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Manila Standard : The race for the presidency

News & Interviews
26 July 2021

By Ernesto G. Banawis | Manila Standard

"How good are the chances of the candidates?"

The final tandems for the presidential and vice president races are fast shaping up. The Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia reports on their initial surveys on the presidential elections will hasten the polarization or coalition of political forces and the composition of the teams for the two highest government positions.

The initial surveys on the race for the presidency show Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte taking an early lead over Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso and former Senator Bongbong Marcos as her nearest and strongest opponents.

Sara’s lead will certainly raise her confidence and those of her supporters but it is hardly comfortable considering that the other aspirants have not even yet announced their decision to run for president. Until the presidential candidates and their running mates are publicly nominated by their respective political parties, the final political equation will remain uncertain.

What will further delay the polarization process are the rivalries, differences, self-importance, and the conflicting principles of the principal players.

Bitter and deep differences have rocked both the administration and opposition quarters. The Partido Demokratiko Partido at Laban ng Bayan is violating democratic procedures and its leaders are fighting each other. The Liberal Party, considered the nominal opposition party under the present regime, has failed to unite the various opposition groups and critics of the administration. Vice President Leni Robredo no longer looms as the most viable opposition candidate. She is in fact way down in the initial poll surveys. She and her party have not been belligerent as the opposition party. Instead of being critical of the Duterte administration, the vice president and the Liberal Party seem to have been liberal in their accusations and criticism of President Duterte.

The 1Sambayan, the new anti-administration movement headed by former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, is still scouting for a viable presidential candidate.

But time pressure will force the presidential aspirants to finalize ongoing negotiations and shifting alliances.

The most probable serious candidates for president are already visible in the political landscape.

Among the tandems being floated are Sara Duterte-Bongbong Marcos or vice versa; Sara Duterte- Isko Moreno or vice versa; Sara Duterte-Rodrigo Duterte; Sara Duterte-Tito Sotto; Isko Moreno-Leni Robereo ticket or vice versa; Isko Moreno-Rodrigo Duterte.

Other tickets being considered are Manny-Pacquiao—Ping Lacson or vice versa; a Pacquiao-Sotto; Pacquiao-Robredo or vice versa; Moreno-Tito Sotto or Lacson as his running mate.

The most possible presidential candidates are Sara Duterte, Isko Moreno, Leni Robredo, or whoever will be her replacement as the united opposition parties candidate, Bongbong Marcos, and Manny Pacquiao

How good are the chances of the presidential candidates?

With her lead in the initial surveys, Sara stands as the lady to beat this early in the race. She is determined to run with or without the blessings of her father. She has adequate credentials for the position, a remarkable record of accomplishments as city executive; a strong-willed and no-nonsense, and a hands-on style of leadership, and the implicit influence and use of the resources of the administration. She booted out a speaker and helped install another without the explicit authority from her father, the appointing power. She will benefit from the still high performance and acceptance rating of her father even if this is not transferable.

But what she will inherit are some of the sins and shortcomings of the Duterte administration even if she is not involved in these transgressions. What will apply is the adage that the sins of the father usually visit his children.

The thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings, abuses, and corruption during the Duterte administration will most likely not vote for her. Her father’s professed concern for the downtrodden and impoverished sectors may draw support for her but this will as much cause the wealthy and elite families to be wary of her administration being a direct successor to the outgoing dispensation.

President Duterte’s populist fulminations against the Lopezes and the families of Iberian or Spanish descent may have deeply hurt these powerful and wealthy sectors.

Most of the owners of media institutions and the leaders of the media fraternity are critical of the Duterte administration. They may give Sara adequate and fair media coverage—but not their support.

Even with all the formidable odds against her getting elected as president, she stands as a strong and hard-to-beat candidate. What might make a big difference between victory and defeat is her choice of a running mate.

If she takes Isko Moreno as a partner, the ticket will be very hard to beat. If she picks Bongbong Marcos as her teammate, the resources of the administration and the enormous wealth of the Marcos family could wipe out the still strong anti-martial law sentiments among the people. The spectre of another dictatorial regime is vanishing from the minds of people who are now resigned to their fate as forgotten and neglected citizens of a fake republican state.

The strongest candidate for president who could overtake Sara Duterte’s lead in the surveys is Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso. His being a close second to Sarah is already notable considering that he has not yet declared any definite intention to run for the office.

His achievements in the last two years are already phenomenal. He does more than talk about what he is doing.

Isko is taller than Sarah in terms of political ascendancy and national stature and esteem. Defeating two former mayors of his city, including one who once occupied the highest office,, is a phenomenal and outstanding feat.

Domagoso is a self-made man who rose from genuinely adverse beginnings. He was a garbage collector in his boyhood years yet he managed to gain a modest education and even sought college degrees through sheer personal determination and audacity.

In the absence of a strong opposition candidate from the various anti-Duterte groups, Isko will appear as the strongest foil to another Duterte administration.

Isko got his Moreno surname from the late German Moreno who made him one of his talents in his television program That’s Entertainment. His good looks and happy disposition attract admirers and generate adulation.

What is hardly known in political circles is that Isko is one of the high officials of a long-established but quiet political party, the National Unity Party (NUP) which has more than 60 members in the House of Representatives and high officials in local government units. Isko will be officially nominated by this party among whose officials and supporters are titans of industry and wealthy business executives.

Isko is more identified than Sara with the millennial and young generations of voters. He has no dirty bags to carry or hidden skeletons in his closet.

Francisco Domagoso, his birth name, is a visayan. His father is from Antique and his mother is from Allen, Northern Samar. He will surely get most of the votes of Hiligaynons, Cebunos, and Warays or the entire Visayas.

Metro Manila or the National Capital Region will be his bailiwick.

In a recent casual interview with this writer, Mayor Domagoso said his passionate mission is to liberate the impoverished masses from economic and political bondage. He said he is not making grandiose promises. He said he will address the problems of the country with concrete programs and progress. What is needed to solve these problems, according to him, is common sense, adding that a strong determination, hard work, and God’s guidance will do the rest.

Senator Pacquiao’s increasingly devastating corruption exposes under the Duterte administration will diminish Sara’s fitness to succeed her father.

The possibility of 1Sambayan and some of the opposition groups throwing their support behind Isko is not remote. He is not identified with the Duterte administration nor is he close to the president. Yet, Duterte, in some of his public statements, included Isko as one of those whom he might endorse to succeed him as president.

The race for the presidency in May 2022 will be a no-holds-barred slugfest. It will be bitterly contested because no one among the leading candidates stands decidedly taller than the others in terms of moral and political ascendancy and eminence.

The insidious and sinister intervention of either China and the United States might make the difference in the victory and defeat of any of the candidates.

This is where the people should be warned about the employment of social media platforms in manipulating the elections in favour of foreign interests.

We are confident that the Filipino people will not allow themselves to be subjected once more of a foreign power.

The general elections on May 9, 2022 should be the deep and abiding concern of all Filipino citizens. They must vote for the best and the most patriotic among the candidates. Their lives and the future of our country will be in the hands of the next president.