Manila Standard : BBM vs. Isko

13 October 2021

By Tony Lopez | Manila Standard

"Expect then the 30 million jobless voters not to vote for anyone Duterte endorses for president."

A week after the filing of certificates of candidacy for the biggest electoral tussle every six years, the battle lines for the May 9, 2022 presidential elections have been drawn.

There are six principal protagonists for president—Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., 64; Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, 43; Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, 46; the world’s best boxer Manny Pacquiao, 42; Vice President Leni Robredo, 56; and Senator Panfilo Lacson, 73.

There are two things these six would-be presidents agree on. The worst pandemic of the century must be put under control. The economy must be rescued from its worst slump in 100 years.

Solving the pandemic looks like a no-brainer. Jab vaccines onto the forearms of more people. Assuming an adult population of 65 million, that’s 55 million Filipinos to get a herd immunity of 85 percent. By the first quarter of next year, it is expected more than 55 million will be inoculated.

The nagging problem then is the economy. None of the six candidates have a concrete action plan to end the recession. It is because no president before Rodrigo Duterte has faced such a deep economic slump.

Duterte’s solution has been to borrow money and pour that money into the problem.

So you have ayuda by the hundreds of billions, a good part of which has been stolen or pocketed by bureaucrats and their private cohorts. He also ordered wholesale purchases of face masks, face shields and PPEs (personal protective equipment). Some of his good friends from Davao suddenly saw an opportunity to make big bucks short term and have let greed take over their usually sociable characters.

Actually, had Duterte not declared the world’s longest and severest lockdown, he would not have had such a bad economic situation. Half of the 63 million registered voters are jobless and therefore, angry—angry that their jobs have been sacrificed at the altar of pandemic mismanagement.

The damage to the economy is deep. The scars will last long, if not forever. NEDA estimates the lost economic output at P41.4 trillion, equivalent to more than two years of GDP. It would take ten years to recover that money, if ever, per NEDA estimates.

Expect then the 30 million jobless voters not to vote for anyone Duterte endorses for president. That creates an opening for the anti-Duterte or anybody- but-a-Duterte, candidates. Like Isko Moreno, Pacquiao, Leni and Ping.

But millions more voters are so stupid, thanks to our decrepit educational system that produces the most ignorant graduates in the world, they think Duterte is god and is the only one who can fill the emptiness of their pockets.

That gives candidates like Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte a better than even chance at winning the presidency.

In fact, per surveys, Bongbong and Sara are the leaders, with each of them expected to win 20 to 21 percent of voters, if the election were held today. That’s a formidable 40 percent chunk of voters, especially if they join forces.

With six candidates and all things being equal, each aspirant should get at least 16 to 17 percent of the total votes at the starting gate. So far, five of the six have that base. Bongbong has about 21 percent, Sara 20 percent, Isko 18 percent, Pacquiao 15 percent and Leni 14 percent. Ping Lacson has to do a lot of legwork to reach double digits in his poll ratings.

Some of the candidates though are blessed with favorable factors. About 27 percent of voters or at least 13.5 million (assuming a 50-million turnout) speak Ilocano—the pure Ilocano, Igorot, Pangasinense, and Ifugao. Bongbong Marcos should get the loyalty of at least 80 percent of the 13.5 million Solid North votes or 10.8 million votes.

As a solid tribal bloc, the Cebuanos are the most numerous. One of every four voters speaks Cebuano. That is 12.5 million voters on election day. The two Cebuano-speaking candidates, Sara and Pacquiao could split the vote evenly, at six million each, thus neutralizing the regional vote impact of Cebu and Mindanao.

Also a factor in the young Marcos’s favor—43 percent of voters (21.5 million) are aged 25 to 44. These are people born when the late President Marcos was in his final years or had left the presidency. They have little or no memory of his supposed evil deeds like the alleged plunder and human rights violations.

I suspect that being a Marcos is more of an advantage than a disadvantage. Aside from Bongbong’s leadership qualities, his being a Marcos is often cited as one reason voters want him.

Of course, the young ones—the 18-to 24-year-olds — are mad at Marcos, the dictator and strongman, thanks to strong anti-Marcos propaganda in universities and media. But they are only 14 percent of voters, or 7 million. This is also the same constituency Leni is trying to tap.

The Tagalog candidates like Isko and Ping can count on the support of 12.5 million Tagalog-speaking voters in Metro Manila and the balance of Luzon. NCR and the Balance of Luzon account for 60 percent of total votes.

Assuming a 50-million turnout, that’s 30 million votes, including the 13.5 million who are Ilocano-speaking, leaving about 16.5 million who are probably pure Tagalog. These people though have no particular regional loyalty. But if asked to choose, they should have Isko as their top of mind choice.

This early thus, the real battle is between Bongbong and Isko. So far, Marcos has the edge. Of course, miracles do happen in elections. So Pacquiao, Leni and Ping could still spring a surprise.