Tatay’s rescue

By Artchil B. Fernandez

Inday got badly bruised and ran to Tatay. The Tatay came out swing to rescue Inday, trying to resurrect her politically. This development altered the political landscape and reshaped the next presidential election which is five years into the future.

The controversy on Sara Duterte’s confidential funds (as vice president and secretary of education) politically burned her. She cannot justify why she needs huge confidential funds (P650 million), bigger than the intelligence funds of agencies in charge of national security. Annually, the Philippine Army receives P440 million intelligence funds while the Philippine Navy has only P39 million intelligence funds since 2019.

National outrage on Sara Duterte’s confidential funds reached unprecedented height when it was revealed that she had P125 million confidential funds in 2022 and spent them in a record of 11 days. Spending P11.363636 million a day or P473,484 per hour of people’s money is unheard of and highlights the shameless abuse of taxpayers’ hard-earned money by a public official.

Fueling the national anger on the confidential funds is the response of Sara Duterte to the imbroglio. She threw oil to the fire with her entitled, arrogant, and brash handling of the issue. Mimicking her father, Sara Duterte attacked and lambasted critics of her confidential funds assuming she inherited his Teflon appeal.

Sara Duterte miscalculated badly. There is no transference of Tatay’s Teflon appeal to Inday. Her acerbic lines, calling those who questioned her confidential funds as enemies of peace and therefore public enemies, clumsily backfired.

Prior to the explosion of the controversy on Sara Duterte’s confidential funds, her approval and trust ratings were on the decline as revealed by the Sept. 10 to 14, 2023 Pulse Asia survey. Her approval rating dropped from 84 percent to 73 percent while her trust rating plummeted to 75 percent from 87 percent. Duterte’s approval and trust rating fell by 11 points and 12 points respectively. If a survey was taken while the confidential funds issue was the hot topic of national conversation, the plunge on her approval and ratings could have been steeper.

The Dutertes were unsurprisingly alarmed by the fall of Sara Duterte’s approval and trust ratings which could jeopardize and imperil the presidential project of the family in 2028. Since the daughter cannot extricate herself from the mess she created, the father came to the rescue.

Elder Duterte was dusted off from retirement to lead the family charge especially after the House stripped the daughter of her confidential funds. Congress was the target of his attacks. He called it the “most rotten institution” in the country. Du30 insinuated that her daughter is being maligned by the House leadership since Speaker Romualdez eyes the presidency, hence a potential rival of the vice president. He challenged the House to be transparent with its spending of public funds.

Speaker Romualdez got the bulk of the ire of the Tatay. “This Romualdez, Speaker… has been feeding congressmen with cash, but I say, he should be audited,” Du30 railed. “Because the Speaker is poised to run for president. Well and good.” Du30 has this message to Romualdez. “Seemed you’ve said you want to be (president). I said OK. I was not thinking of my daughter, she’s just perceived to be a good candidate,” he added.

Du30 lashing out at Congress is dripping with hypocrisy. During his presidency Du30 never called the House a “nest of corruption” when it always did his bidding like approving his huge confidential and intelligence funds which was P4.5 billion in 2021 alone. Now the House is “corrupt” and “rotten” after it shifted its loyalty.

On cue, Duterte vloggers and attacks dogs joined the fray. They amplified the attacks of the elder Duterte lambasting the House particularly its leadership.

Taking the cudgels for his daughter, Du30 justified her confidential funds. He explained that they were for the revival of the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. “She will be spending it on strengthening the PMT (preparatory military training) in high school to instill a love for the country among the youth.”

Furthermore, Du30 revealed that the confidential funds of his daughter are intended to weed out “communists” in Congress. “So, I said to her [Sara], just be frank [that] this intelligence fund, I will use it for the brains of Filipinos, because my target, you communists in Congress.” He sent a chilling warning. “You communists are dead over there.”

Lately, Du30’s attack on Congress has taken a more personal flavor. “You did not respect my daughter. She did not spend it… Why did you humiliate and embarrass my daughter? My daughter did not ask for a position, it was given to her,” an irked Du30 bitterly complained to the public.

Father rescuing the daughter does not bode well for Sara Duterte. It revealed not only her vulnerability but also her inability to navigate the vagaries of national politics. In the confidential funds issue, Sara Duterte is exposed as amateurish, lacks finesse, immature, and above all in dearth of acumen to deal with political rows and disputes. Beyond being her father’s daughter, she has nothing else to show. She cannot even defend nor explain herself in her baptism of fire. In the end, she ran to Tatay for help. If Inday needs Tatay to bail her out of trouble, her leadership knack is highly questionable.

Will Tatay be always there to rescue Inday? Presidential election is still five years away and many things can happen between now and 2028. If Inday constantly lean on and rely on Tatay to save her, her presidential ambition is facing a dark prospect.