Sara Duterte-Carpio wants to make history by succeeding her father after his term ends next year, but her heart is torn. She wants to keep her position as Davao City mayor and secure the family’s bailiwick.

Only her and her father, Rodrigo, who was mayor for more than two decades, are capable of warding off potential challengers. Her two siblings are seen as weak and may lose to the growing political opposition against the family’s three-decade rule.

Davao City’s demographics are changing. Like most big urban centers in the country, voters are getting younger and more educated, highly employable and aware of what is happening around them. They are more active on social media platforms.

These are the ingredients traditional politicians dread because they will lose hold over their territories. Politicians control the local economy and make their constituents rely heavily on their largesse. Patronage could be a thing of the past as the human development index improves in urban centers.

The Duterte patriarch is getting older and his daughter has not done anything spectacular in the city. In fact, Davao City has one of the highest cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), filling up private and public hospitals.

If the president is a big failure in managing the country’s pandemic response, his daughter has also failed in Davao City despite massive government support in terms of vaccination and funds to support poor residents.

Another factor that makes the Duterte family nervous is the rise of local politicians who are capable of defeating them in an election.

Former political allies, including Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, are turning against them. In 2019, some of the candidates supported by Sara were soundly defeated in local positions around the Davao region.

In a Facebook post early this week, Sara said she wanted to complete her third and last term as Davao City mayor, resisting calls from her supporters to run for president.

Sara has consistently topped pre-election opinion polls but her numbers are declining as shown in the September 2021 Pulse Asia survey.

From 28 percent in June 2021, her voter preference has gone down to 20 percent last month. Three rivals, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Francisco Domagoso and Emmanuel Pacquiao, have been closing in. They were statistically even in second place at 15 percent, 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively, because of the margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Sara’s indecision could cost her her support, which might transfer to other candidates like Marcos, Pacquiao, and Domagoso. Sen. Panfilo Lacson could also benefit from her indecision as the former national police has a network of grassroots organizations in Mindanao, including in the Davao region.

Some political analysts say Duterte and his daughter are not speaking to each other. The president wrote a note to his daughter giving her two options — endorse his vice-presidential bid or pick his long-time personal assistant, Bong Go, as her running mate. Duterte said he was willing to withdraw from the race if Sara ran for president.

When Bong Go filed last week his certificate of candidacy for vice president, Sara also registered as a candidate for mayor and she continued to reject her father’s pressure.

Duterte could file his own candidacy as Davao City mayor to force Sara to run for president to avoid a potential Duterte-versus/Duterte fight, which could be disastrous for the family.

The uncertainty of winning the presidency could be a factor why Sara is thinking of running again in Davao City. She is assured of winning a third term easily.

Her father could face an avalanche of lawsuits upon stepping down from power in June 2022, including a potential indictment at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity in connection with his brutal and bloody war on drugs policy.

Sara is his only hope to shield him from these lawsuits as she can win the presidency next year. She can actually gamble on her presidential chances and leave Davao City to her father who can easily change his mind from retiring from active politics.

Sara has until Nov. 15 to throw her hat in the presidential derby. That will throw the political contest wide open, with six candidates for president.

Win or lose, she will run for president to protect her father. There may be differences between them but blood is thicker than water.

Political observers say there is still no clear winner in the contest and it will really depend on how the presidential candidates will perform during the three-month campaign next year, giving all of them six equal chances.

A big majority of the voters have not made up their minds and the pro-Duterte and anti-Duterte supporters comprise less than 40 percent of the eligible electorate of 70 million. It means these voters could be looking for a candidate who could bring the country out of the pandemic crisis.

Three issues will influence the elections next year. The pandemic management, jobs, and prices of basic commodities. The Duterte administration failed in all three issues.

Two international data and news organizations — Bloomberg and Nikkei — gave the Philippines the worst ranking among countries in pandemic management. The Philippines ranked 53rd out of 53 countries in Bloomberg’s survey and 121st out 121 in Nikkei’s assessment.

The country continues to have the highest Covid-19 cases and lowest vaccination rates. It has one of the longest and strictest quarantine status in the world.

The lockdown has resulted in millions of people losing their jobs and livelihoods. Sick and jobless, the people have to worry about rising prices of fuel and food.

These are the game-changers in next year’s elections. This is bad news for any administration candidate — either Bongbong Marcos or Inday Sara. The other candidates can take advantage and boost their chances.

These scenarios could add pressure on Sara to decide to run for president even with the possibility of defeat in the elections next year. In the end, Sara could really take the challenge. No guts, no glory.

There’s really no fun in running for an election that Sara knows she will win hands down.

Sara could still decide to run and substitute a placeholder by Nov. 15.

But with Sara or no Sara in the May 2022 elections, it will still be an exciting winner-take all close contest.