The Manila Times : Bongbong Marcos has earned his shot at the presidency; odds say he could win the prize

News & Interviews
7 October 2021

By Yen Makabenta | The Manila Times

First word

WHO is eligible to run and serve as president of the Philippines?

The formal rules for qualification, as spelled out by the Constitution, are minimal: "Article VII, Sec. 2 of the Charter reads: "No person may be elected president unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election."

In 2022, some 30 million Filipinos probably meet those constitutional requirements. But the pool of plausible candidates is considerably smaller.

The informal requirements for the presidency are less easily satisfied, according to political scientists. People who entertain presidential ambitions must have what they term as "political availability," the political experiences and personal characteristics that make them attractive to political activists and the general voting public, and professionally fit to fill demands of the presidency. Potential candidates accumulate these credentials through personal and career decisions made long before election year.

There is no explicit list of qualifications for the presidency. The presidential campaign itself is a great training ground for the presidential candidate and his brain trust.

Supreme expression of democracy

In the words of James MacGregor Burns in the book Presidential Government, "A national election is the supreme expression of democracy, a time of direct, deep and uninhibited sharing by the people in the nation's decision-making, a time when we tolerate the confusion and the clowning and the vulgarity because the people's voice in the end rises above all and registers their collective wisdom and aspirations."

Since 1992, there has been no incumbent running for president in the Philippines on account of the constitutional ban on presidential reelection. Every national election has featured a multicandidate field. The Philippines has been content to elect presidents with only a plurality, not a majority of the votes.

The 2022 election will be similarly contested by a motley group of candidates. No aspirant thus far has surfaced as a clear frontrunner in the May balloting. There are candidates who plainly are just hoping that their bid will catch fire and turn on the electorate from north to south. There are also those who seem to be merely clowning to catch public attention.

But some are dead serious about their candidacy. Among these are Sen. Panfilo Lacson who is running in tandem with Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd in the Nationalist People's Coalition ticket. Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso also looks likely to go all the way under the banner of Aksyon Demokratiko.

The leader of the political opposition and the Liberal Party, Vice President Leni Robredo, still has to decide on her own presidential candidacy.

And then there is former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong' Marcos Jr., the heir and namesake of the country's foremost leader, Ferdinand Marcos, who led and governed the country for 21 years. Many see him as destined for the presidency like his father.

In a way, his is a role for which he has been prepared all his life.

In his family background, his rearing, his schooling, and his years in public service, every chapter has stone laid toward a future of running for president himself.

BBM for president

On Wednesday, October 6, Bongbong Marcos filed his certificate of candidacy, a day after he announced his intent to run for president in the 2022 election.

He declared his candidacy in a Facebook Live broadcast:

"I am today announcing my intention to run for the presidency of the Philippines in the upcoming May 2022 elections," the 64-year-old political scion said. "I will bring… unifying leadership back to our country."

Bongbong's political career now spans over three decades — he has served as provincial governor, congressman and senator — since his family's return from exile after fleeing the 1986 "people power" uprising.

The Marcos family is among the country's most famous; despite its fall from grace, it has retained far-reaching and powerful political connections.

Bongbong's older sister, Imee, is a senator and former governor. Their 92-year-old mother, Imelda, world-famous and still living, is a four-term congresswoman.

One relative is the current ambassador to the United States. Another is a high-profile lawmaker who could be the next speaker of the House.

"If we have learned anything in this time of the Covid pandemic, it is that each of us, no matter our station, is in need of the help of our fellow Filipinos," Marcos said on Tuesday.

His family has long sought to rebuild its image. Now, he must lead the way for their return to Malacañang.

Some political opponents, particularly the Left, are loath to see Bongbong run for president.

"BBM is spitting on the graves of the dead and on the faces of the victims of the Marcos dictatorship," said Judy Taguiwalo, who represents a group of victims of abuses under martial law.

The human rights group Karapatan vowed to thwart his efforts to return the family to power.

Rodel Taton, dean of San Sebastian Law school, believes Marcos has a good chance of winning given his popularity among young Filipinos, his family's social media clout and its steadfast support in its stronghold of Ilocos Norte.

Marcos placed second to Sara Duterte-Carpio, the president's daughter, in the latest survey of preferred candidates to succeed Duterte. Some speculate they could run on the same ticket.

What remains to be forged is an alliance of forces and a vision and program to win the election and govern and heal the nation.

If the pairing ever happens, it could be game over in the May 2022 election. The north and south of the country will form a union that no political formation can resist.

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