those talking points had some cogency to Duterte’s reported run for the presidency. — which we all know Mayor Digong continues to quickly deny at every turn.
But there were subliminal and symbolic instances that kept the Davao public enthralled by FVR.
Example no. 1: when FVR emerged from the closed door meeting and when he was asked for a statement what the meeting was all about, he merely said: “The best is soon to come”. He did not elaborate.
Example No. 2 : When FVR was asked whether it was time for someone from Mindanao to be in Malacanang, his categorical answer was: ” Yes, it’s about time”!
Example No. 3: When FVR attended the BIMP EAGA dinner hosted by Mayor Digong, he ( FVR) wore a t-shirt emblazoned “DIGONG” with FVR’s signature thumbs up sign and caused the adding of the letter “s” to the phrase ATO NI ‘PRE” (short for “kumpare”) with the new ATO NI PRES suggesting “this is our president”.
Example No. 4: FVR publicly disrobed and removed his shirt emblazoned at the back with the word “PHILIPPINES” and made Mayor Digong wear it to show that he ( Duterte) was for the country and not only for Davao.
Yes, Dabawenyos and the BIMP EAGA foreign guests did not have enough of a former president who still captivates and who subliminally suggests that yes, he may consider to run again but not in 2016 (hinting that he has someone else already in mind for that) but in 2022, the next succeeding presidential election year. But to our surprise he hurriedly adds:
” But I have a problem with that.”
“What’s your problem Sir?”, I quickly asked, holding my breath.
FVR paused, seemingly in deep thought. Then he whispered although for all of us to hear: “Sssshhh, please don’t tell anyone. My problem is: What if I win!”
We all laughed! That’s “trademark” FVR! That’s always “him”!
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