Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte. (OVP)

Certainly it is not about being a breath away from the presidency. Rather it is about being caught in the crosshairs between her own father, former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Vice-President Sara addressed this predicament in a statement issued last March 19 where she declared that politics is a matter she did not discuss with her father and the President.
“On separate occasions, the President and the former President similarly expressed concerns over my well-being. I assured them that I would take care of myself as I carry out my duties and responsibilities as Vice President and the Secretary of the Department of Education,” the Vice-President stated.

What she said opened the door into the dilemma she was forced into, but one she is determined to deal with on her own terms. Consciously or unconsciously, the Vice-President shows the stuff she is made of when she’s torn between a rock and a hard place.

The Oxford dictionary defines brinkmanship as the art or practice of pursuing a dangerous policy to the limits of safety before stopping, especially in politics. Going by this definition, this is brinkmanship on display, the Vice-President’s.

In recent months, temperatures have risen between the former and sitting presidents. It was bound to happen, what with all the provocations and harassments coming from the Marcos camp, specifically from First Lady Liza Marcos and Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. The Duterte family simply had enough, and no one can blame them.

Caught in the middle is Vice-President Duterte. Instead of crumbling under pressure, however, she has shown grace that has baffled even her own solid political base.

True to her oath to the Filipino people, the three-term Davao City mayor has delivered beyond the call of duty both as Vice-President and Secretary of the Department of Education. Indefatigable and fearless, she has gone to even the remotest places in the country to be with the people who are often forgotten and neglected after the votes are counted. She has spoken out on the burning issues of the day, and taking unequivocal positions on controversial matters that most politicians won’t touch with a 10-foot pole.

She opposed the move to open the peace talks with communist rebels, spoke out against the so-called people’s initiative to amend the Constitution, warned against dragging the country into war and criticized abuses in government spending. In the same breath, she expressed concern about the worsening economy and the deteriorating peace and order which resonate with most Filipinos who saw a glimpse of hope during her father’s term.
Little wonder that despite the vicious demolition job hatched against her, the Vice-President remains the most popular and trusted official in the Marcos administration. Filipinos can tell the difference between PR work and old-school public service which explains why even the sink thrown at her doesn’t stick.

It wasn’t easy getting to this point, but it is nothing compared to what lies ahead. But if there is anyone who can navigate the slippery slope, it’s Vice-President Sara. Displaying the kind of brinkmanship that has kept her afloat in the murky waters of betrayal, corruption and incompetence, she is showing the nation that she has what it takes to be the one.

“The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art. If you cannot master it, you inevitably get into war. If you try to run away from it, if you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost,” John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State under President Dwight David Eisenhower once said to describe brinkmanship.

Vice-President Sara finds herself on the verge of a war not of her own making, but she has stayed away from it. And yet, she makes it clear that she isn’t running away from it, or scared of it.

Even when the outcome was beyond doubt, the former President refused to endorse the present. Among other things, the former said the latter was “weak”. Close to two years after the elections, more and more people admit that he is right.

Still smarting from that blunder and paying dearly for it, one trait they will definitely look for in the next leader would be decisiveness. With the country in dire straits and its northern frontier fearing the worst, perhaps the better word would be brinkmanship.