Does she serve for others, or does she rule for her own interests? It is a critical distinction we continually ask of our public servants if we were to mature in the politics of accountability.
The many of us not accustomed yet to Dutertismo and the disinformative troll-driven stroke it was swept to power with have not situated us to scrupulosity about choosing our leaders. There are those who believe this early that Sara Duterte will run for president in 2028 and that she will win the elections.
What exactly have we seen about her early performance as vice president that gives us hints of what kind of leader she is or will be?
A basic factor in any Duterte sitting in public office is their manner of dealing with the pressure points of that office. Her tolerance level was defined when she issued an unnecessary statement addressing Walden Bello who decried his arrest for cyber libel charges as merely being proxied by Sara’s Davao City Hall media officer Jefry Tupas on behalf of Sara as the mastermind and protagonist.
Let us use as source of her reply statement to Bello a confirmed Marcos-owned paper that has been pro Duterte and pro-Marcos: “Stop obsessing over me,” she told Bello.
In fact, it sounded more like a veiled threat. She could have ignored Bello if his presumption was incorrect. By responding as a micromanager, Sara may only be proving Bello correct – Tupas is reportedly back in Sara’s employ as media officer in the Office of the Vice President. A bylined mainstream media news source said Tupas is “now working as the OVP’s head of media and public relations” and the OVP has not debunked or denied that.
Sara is too rash and brash sitting in a national public office and settling a row in the only way she is accustomed to – silence a critic by weaponizing the law to instill fear. If Tupas is truly back into her employ, the Duterte brand of impunity like her father’s is a problem once again. Whether she truly is the mastermind or not, Sara has just given the prelude of how she rules.
The OVP was the talk of social media apps when the matter of its 2023 budget circulated. In the six years of Leni Robredo, trolls degraded her as merely a spare tire that should rightly be given only a minuscule budget which Rodrigo Duterte and his pliant Congress bullied her office with.
The OVP’s last budget was 916.689 million. Multiply that into two and it would be 1,833.378 billion. But that’s not Sara’s budget. She will get nearly triple Robredo’s, amounting to 2.292 billion.
A very sizable chunk of the Sara budget is entitled “Good Governance Program,” with a budget of 2.201 billion. “Good governance” evokes images of anti-corruption drives, transparency, equity and inclusiveness, accountability. So we checked the current OVP website for proper orientation of what exactly she means by “good governance.”
Her website is very nil on what she intends to do with her gargantuan budget. Instead, we are treated to three programs presented as the backbone packages of the OVP: Medical Assistance Program, Burial Assistance Program, and the Libreng Sakay Program.
Medical assistance and burial assistance are programs one easily sees on the level of the barangay. Is Sara mind-mapping her national office on that level? But wait; there is a catch to it. Such kinds of “assistance” from politicians are actually standard because it makes constituents beholden to them for the favor they extend. These are the vote-getting kind of assistance.
Her Libreng Sakay is likewise as unclear as the other two. The buses are meant for the peak-hours augmentation bus service, but she only has five buses: only two in Metro Manila, and one each in Bacolod, Cebu, and hometown Davao. Her office will shoulder the maintenance costs of the buses, drivers’ salaries, and fuel. Good things can come in small packages, but not until you see the buses’ sides and read her name on them: Sara Z. Duterte.
At her publicized launching of the two buses, Sara beamed to say that somebody from the private sector lent the buses. That sounded like equaling Leni Robredo who engendered a very vigorous private sector support to augment her measly budget. Was Sara telling the truth? How true is the information intimated by her supporter that a Marcos crony family into bananas lent the buses to ferry the hakot crowd of her campaign rallies? If that is true, it could have been extended as a highly partisan favor to advance reciprocal interests.
And that is just about what her “good governance” consists of for an expensive sum of 2.201 billion. Instead of “good governance,” it could very well be read as well as “I Want to be President in 2028” budget.