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Duterte political capital to help anointed bet

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte would probably remain popular during his last year in office, which could boost his political capital and ensure the victory of his chosen presidential bet at next year’s elections, political analysts said.

The tough-talking leader, who is barred by law from running for reelection, would try to do his best before he steps down because this could benefit his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, whose supporters are urging her to run for President, they added.

“In the Philippines, good or bad deeds are transferable to kin,” political strategist Gerardo Eusebio said in a Viber message.

This could spell bad for the opposition, which up to now does not have a strong presidential candidate.

“The opposition does not have a popular or even common candidate,” said Jay Bautista, managing director at market research firm Kantar Media Philippines. “Pit that against the Duterte image and machinery, it will be a difficult road for the opposition.”

He cited Mr. Duterte’s “almost cult-like following” particularly among the masses, which means he has a solid base. These supporters “would not fault him directly for the problems and challenges facing the country,” he said in a Viber message on Wednesday.

“For this segment of the population, President Duterte is doing his best.”

Still, the tough-talking leader’s 16 million voters in 2016 had probably been eroded after failing their expectations, Mr. Bautista said.

Mr. Duterte’s approval rating would remain high as long as he doesn’t slip badly, Mr. Eusebio said.

“Unless there are proven allegations of corruption or gross incompetence against him, his image will remain positive among the masses,” he said. “Without these, he will just glide smoothly in the next 10 months to election day.”

Mr. Duterte on Monday night floated his potential vice presidential bid in 2022, saying it was not “a bad idea.” His spokesman, Herminio L. Roque, Jr., said his unfulfilled business, such as his campaigns against illegal drugs and corruption, might prompt him to run for the post.

Mr. Duterte’s approval rating slipped five points to 65% in March from a quarter earlier, according to a poll by Publicus Asia, Inc. His trust rating also fell by 7 points to 55%.

The President might lose his popularity if he fails to improve people’s lives amid a coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Eusebio said.

Mr. Duterte should press Congress to pass priority measures that are part of the government’s pandemic response, said Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a lawyer and research fellow at the Ateneo de Manila University Policy Center.

“If he can put his much vaunted ‘political will’ behind these measures, then his last year in office can very well define his legacy,” he said. “If he remains as is, visibly lethargic and just content with jousting with his critics, then his legacy may not be as impressive as his supporters would want it to be.”

Mr. Duterte might become a lame duck President as most lawmakers and some Cabinet officials prioritize their interests, said Dennis C. Coronacion, who heads the University of Santo Tomas Department of Political Science.

“He has already defined his legacy in the past five years,” he said. “He will be known in history as the tough-talking President who brought us close to China. His last year in office is about protecting his legacy.”

The government would likely fast-track infrastructure projects at the tail end of Mr. Duterte’s six-year term, said Michael L. Ricafort, chief economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

“More government projects nationwide, especially infrastructure projects would become the target for completion before the May 2022 elections, especially those covered by the election ban,” he said in a Viber message.

John Paolo R. Rivera, an economist at the Asian Institute of Management, said Mr. Duterte should ensure that the 2022 national budget is passed on time so his successor could start on a clean slate in jumpstarting the economy.

He should also lay down the policies to ensure the proper transition of projects and avoid wasting resources, he said in a Viber message.

“The outgoing administration should be conscious of facilitating a smooth transition and transfer of power so the economy can once and for all recover,” Mr. Rivera said. “The economy is always impacted by political risks. Mitigating politics can advance the economy.”

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