Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio led the Tapang at Malasakit Alliance last weekend to Macau, and Hong Kong, China, where she was welcomed by cheering crowds of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
She thanked the OFWs for the support they gave her father, President Duterte, in the 2016 elections, and their continuing sacrifice in working abroad to provide for their families. With her were Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano, Taguig Rep. Pia Cayetano, Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano, Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, Public Works Undersecretary Karen Jimeno, Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, actor Robin Padilla, and the mayor’s brother Sebastian Duterte.
At a time when the country is suffering from the case of Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait, the cheering welcome for Mayor Sara was a welcome change involving OFWs. The crowd which came to meet with her at the Chan Meng Kam Theater in Macau called on her to run for president after her father ends his term in 2022. But the mayor declined the calls and said she very likely would run for Congress in her district in 2019.
Earlier this month, Mayor Sara had an exchange of very sharp words with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez after she and four governors of the Davao region – Antonio del Rosario of Davao del Norte, Tyrone Uy of Compostela Valley, Nelson Dayanghirang of Davao Oriental, and Claude Bautista of Davao Occidental – formed a new regional party, the Hugpong ng Pagbabago. The speaker evidently did not want any diminution of loyalty to the national administration party PDP-Laban of which he is secretary-general, and saw Mayor Sara as now being part of the opposition. He denied having said this but the mayor said she had sources.
Through all this controversy over her organization of a regional party, Mayor Sara has emerged as a fresh and youthful face, yet determined to pursue political plans in the face of opposition from long-established politicians like Speaker Alvarez. Previous to the Hugpong ng Pagbabagago regional party, she led the launch of a movement, Tapang at Malasakit Alliance of the Philippines, in Taguig City in October 2017.
Since martial law destroyed the established political system in 1972, political parties in the Philippines have not really functioned as effective political organizations of like-minded officials united by party principles. The PDP-Laban is now the leading party only because it adopted President Duterte in 2016 and he won. Today, it is serving to keep together various political leaders who will be ready to jump to the next administration party.
Mayor Sara has risen from local to regional leader with her Hugpong ng Pagbabago. The call of the OFWs in Macau and Hong Kong for her to run for president may seem a bit premature, but she is seen as a fresh force in national affairs, one who is not afraid to tangle with old politicians, who has her own mind but works well with other young leaders like those in the Tapang at Malasakit Alliance.