Re-electionist Senator Manny Pacquiao is now President of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban, the political party of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who is now President and Chairman Emeritus. Pacquiao replaced Senator Kiko Pimentel, who now serves as Vice President. Why Pacquiao?
Frankly, the only thing that Pacquiao can offer is his vast financial resources. He is not known as a strategic thinker and not even an accomplished legislator. Cite one law that Pacquiao authored and successfully defended infront of that podium at the plenary, and you would definitely have a hard time identifying even one. He can’t even pose just one relevant question during Senate investigations.
Everyone knows that he can’t offer anything else except his fists that he uses to amass his billions and his popularity that curiously, only generated 16 million votes during his 2016 foray at the Senatorial polls. Inspite of his billions and the support given by such political luminaries as Chavit Singson, Lito Atienza and possibly even former Vice President Jejomar Binay, Pacquiao’s showing at his first dig at a national position only merited him a sixth placing–far behind Senators Drilon, Sotto, Zubiri, Lacson and even Joel Villanueva whose Tesda man moniker gained far wider resonance than Pacquiao’s. This just mean that Pacquiao does not have his own expansive political grass-roots organization capable of ensuring a win at the national polls.
So why replace a bar topnotcher and esteemed legislator like Pimentel with the world’s only 8-time boxing champ and pound-for-pound boxer? All the signs are there.
First, PDP-Laban is losing or it stands to lose majority of its members the minute 2021 comes. Yes, maybe PDP-Laban stands as the only political party with a solid and believable ideological platform, but it remains weak and small compared with traditional giants, such as the Nationalistas of the Villars, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) of the Cojuangcos and Ramon S. Ang, Lakas-KAMPPI of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos and even the Liberals of the Araneta-Zobels. Apart from the 2019 senatorial elections, the PDP-Laban has no solid history of electoral victory at the national polls. The fact is– even during the 2019 polls, PDP-Laban had to coalesce with other more formidable political formations– the newly formed Hugpong of Davao mayor Sara Duterte, Nationalistas of former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and at some point, UNA or the United Nationalist Alliance of the Binays, before it garnered enough votes to push its candidates, Bong Go, Tolentino and Bato to the winning circle.
With Pacquiao at the helm of the party, PDP-Laban hopes to arrest a possible membership hemorrhage by June of 2021 by what, you ask— by projecting that it has the billions of pesos to support every candidate’s hopes for election. With Pacquiao as head, PDP-Laban would be able to say that it is now a party compleat– a political party enjoying the blessing and support of two populist leaders: Pacquiao and Duterte and with the funds and the ideological platform to boot.
We all know that this is just a mirage. And this happened before.
In 2010, another Manny, Senator Manny Villar who was already a billionaire at that time, ran for the presidency and lost to Senator Benigno S. Aquino III. Many politicians flocked to the Villar camp for two reasons: first, the illusion that they would get financial support from the billionaire politician cum businessman and second, that they would likewise get support from then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who allied with the Villars in a political battle with the Liberals. And who won?
The Liberals won riding in the crest of what many saw as an overwhelming public protest vote against Arroyo. Filipino voters usually do that every single time a disastrous administration takes the helm of governance. It happened with the first Aquino administration, and with Arroyo’s administration.
When voter turnouts generate 78-82%, expect an oppositionist force to win over any administration-backed candidate or political party. And experts expect a huge number of Filipino voters to troop to the polls come 2022. For the administration– that’s scary. That explains why incumbent government officials particularly at the local government unit levels are always calling for their respective areas to be placed under either general or modified community quarantines because they already know that such quarantines are effective in not just muzzling dissent but also influencing people to toe the official line. This early, people are being psychologized into obedience by this administration to ensure a continuation of its reign.
What these manipulators don’t know is that the Filipino cannot be easily misled. Filipinos are just bidding their time. Most are itching for 2021– because that would kickstart the period when they would be strong and able enough to fight this administration. Enuf said.
Curiously, though, Speaker Alan Lourd Velasco is seen near Pacquiao. Everyone knows that Velasco is the political bet of Ramon S. Ang who leads and finances the NPC. Velasco is likewise, a close personal friend of Davao mayor Sara Duterte who is being groomed by close political associates of the president as his next successor.
This just means two things: first, the presence of Velasco is to ensure that no fragmentation happens between the Pacquiao camp and the Sara Duterte camp. And second, that the expectations of other political forces allied with the administration are managed to a level.
The question is often asked–what about the Villars? Will a Sara Duterte-Mark Villar tandem happen? If it does, what would then happen to the PDP-Laban which is rumored to be hatching a Pacquiao-Sotto, or a Pacquiao-Yorme or even an Ang-Pacquiao slate?
Everyone knows that not all politicians agree with another Duterte at the presidency. With the economy almost tanking, and with thousands of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs out of business, it would be extremely hard for another Duterte to get the same kind of support the first Duterte had in 2016.
Sara Duterte’s Hugpong is about to be tested. However, for it to succeed, it has to have the support of all political forces allied with President Duterte. With the exception of 2019, Sara’s Hugpong had never been tested thoroughly in a hotly contested political fight, especially concerning a national post such as the presidency.
We are then left with two political aggrupations perceived as shell parties with populist heads as leaders yet without the requisite political experience yet compared with grizzled veterans of the political scene.
The hopes of these political shell parties is for Pacquiao and Sara Duterte’s camp to come to an agreement soon and field a unified PDP-Laban, Hugpong, Lakas-KAMPPI and Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) political movement. While this is ideal especially to administration supporters, such a tandem also have several complications and consequences.