ABS-CBN News : Halalan 2022: And the marathon starts

1 October 2021

By Edmund Tayao | ABS-CBN News

The marathon to secure the people’s support and take over the reins of government is on. The filing of candidacy has started this first week of October, that is, from 1 to 8. With this schedule, the certificates of nomination and acceptance have to be all prepared and ready. This explains the flurry of political news and propaganda last month as political parties and would-be candidates for elective positions have all been busy completing their conventions. And so, more or less, barring changes come period of substitution in November, we already know who are among those running.

Of course, there is so much more to be had. Many of us have already been hyping for other politicians to go for it, but some have yet to categorically accept the challenge. As of this writing, it remains a guessing game. Hopefully, this schedule of filing will already provide us a complete picture so that we can already start to carefully weigh our options and decisively arrive at a choice come May 2022. If only those planning to run for office can keenly consider the prevailing situation, they could have taken note of the challenges of the upcoming campaign.

To drag one’s feet only further limits the already limited chances and capacity to reach so many people for the campaign, not to mention that it could only lead to speculations—from one’s unpreparedness to resorting to gimmickry. Note that whatever is employed politically, moving on to the coming elections impact not only on the other contenders but more so the public. This goes without saying that any and all action, from what is propounded as background, zeal and personal qualities of the candidate, to the various propaganda and even supposed platform of government, including especially the strategies employed, that is, the conduct of the candidate’s campaign and engagement with other candidates, all play right into the considerations of voters in their decision-making.

As I have been reiterating, voters actually reflect on politics and the options they have every election. There is no such thing as “bobotante”. The political system we have, if it could even be considered a system considering that everything is just dependent on personalities, substantial information is always wanting, which is crucial in making critical choices come voting day. This is the reason why the impulse for politicians and political groups is to resort extensively to propaganda. Voters then have to sift through all the propaganda, match it with whatever remains as unadulterated news reports, and filter what they could consider as useful information. This is what can be gleaned from the voting pattern or how voters made their choices in past several elections. Voters continue to experiment, and have consistently preferred what they consider as new or different from what has been tried before.

Having said that, it is about time to really get down and earnestly learn about the candidates running or expected to run for office. By learning, we mean especially how each is positioned to deal with the many challenges we face as a country, as a people. Right now, we remain unable to arrive at any definitive discernment. So much more remains to be said and offered, on what any and all of the candidates intend to do if elected. We can, of course, and likely have, started to weigh in on the personal traits and background of the candidates.

I remember encountering in the news only one candidate, Senator Manny Pacquiao, the very first to declare intention to run for President, laying down a platform, listing so many to be accomplished, and departing from what we have always seen before as some 10-point agenda. What may not have been considered is that platforms have always come with 10 points, not because the plan is only to do so much, but those listed are the priorities. It manifests how a candidate and his/her team has weighed in on the many challenges and determined how best to move forward and therefore prioritizing critical issues. In other words, every administration always comes up with extensive plans guided by the priorities offered during the campaign, and not just limited by the 10 points that have been advanced.

The second to declare is Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, complete with his running mate, Senate President Tito Sotto. The declaration came emphasizing “experience”, what with his many years in government starting with his many years in uniformed service, eventually as the Chief of National Police and a Senator since 2001, and serving as super typhoon Yolanda rehabilitation czar under President Noynoy Aquino. He can very well claim broad experience in government service. This experience therefore will surely be the main consideration by the voters in looking at the Senator as their candidate.

His track record, good and bad, will likely be the basis of his campaign. Detractors will expectedly focus on negative issues, including those that have already figured before. Some will ask, on the other hand, as they have already started to ask, what good they have done in the many years they have been in government, considering their criticisms of the current administration and call for reforms. From where I sit, on the other hand, they are in a better position to lay down priorities to be done if elected in office, knowing full well the situation in the country, coupled with their experience already acknowledged.

Then, just days back, we finally had Manila Mayor “Yorme” Isko Moreno Domagoso declaring his bid for the President in the coming elections. It was already expected but it still came as a surprise, what with his chosen running mate, popular medical doctor in the social media, Willie Ong. This is a plus, no doubt, considering we are still in a pandemic and health is the foremost concern. Having chosen the doctor who virtually came from nowhere, running for Senator in 2019 and still finishing respectably only indicates the focus of the team on addressing the problems of this pandemic. Many were expecting Senator Grace Poe to be the running mate, hence, this really comes as a surprise for everyone.

Strategists are then likely back to the drawing board with this unexpected choice of a running mate. So far, I have only heard doubts about the good doctor’s winnability. I would rather not just plainly dismiss his value in this political race though. Note that elections are always a marathon; so much can happen in between that the numbers of a candidate, however popular or not, can suddenly change. This has been seen in previous elections. Note especially the fluctuations in voters’ choices since 2004 when results of initial surveys are suddenly remarkably different from the actual results.

If experience is the battlecry of Senator Lacson, the barometer could only be years in public service. Experience has been the criticism used against the Manila Mayor, on the other hand. Still, what many may have failed to consider is that the former matinee idol has been in public service since 1998, starting as a Manila councilor. Of course, it could be argued that his experience at the national level is wanting, serving only briefly as chair of the North Luzon Railways Corporation and thereafter as DSWD undersecretary. Having served as second to celebrated political leaders, however, former President Erap Estrada and Senator and Secretary Alfredo Lim as Vice Mayor of the nation’s capital, it’s anyone’s guess how much he has learned from them. Again, much of this experience would likely elicit issues of the past. It will be interesting what will be unearthed and used against his candidacy, and it would be a good study how it will be handled by his team.

After all these categorical declarations come the opposition coalition 1Sambayan’s choosing Vice President Leni as their candidate for President in the 2022 elections. This comes as no surprise especially with the prevailing sentiment in the group that anyone who served under this administration is an “enabler” of President Duterte. This is kind of foolhardy considering that a sitting President is not just the President of a particular group or person. He is the President of everyone, and his success or failure is the success and failure of everyone. Sadly, some cannot accept him as their President, as some have always painted the President as evil, with allegations of extra-judicial killings from the very start of his term to his boorish communications style. It remains a struggle though to pull down his popularity as it has been herculean to improve the numbers of VP Leni.

Name-calling has been vintage a style of the opposition, even when they were steering the wheel of government. Anyone who is not with them is tagged as a villain. It can be argued in fact that the polarizing approach to politics started with the Aquinos and not just recently. The way the people have been responding now however, only shows that it is no longer effective. The popular support the current administration enjoys is incontrovertible. It cannot be turned any other way by just painting the President as evil. A substantial a case has to be made, especially since there has been notable achievements over the past 5 years.

Some serious thought had to be made therefore, so that a better understanding can be had why the popularity numbers of VP Leni is simply not picking up. It cannot be argued that it is simply because she has yet to make a declaration. Note that apart from the Presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, Yorme Isko used to be also an undeclared but egged on to be a candidate. Their numbers have been consistently quite promising compared to the dormant numbers of the VP. One can also not argue that it is because she has yet to go around and make her presence felt and noted. She has been the Vice President and therefore the people already know her and has always been considered a Presidential contender. It is then a curious case why her numbers have always been in the doldrums. It is a welcome development though that there is now this categorical endorsement. It would be interesting to see if she can duplicate her come-from-behind electoral performance in 2016.

And still the undeclared but much expected and popular candidate for President is Mayor Sara of Davao City. She has always been seen a formidable candidate and leading all surveys. It could be argued that she is popular because she is the daughter of the President. It's interesting though that despite the sustained attacks against the President, his men and his administration, the Mayor remains the leading possible Presidential bet. Somehow, as has been seen in Davao, the daughter’s political presence has always been regarded as separate from that of the father. Their leadership styles have been noted to be different and that each has his/her own following. It would be interesting to see how the issues against the administration could be made to stick to the good Mayor.

There cannot be any doubt that the strongest possible candidate for the administration is Mayor Inday. Despite the vacillation, I never doubted she will run. It’s anyone’s guess why the announcement has been taking time, but it will surely come. The seasoned politician that President Digong is, for certain he has noted how critical it is to choose who has the numbers, as well as what it takes to not only sustain those good numbers but to further increase it. He has, after all, repeatedly spelled the compelling reason for the administration to remain in power.

This also goes without saying that his VP nomination is just that, a nomination, as he should surely have noted it will not help the case of the administration to win. If he does run for VP, it will not only play right into the game plan of the opposition which has insisted that the President is just rapacious for power for himself, but more importantly, it will compromise his legacy. If these were not considered, what else explains the repeated declaration from both the President and Mayor Inday that there will only be one Duterte running for national position? I have consistently mentioned that it is unlikely the President will actually run for VP. In fact, as we have heard the President in briefings before, he is likely to go back, as he has always expressed his desire, to just go back to his hometown Davao.

The choice of a partner is central, to say the least. It is apparent that all Presidential contenders know this as they have taken time to choose a tandem and disclose their choice. We have seen this with another surprise choice by Senator Pacquiao of former Manila Mayor, DENR Secretary and now BUHAY party-list representative Lito Atienza as his running mate. We have yet to hear from Mayor Sara who she will be running with, in the event that she finally announces her Presidential bid. There has been a strong push for former Senator Bongbong Marcos, but to me, it will not be advisable. It will only drag the mayor to the endless controversies accruing from the still unfinished issues from the dictatorship in the 70s to the 80s. Instead of focusing on what her plans are if elected as she campaigns, she will always be hampered by issues caused by the controversies of the Marcos regime, for which there has been no closure. 

Some are inclined to think, and for good reason, that former Senator Marcos ended with good numbers in his previous attempt to secure the Vice Presidency and therefore would make a good running mate. In fact, some still think he was the real winner. On the other hand, it would have been difficult to tamper with the results, if indeed he was cheated, if it was a runaway win as that of President Digong’s. To my mind, perhaps the former Senator was then running against not-so-popular contenders, hence the good showing. The coming elections will be remarkably different though with the pandemic showing how important it is to have a VP who works with the administration, not to mention those who have already declared are seen as strong contenders. It is likewise expected that the opposition will up the ante in raising issues relative to the Marcos dictatorial regime with its consistent narrative of painting the President to be partial to strong-arm rule, hopefully generating fear from the public and therefore driving them away from supporting the administration. 

So much remains to be seen as so much can still happen between now and May 2022. No one can and should be comfortable with his/her numbers. If one is on top, the objective is the same as those trailing—to further improve on the numbers and strengthen one’s hold. It’s anyone’s guess what the strategies will be employed and what tricks will be considered to secure the victory. Hopefully, there will be a more serious campaign as we all need to hear what concrete plans are prepared by the candidates for the country to survive the pandemic and to recover.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.