By Germelina A. Lacorte
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — First-district congressman Prospero Nograles, the majority floorleader of the House of Representatives and a Lakas stalwart, has been a political rival of for years of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Twice in the past, he ran against the popular mayor but lost.

Despite the rivalry, their relationship has been largely civil over the years. But it would seem that, beginning in last May’s election and with Duterte’s decision to field his initially reluctant daughter, Sara, to run for vice mayor in the last elections, the gloves are off.

Mayor Duterte is now on his last term. When he handpicked Sara as his running mate, many viewed it as a way for the Dutertes to retain control of the city’s politics in 2010 and beyond.

Nograles had denied to the local press that he plans to take City Hall from Mayor Duterte in 2010, but many do not believe him, least of all the mayor himself, which is why, accordingly, he forced Sara to run so he could establish her political footing this early.

The prospect of the old Nograles squaring off with the young Duterte excites many.

The elections in 2010 present a scenario that is very exciting, said Councilor Leonardo Avila. Its when the terms of 13 city councilors and two congressmen ends. Its also the time when the mayors term will lapse. Youll keep guessing what will happen next, he told

Avila said that the post of mayor is tempting even for elected officials in the House of Representatives because of the power local governments now enjoy. Unlike those in Congress or in the Senate, the mayors post is very powerful, said Avila, explaining why nationally elected officials would still consider running for city mayor. When youre a mayor, you are the most powerful person in your area. You have the command of the budget, he said. In the case of Davao city, you also have the peace and order fund.

Even during the oath-taking of newly elected local officials at the City Council two weeks ago, the animus between Mayor Duterte and Nograles was noticed. According to local media reports, Nograles was not invited to the ceremonies.

Sara, a charming, 28-year-old lawyer, is perceived to be propped up for the mayoralty post to avert a possible Nograles entry in local politics when her father ends his term in 2010. Even before the oath-taking, speculation were rife that Mayor Duterte, reported to be feeling ill these days from an accident that happened 25 years ago, might not take his oath of office, supposedly to allow his daughter Sara to take over as mayor. Although he did take his oath, people kept guessing whether or not he will resign in the middle of his term to give way to his daughter.

In Philippine politics, where the results of the local elections largely determine the outcome of the presidential race, there has always been a mad scramble for domination of local politics. All politics, as some politcal analysts had said, is local — more so in a country where the president is directly elected by voters and, consequently, a presidential candidate would need the support of a local machinery.

Mayor Duterte, who leads the dominant political group Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod, had forged an alliance with the administrations Team Unity (TU) ticket that Nograles led in the last elections. But on the eve of the elections, the fragile alliance collapsed, signaling the start of the Duterte-Nograles showdown.

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