Center for People Empowerment in Governance



The May 2022 presidential race is turning out to be a repeat of previous elections – a feud among the country’s dominant political dynasties. The jockeying for power has resulted in the split of the ruling political party, political realignments, and moves by one clique that are apparently meant to mislead rivals. In the end, these dynastic conflicts leave many voters puzzled and others, outraged.

Incumbent Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s loyal aide for 30 years since the latter’s Davao City mayorship, announced on Nov. 30 his withdrawal as a presidential candidate. Go’s unsurprising exit from the presidential race after being anointed by Duterte as his successor, leaves the outgoing president with a dilemma whether to support former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.’s candidacy instead. Marcos Jr.’s running mate, Sara Duterte-Carpio, withdrew her reelection bid as Davao mayor following her acceptance as Marcos Jr.’s vice presidential running mate. Sara, who founded the regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago, was also sworn in as the new chair of Lakas-CMD, former President Gloria M. Arroyo’s party.

The Marcos-Sara Duterte ticket was reportedly brokered by Arroyo who herself is running for reelection in Congress representing Pampanga province. Definitely, President Duterte will support daughter Sara for the vice presidency. For the presidency, he has the option of endorsing one of the other opposition presidential aspirants. Marcos Jr., on the other hand, has received support not only from Arroyo but also former President Joseph Estrada and retired senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

Marcos Jr.’s candidacy and that of running mate Sara Duterte was bolstered by an alliance of four political parties, “UniTeam”, formed last Nov. 25. UniTeam merges Marcos’s Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP), the convenor of the alliance, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), Lakas-CMD and Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP). Signing for Lakas-CMD was Rep. Martin Romualdez while Jinggoy Estrada, son of former President Joseph Estrada, signed for PMP. Jinggoy Estrada is running for a Senate seat, which he used to hold until he was indicted and charged for allegedly "stealing" P183 million from his discretionary funds in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam involving the principal suspect, Janet Lim Napoles in 2014. Jailed until 2016 he was acquitted after posting bail. Despite the ongoing trial for the multiple charges against him, Estrada still sought Senate reelection in 2019 but lost placing 15th overall.

The unfolding scenario has reaffirmed observations that the May 2022 presidential elections will be a battle of major factional political dynasties. Bongbong is the Marcos family’s last card to retake the Malacañang Palace which was once occupied by his father, former President Ferdinand E. Marcos for 20 years (1966-1986). President Duterte has nothing to lose by endorsing Bongbong Marcos aside from giving all-out support to his daughter as vice presidential bet. Duterte’s political goal is to remain in power beyond 2022 under a hypothetical Marcos-Sara Duterte regime. That possibility can be further clinched if Duterte himself, who has filed his senatorial candidacy, wins. In this likely scenario, the 76-year-old Duterte can be elected as Senate President and Gloria M. Arroyo as House Speaker, a position which she once held. Duterte has, however, expressed his distaste for Bongbong Marcos whom he dismissed as a “spoiled” and “weak leader”. Many ask whether Duterte simply wants to keep his opponents and the public in general guessing on what his next move is reminiscent of what he did back in 2016 when he “agreed” to run for the presidency at the last minute.

In the state of the country’s political dynasty system, the rise of the Duterte political dynasty will remain unbroken especially if the other children win – Paolo, who is running for a congressional seat; and Sebastian “Baste” who replaced Sara for the Davao city mayor post. Outgoing President Duterte has been looking for options to save his neck from an International Criminal Court (ICC) probe into his alleged litany of extra-judicial killings (EJKs) in the drugs war thus his cheeky effort to remain in power by whatever it takes.

Presidential aspirants

With Bong Go out of the picture, the race for the presidency and vice presidency is narrowed down to six teams: Marcos-Sara Duterte; Leni Robredo – Pangilinan; Isko Moreno-Willie Ong; Manny Pacquiao-Atienza; Lacson-Sotto; and Leody de Guzman – Walden Bello, the only socialist candidates.

Despite the fact that the period for the substitution and replacement of candidates had ended on Nov. 15, speculations remain rife that the national tickets can still change. For instance, Marcos Jr. is facing several disqualification cases before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) because of a 1997 conviction for his failure to pay income tax returns (ITRs) from 1982 to 1984. Such conviction according to petitioners should be penalized with perpetual disqualification from public office, citing the 1985 Presidential Decree No. 1994, and the 1997 amendment of the Tax Code. If Marcos, Jr. is disqualified with his COC canceled before the May 9 elections, he cannot be substituted by Sara. Under existing election law after the Nov. 15 deadline for substitutions, a candidate who is disqualified or has died can only be substituted by another person with the same surname after being endorsed by the same party. In the case of Bongbong Marcos, substitution can probably be by his sister, incumbent Sen. Imee Marcos. If disqualified – which remains a big question, anyway – Marcos Jr. can appeal the Comelec ruling before the Supreme Court. But the window of opportunity for overturning a Comelec decision may be slim as the May 9, 2022 voting day approaches.

This raises the prospect of Sara Duterte substituting for Marcos, Jr. But this can be done only if her stand-in for the vice presidency comes from the same political party - Lakas-CMD which she now chairs. That right may be earned by Rep. Martin Romualdez, who was once considered for the vice presidential race. Romualdez is a relative of the Marcoses and a close political junior of Arroyo. However, the same election law on substitutions after Nov. 15 applies to Romualdez. He cannot also substitute for Sara because Sara herself cannot substitute for Bongbong.

Premature campaigning and where the candidates stand

With the administration line-up still in limbo, there has been premature campaigning by the national candidates through motorcades, province-hopping, tarp billboards, as well as social media and TV paid ads. Major highways in the country are bedecked with ribbons and Christmas motifs in colors identifying the tickets: pink for the Robredo-Pangilinan team, red for the Marcos-Duterte team, blue and white for Isko Moreno-Ong tandem; and signature checkered polos for Lacson and Sotto. This early, these premature campaign materials could run in multi-billions of pesos.

VP Leni Robredo

Aside from the pink code, Vice President Leni Robredo’s image-building is that of a “caring mother” and a “decent” president to differentiate from the expletive language and alleged EJK cases of Duterte. As a presidential aspirant, Robredo promises to strengthen the country's healthcare and education sectors, as well as fighting hunger at the forefront of her pandemic recovery plan for 2022. The vice president was put on the spot when she called for the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NATF-ELCAC) for its indiscriminate and dangerous red-tagging of critics only to retract after meeting top military officials. She then said she supports the task force mandate to fight the leftist rebels adding that the issue with the NDF-ELCAC boiled down to the “careless statements of its members.” She was also criticized for pushing for localized peace talks with the leftist armed revolutionary movement as this mode has actually been adopted by past administration as essentially an anti-insurgency program.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who has been trailing in the surveys, projects an image of anti-corruption and public order. His poor ratings are compensated by the popular appeal of his vice presidential teammate, outgoing Senate President Tito Sotto, who has been in the TV and entertainment industry since the 1970s. A former tough national police chief, Lacson earned the ire of human rights groups and political activists for authoring the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act which gives teeth to government’s anti-insurgency program. On the other hand, Lacson, who is running for the presidency for the second time, plans to “reinvent” all cash assistance programs of the government, particularly the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) if he wins. He also wants government spending on the provision of cash grants or “ayuda” to poor Filipino families streamlined.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno uses the narrative of a poor boy from Tondo, Manila who became a public servant. Moreno campaigns on a “Bilis Kilos” (quick action) agenda built by his first three years as mayor of Manila, the country’s capital city, with an impressive array of accomplishments which, he says, were targeted for 10 years but completed in just three years. With limited resources at this time, his team conducts daily campaign sorties and townhall-style “listening” meetings mostly with the D and E masses promising to cut oil prices and electricity taxes by half. Moreno’s answer to the decades-long insurgency is jobs and delivery of basic services. “The insurgency boils down to livelihood,” he said. “If people don’t have a livelihood, they are forced to the wall. I think if people have a livelihood, access to education, better health care, nobody in his right mind will go against the government.” Moreno is considered as a “dark horse” in the presidential race who might yet pull a big surprise in the next five months before the elections.

Sen. Manny Pacquiao

The boxing champ Manny Pacquiao is leaning on his rags-to-riches narrative and world fame as a boxing champion. Presenting himself as another populist presidential aspirant, he campaigns with fiery attacks, daring accusations on corruption and overdrawn promises to fix problems but is short on details. With his political life shaped as a born-again Christian, Pacquiao has provoked protests by calling homosexuality as “worse than animals,” and is opposed to same sex marriage. He has pushed for reviving capital punishment for heinous crimes involving the manufacturing and trafficking of illegal drugs. Although he has defended Duterte’s drugs war he differs with the president’s claimed soft stand on China’s alleged incursions into territory claimed by the Philippines in the South China Sea. The second richest senator, Pacquiao is known as an absentee legislator both in the lower House and Senate. With a dismal congressional performance and with no clear-cut presidential program, many observers are wondering what he plans to do if elected president.

Former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.

The Nov. 15 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey (conducted on Oct. 20-23) showed Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. topping as the most preferred presidential candidate with 47%, followed far behind by Leni Robredo (18%), Moreno (13%), Pacquiao (9%), and Lacson (5%). The survey was commissioned by the Stratbase ADR whose chairman, former Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario, supports Robredo’s presidential candidacy. Marcos, Jr. has also been endorsed by 44 Cebu mayors but this has been denied by Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia. Still, questions have arisen why Marcos has been leading in surveys despite the litany of issues haunting him and his family. As some analysts see it, Filipinos generally have short memories especially among young voters who know nothing about the Marcos dictatorship except stories heard from their elders claiming that the Marcos presidency was the “best” ever. Marcos Jr.’s presidential bid has stirred painful memories of Marcos rule under martial law (1972-1986) which led to the imprisonment of 70,000 people, torture of 34,000, and the execution or disappearance of 3,240 others. If elected, Marcos Jr. said he will channel part of the Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA) to support micro, small, and medium enterprises SMSEs; strengthen the country’s agriculture and transport sectors; and continue Duterte’s Build-Build-Build infra program. His Senate stint marked by absenteeism, Marcos Jr. has vowed to crush the leftist rebellion is he gets elected.

On Philippine foreign policy

Vice President Leni Robredo is for making Philippine-US relations back on track. In numerous occasions, Robredo has said that strong alliance with the US serves as a deterrent to Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea on account of its historical and sovereign claims. The vice president agrees with critical perspectives on China which see its assertive behavior as inimical to Philippine claims within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that have been challenged by Beijing and that fishing rights should also be protected. All these mean that, once elected as president, Robredo will use tough counter-measures on alleged Chinese incursions justifying the operationability of the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and other defense pacts. Some of her supporters believe, however, that Robredo will continue to maintain friendly economic ties with China.

Mayor Isko Moreno has repeatedly said he would be tough on China, that the 2016 arbitral ruling on the maritime disputes which thumbed down the Chinese 9-dash line in the SCS needs to be enforced, and that Filipino fishing rights will be defended at all cost. He has said nothing, however, on the state of Philippine-US relations.

Presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. is expected to continue Duterte’s friendly ties with China nuanced by the use of bilateral dialogue mechanisms to resolve maritime disputes. His father, Ferdinand E. Marcos, was instrumental in normalizing relations with Beijing in 1975. Bongbong Marcos also shares the views of former Gloria M. Arroyo on China whose presidency leaned on close economic relations with Beijing.

The Senate race

In the Senate race, the next upper House after the elections will probably be dominated by political dynasties who are presently represented with one member each. If elected, former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano who is running for senator will join his sister, Sen. Pia Cayetano. Similarly, senate aspirant former Vice President Jejomar Binay may join his daughter, Sen. Nancy Binay. Would-be senator Mark Villar will join his mother, Sen. Cynthia Villar whose husband, by the way, used to be Senate President. Outgoing President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who is running for the Senate, will likely be elected Senate President. In a hypothetical scenario where the elected President is incapacitated or disqualified in an election contest, he will be replaced by presumptive Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio. In such a case, the President (Sara Duterte-Carpio) and Vice President (Senate President Duterte by virtue of constitutional succession) will be both daughter and father. On the other hand, if he gets elected president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. will complement the presence of sister Imee Marcos-Manotoc, an incumbent senator.

The final stretch

The last five months before the May 2022 elections is crucial for all presidential and vice presidential contenders. Under a Comelec resolution, election campaign for candidates for president, vice president, senators and Party-list is on Feb. 8 – May 7, 2022; and for candidates for the lower House, as well as provincial, city and municipality officials on March 25 – May 7, 2022. As has been mentioned, however, there has been premature campaigning since at least November. All the motorcades, province hopping, social media, blogging, and TV paid ads are designed to increase mileage and survey ratings that, in turn, are good indicators for drawing in campaign money from would-be supporters including big companies who may have a stake in the coming elections.

Meanwhile, Comelec defended its half-billion peso deal with F2 Logistics which is owned by Duterte crony Dennis Uy. The deal requires the F2 Logistics to take charge of the distribution of ballots and other election paraphernalia for the May 2022 elections. The deal has been denounced as a conflict-of-interest issue given Uy’s closeness to Duterte. (Uy is said to be a major campaign contributor for Duterte in 2016.) As an accreditation agency, Comelec also gave the nod to 171 Party-list groups qualified for the 2022 polls.

Udenna CEO Dennis Uy, together with Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, are also facing graft charges for their role in the sale of majority shares in the Malampaya gas field, which was approved by the Department of Energy (DOE). The complaint filed Oct. 18 by concerned citizens before the Office of the Ombudsman it was alleged that Cusi and other employees of the Philippine National Oil Company’s Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC) and other incorporators from Udenna, Chevron, Shell Philippines Exploration BV conspired to provide Uy’s company a huge chunk of the shares under the buyout.  #


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