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Sara Duterte Has Many Suitors for VP. Here's Why Her Choice Matters

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Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio has yet to decide whether she would run to succeed her father, yet the beeline of suitors is growing longer. She will have to say "yes" to one or "no" to all, a decision that could mean victory or defeat should she seek the presidency.

Duterte-Carpio's name has been linked to several possible running mates such as siblings Imee and Bongbong Marcos, Gibo Teodoro, and Senators Bong Go and Sherwin Gatchalian after pre-election surveys showed her as a frontrunner to replace President Rodrigo Duterte.

So far, Duterte-Carpio has only confirmed offers from Go and Gatchalian. Teodoro has visited her several times in her Davao City office. The Marcos siblings Bongbong and Imee also visited at least once.

If you're the frontrunner in the Philippines' presidential elections, how important is the choice of a vice presidential running mate?

It could "balance out"a presidential candidate's public image to widen the political base, said Ronald Castillo, an assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Santo Tomas.

"The choice of a vice president can have an impact especially if you make your choices well. It could fill in the gaps in your image. For instance, if you're a nerd going against a varsity player, you'd want to have a varsity player by your side too," Castillo told reportr in a virtual interview.

Why It Matters

In the Philippines, voters independently elect a president and vice president even though most politicians aspiring for the two highest posts in the land tend to run in tandems.

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Take the 2016 national elections. Despite the overwhelming popularity of President Duterte, it still was not enough to carry his running mate Alan Peter Cayetano to victory, with Leni Robredo of the Liberal Party taking the vice presidency.

So why do running mates still matter? It's because Filipinos still listen to the endorsement of political tickets or tandem politicians.

"Looking at strategies, just because it happened that Filipinos did not choose a pair to win the elections doesn't mean they will no longer choose a pair," analyst Castillo said. "It's not really impossible. Something that has already been written before can happen again."

Castillo cited as an example the 2010 national elections which saw the victory of the unofficial "NoyBi" tandem of the late President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and former Vice President Jejomar Binay.

While Aquino's running mate was Mar Roxas and Binay was under former President Joseph Estrada's ticket, the two were endorsed as a tandem by the then-popular senator and now Sorsogon Governor Chiz Escudero.

"If you think about that election, Chiz influenced the voters with the NoyBi mindset. Ang sabi niya, 'ang presidente ko si Noy, ang vice ko si Binay' and that resonated with voters," he said.

There's also the factor of the political machinery that an aspiring candidate can have access to as an administration candidate, University of the Philippines Political Science Professor Maria Ela Atienza said.

"Some politicians who have protected and advanced their own interests under the Duterte administration want to continue this situation and hoping that their interests can be better served under another Duterte presidency," Atienza told reportr.

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"Because the country does not have strong political parties and turncoats are not punished, there are politicians who will gravitate to her (Duterte-Carpio) due to her perceived advantages," she added.

How to choose a running mate

In choosing a running mate, one factor that must be considered is the politician's appeal to the masses according to Atienza. After all, an election is won by voters.

In the case of Mayor Sara, should she run for president, she would need a running mate who is not from Mindanao to boost her popularity across the country according to Atienza.

"If Mayor Sara decides to run for president, she needs a vice president who will not be from Mindanao and will have more national prominence and networks with politicians all over the country. Her vice presidential candidate should also have appeal with the masses," Atienza said.

Quoting from the book "The 48 Laws of Power" by Robert Greene, analyst Castillo said politicians need to be on top of their image.

"If your image is tarnished, you associate yourself with someone who's clean," Castillo said.

Given that the elder Duterte is a populist leader, analyst Castillo said there is also a chance that Filipinos would want to see reformists in next year's polls given the trend of populist-reformist-clientelist politicians.

"The Dutertes are already viewed as very powerful so she might want to have a running mate who can offer reforms or appear to do so," Castillo said.

"Ideally, she (Duterte-Carpio) should get someone who can match reformist candidates from the opposition. She shouldn't get someone who has an ultra-powerful image because that's already the family's image. Either she gets someone who can add to her popularity or a reformist," he said.

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Take the 2004 presidential elections. While tainted with cheating, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo knew that she's no match for the popularity of movie king Fernando Poe Jr.

How did she go up against him? She ran for president with a media icon too -- broadcaster Noli De Castro. Arroyo's strategy was to use Kabayan to balance out her image against Da King.

"It's like rock-paper-scissors. The populist-reformist-clientelist can defeat one after the other," Castillo said.

But while running mates can help balance each other's political image, these can only do so much with elections remaining as popularity contests.

"These balancing of advantages between presidential and vice-presidential candidates in a ticket may not matter much in a personality-oriented electoral system unless the critical mass of conscientious and principled voters will increase," Atienza said.

And regardless of who they're running with, politicians will vie to get votes for themselves once election day comes.

"When election day nears, even a vice-presidential candidate of Sara Duterte will aim to get votes irrespective of whether his or her presidential candidate also gets the most votes," she said.

This story originally appeared on Reportr.WorldMinor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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