The circus is back in town. The political circus that is. Virus or no virus. The situation is different from the last Presidential election cycle. There is not much jockeying for the anointment because there are only few candidates and the outgoing President is not from the “silent majority.” In short, it is not like 2010 when part of the administration became the opposition by virtue of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo GMA breaking with Cory Aquino. That mold was broken in 2016 also because Rodrigo Duterte wasn’t exactly in the opposition. The fact is, he was always neutral, choosing to side with who won the election. Every candidate who came to Davao to campaign was welcome.
Today we are left with not much choices. Those who have ranked in the top five of the latest survey are Davao City Mayor Inday Sara “Daughterte” Duterte, former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, Senator Grace Poe, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, and boxing-champ-turned-Senator Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao. The most senior in terms of experience is Ferdinand Jr. Next is Grace Poe. Then Inday, Isko with Pac-Man bringing up the rear. The son of The Greatest Ilokano should be President but from the looks of it, that is still not within reach even if he is the sentimental favorite. There are quite a number of oligarchs who are wary of a Marcos Presidency. For one, the Marcos matriarch Imeldific is still around and she has a long memory. There are legal issues pending concerning the ownership of top companies which were owned by Marcos cronies as dummies but spirited away in the tumult of the EDSA “Revolution.” No doubt about it, Marcos won the Vice-Presidency in 2016. He was cheated and the facade had to be maintained lest sleeping dogs be awakened. The only way Bongbong becomes President is if fate smiles or even laughs out loud on him.
The others on the list are still deficient in experience. Grace Poe has kept under the radar following her 2016 defeat though she managed to win re-election in 2019. That’s the legacy of her father Fernando Poe Jr’s FPJ brand. Pac-Man is too raw for the Presidency. Senator Koko Pimentel and Ronald Munsayac should give up on their dream of becoming political Svengalis. Pacquiao has masa appeal but only up to the Vice-Presidency. Filipinos aren’t that desperate for him to become President. The Pambansang Kamao was TKOed in the first round of his political boxing match with no less than the President as his indirect opponent. The privilege speech he delivered at the Senate against his perceived tormentor, the Energy Secretary and PDP-Laban Vice-Chair Al Cusi, was more like a boxer blindly punching at his opponent in an effort to score points. Pacquiao should just run for re-election to the Senate.
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This brings us to the newest wonder boy of Philippine politics Isko Moreno. Isko has been a survivor all his life. He was able to lift himself out of poverty because of his looks. A lackadaisical acting career made him transition to politics. He learned at the feet of veteran Manila politicians Danny Lacuna and Fred Lim. In 2019, he allied himself with veteran councilors Bernie Ang and Felixberto Espiritu to beat former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada to become mayor of Manila. It helped that he had the financial backing of International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) chair Enrique Razon. Erap’s tactical mistake was the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) islands in Manila Bay which was going to fund his retirement. That was where Razon drew the line. ICTSI is headquartered in Manila and is one of its top taxpayers. Isko has a genuine heart for the poor but he hasn’t been able to gain much headway in City Hall against the entrenched old-timers who continue to lord it over the rackets. He has cleared Manila’s streets but that’s only in the commercial district. But there is definitely more order now and Manila is cleaner.
The other problem Isko has is his glass ceiling is too low. Even if the desire to learn is there his absorptive capacity is limited. He also has this tendency to be a bit overconfident and go off saying more than he should like his interview with Karen Davila last week which he made of a fool of himself in. He should know better than to engage Davila in such a manner. If he runs, Isko counts on the support of MVP, the Ayala’s and the Lopez’s. Razon is a GMA boy and it remains to be seen if he will break with GMA to support Isko in case the latter decides to go with Sara, which is likely.
Daughterte is very much like her father. No bragging. Keeping her cards close to her chest. Her advantage is her political instincts, education as a lawyer and the Duterte brand. She has gone around the country as campaign manager of Hugpong in the 2019 midterm. Ethnic groups in Luzon are generally wary of the bisaya which resulted in a mixed reception for her. Her strongest point is her genuineness. She will not be caught obviously pandering to the crowd. The fact is, she’s leading in all the commissioned surveys I have seen. Isko is a far second. Vice President Leni Robredo is running between 4% – 7%. The President is being an imp again when he included Poe and Moreno is his list of potential anointed. This is sarcasm on his part.
The campaign this election cycle will be digital not traditional. Candidates will need to adjust to the disruption brought about by the pandemic. Digital’s advantage is the campaign can be data-driven. We have an excellent national statistician at the PSA who has demographic breakdowns per barangay. It will not be a walk in the park, not even for Daughterte. But given the field of competitors she’s facing, most Filipinos will probably think, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Abangan.
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