Among possible contenders in the 2022 presidential elections, it is former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who is in a quandary somewhat. Some of his colleagues at the Senate, specifically Senate president Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Senator and former cop, Panfilo Lacson and 8-time world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao Jr. have expressed their individual desires for the presidential and vice presidential posts. While everyone knows that the younger Marcos, scion of the late dictator and his namesake Ferdinand is really gunning for a national post come 2022, the exact post that he intends to throw his hat on, remains an enigma. For us to understand where Bongbong intends to wet his feet on, let us assess his true political standing in the scheme of things.
First off, Bongbong comes from a weaker than others position. He just lost his electoral case against Vice President Leni Robredo. He spent millions trying to convince the Presidential Electoral Tribunal that Leni’s win was a fluke. Like all other electoral protests in this country, the case dragged on and even reached the Supreme Court and after five years, Bongbong failed to get the approbation of the present court. Had courts favored him, Bongbong would have become president by this time, a beneficiary of the constant ribbing by the president himself of his desire to leave the Presidency and just go back to his native Davao for a much long deserved retirement. It could have been a perfect comeback for the Marcoses to Malacanan, decades after the Filipino people forced them to exile. When the First Lady and remnants of the first Family of the dictator and their associates went back several years later, the blueprint for the comeback was clear– Bongbong had to make his tortuous way towards the Palace by running for local and provincial posts first, before going to the Senate enroute to that mansion beside the Pasig. If Bongbong manages to secure a public office, his path is set towards a presidential redemption.
All things went well for him, even for his older sister Imee, who ran for local posts and eventually won a seat at the Senate after Bongbong decided to try his hand for the vice presidency alongside first, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and eventually after his running mate died, with Davao mayor and 2016 presidential victor Duterte. Bongbong became not the one but the second highest voter getter in that 2016 elections, with the victor and now Vice President Leni Robredo securing a win via a squeak. And we all know what happened.
Now, things have gotten fuzzy in the political department.
Bongbong’s sister, Imee, had gravitated to the presidential daughter’s circle and even dragged the Nacionalista Party into the Hugpong coalition. Hugpong is slowly turning into a super-party with seven political parties already agreeing to support the presidential (or vice presidential) run of Sara Duterte. However, sources told this writer that things are not as rosy as coalition propagandists want us to believe. Several political bigwigs are in disagreement with Sara’s policy that she and her family and that includes their close political associates are the ones with the power to determine who runs for the presidency and the vice presidency under the Hugpong banner. Other sources say that even in the final senatorial lineup, there are frictions as representatives of various senatoriables are jockeying and fighting each other for the privilege of being in the final list of Hugpong candidates.
There lies the problem, especially for Bongbong.
Lakas-NUCD nominal leader, Congressman Martin Romualdez was the first to be named as a possible team mate of Sara after her father PRRD mentioned his promise to Romualdez during the speakership fight. Shortly after this, a faction of the Lakas-NUCD headed by one of Gloria Macapagal’s fair-haired boy had endorsed former Gloria defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro as a vice presidential candidate. And lately, a Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) member, Senator Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian had also expressed his intention to run as Sara’s VP. So, that makes it three gentlemen vying for Sara’s favor: Gibo, Win and Bongbong or BBM.
The Sara Duterte-BBM or BBM-Sara Duterte tandem had been discussed since two years ago by both the Marcos family and Sara Duterte. Imee, a certified amiga of Sara Duterte, is of course pushing for the BBM-Duterte tandem but several Malacanang insiders belonging to the shadowy Davao group thinks otherwise–they of course, are batting for their mayor as the presidential candidate, just to ensure that nothing happens with President Duterte the moment he relinquishes power by June 2022.
Inside the palace, several close PRRD associates had another thing going. Being close to Senator Bong Go, they are instead reportedly pushing for a Go-Duterte tandem, but not with Sara, but with the president foregoing his retirement and again trying his hand this time, as Vice President. Many commented negatively against this because it smacks of a selfish desire for the Dutertes to stay in power as long as they can possibly can. The problem with a Go-Duterte or Duterte-Go tandem is that both are very weak in the voter-rich regions of the North. With a determined senate president running for the second top post as the obvious official VP candidate of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, it would be catastrophic for the administration if the president himself losses to Senate president Sotto.
Sotto, according to sources, is a very strong candidate and probably a sure winner for the vice presidential post. And I believe he is. Even if we pit Sotto with, Pacquiao Jr. or Isko Moreno (if rumors are true that he is okey to be a vice presidential partner of Vice President Leni Robredo), Sotto, I think is going away with the win.
In the presidential derby, things are a little fuzzy. A win by Go as president will be met with violent opposition, something that this administration will never allow and will possibly head towards actual civil war. Whatever Go thinks of his chances, the senator will never be allowed to sit as president in the palace. One, he has earned many enemies in the business community and two, there is a growing sinophobia within Philippine society and even if he is in fact and in reality, anti-China, Go will still be considered a Chinese stooge something that the US state department believes.
So, on the purview of our Uncle Sam, a Go-Duterte and even a Sara Duterte-Go tandem is unacceptable. This is a fact. That said, Mr. Go must be having some nightmares as I write this, because of the uncertainty and unstable position he now sees himself in post-Duterte. If he thinks that his present associates will help him when forces begin their attacks against him post-election, Go may be dreaming. Go might clinch a legitimate poll victory but he might not be allowed to even sit or govern by forces not just in this country but even from the West. This said, even now, the Duterte clique faces extreme challenges not just in the political arena, but their own personal fates are now put into a very perilous situation.
Okey, back to BBM. In a recent guesting at the National Press Club (NPC), Bongbong says that he is definitely thinking of running for a national post, and he will arrive at a decision soon but he must see popular support first before he throws his hat unto the ring. The question is–what post is BBM interested about?
Three options lay before him: first, a very safe Senatorial run that I think is best for him. The only problem with a senatorial run is even if he becomes senate president, Bongbong will wait for six more years before he sees another crack at the presidency. I don’t think his mother, First Lady Imelda Marcos will still be alive by 2028. Second, Bongbong might be about sixty nine years old by that time, still young by today’s standards. However, there are rising stars the likes of a Vico Sotto or an Isko Moreno who enjoy higher ratings and favorable perceptions than Bongbong. I am pretty sure by 2028, Aksyon Demokratiko, the political party of the young Pasig mayor will be a more formidable proposition for Filipino voters. All the other political aggrupations would surely melt and die a natural death. Even Hugpong, while formidable by paper now, will eventually drift away the minute coalition members go their own separate ways.
Now, if Bongbong settles for the vice presidency, he must be ready to face stiff competition from Tito Sotto or an Isko Moreno. The more rational choice is really go for nothing and choose to run as a presidential candidate. Again, we go back to my earlier arguments and say that even in this, Bongbong faces a difficult situation.
A hard look at our politics now show fragmentation in both the administration and opposition camps. Surely, there will never be a solid or unified administration slate because of the presence of Reporma headed by Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, who positions himself as an alternative candidate who is neither here nor there. NPC is also backing Lacson’s bid and the tandem of Lacson-Sotto III makes it extremely hard for NPC members to support the candidacy of Sara even though they are one of the parties who joined the Hugpong coalition.
The continuing rift within the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban is another big headache for the administration. Though the machinations of Energy secretary Alfonso Cusi and Melvin Matibag, the administration party is admittedly at a tattered state. Cusi and Matibag’s intentions are apparent– they want to drag PDP-Laban into the Hugpong coalition. But of course, who would want that among the PDP-Laban members especially those in the Visayas and Mindanao who lost from their Hugpong cousins in 2019? Yes, that was what, several years ago? But the wounds have not healed as yet. Hugpong had campaigned against PDP-Laban candidates and some of them won against the administration bets.
There is a possibility that the Pimentel-Pacquiao faction will gravitate naturally from other political groupings the likes of the Lacson-Sotto group’s Reporma and NPC. A source though said that before this happens, Pimentel will try to bring back the party into their fold. Will Pimentel-Pacquiao eventually cross the rubicon and file the proper legal cases before the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). When these happens, expect a major fragmentation, a split that is so costly and so divisive that will eventually throw the entire party into an internal and infernal situation that will effect the chances of their bets come poll time in a major way.
The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo had reportedly explored possibilities with the Lacson-Sotto clique. And just today, Robredo also announced that she is open to explore things with Senator Manny Pacquiao–one of the first agenda of the boxing champion after he dispenses Ugas, the boxer who stepped in for Errol Spence Jr who suddenly had a retina tear several days before the August 21 fight. The thing with this announcement is that it complicates Robredo’s situation further, because her camp had announced exploratory talks with the Moreno camp and even floated the idea among 1Sambayan convenors.
So it seems that Robredo had closed her doors with the Lacson-Sotto III camp after she reportedly disagreed with Lacson’s proposal in public. It seems that talks with the camp of Moreno had broken down since Moreno had flown into the coop of the Aksyon Demokratiko party composed of former Aquino cabinet members and close associates of former Senator Raul Roco. Aksyon Demokratiko leaders had talks with the Lacson-Sotto III and come September, the entire country will know if Aksyon, Reporma and the NPC will come to a modus vivendi.
The worst thing that could happen is if all these political maneuverings result to an isolation of the 1Sambayan coalition composed of civil society groups, several leftist organizations and the Magdalo. Is a 1Sambayan coalition composed of these parties possible? No. Magdalo leader Senator Antonio Trillanes IV had already drawn the red line– no Magdalo support if Leni’s Liberal Party coalesces with Reporma under the 1Sambayan banner. With the Trillanes announcement, it appears that the 1Sambayan coalition will run its own course, possibly with Aksyon Demokratiko but not with the NPC and Reporma. So, even if Robredo disagreed with the Lacson proposition, this entire thing will still come down to survey results and rankings–a thing that 1Sambayan financiers always consider.
Now, if Aksyon decides to choose the NPC-Reporma coalition, this will leave 1Sambayan in a very dangerous situation. I still think the Liberal Party-Magdalo-Akbayan machinery is incapable of launching a decent national campaign since the 2019 debacle. They need the political experience of political pragmatists within the NPC, Aksyon and Reporma to prevent another Duterte dispensation.
What’s in store for BBM then?
I think BBM is wise enough to see that being with this administration has advantages and serious disadvantages. On the disadvantage, Marcos is now being lined up as one, but not the major or first choice for Sara Duterte. This opens him to a possibility of his hidden enemies with the Duterte camp to pull the rug under him. There is reason to worry for BBM because his ratings are not as stable as what he thinks these are. What I read in these surveys is the consistent high ratings of Bongbong in the senatorial run and of course, for the presidency. He remains third behind Isko Moreno and Sara. As for the senatorial choices, Bongbong remains in the comfortable magic circle.
What’s best for the Duterte administration? The best thing is disfranchise the Cusi-Matibag faction to prevent the possible gravitation of the Pimentel-Pacquiao clique to the opposition. A Go-Duterte tandem will fail in the polls.
The most viable tandem for this administration is a BBM-Sara Duterte tandem. Despite her strong showing in the poll surveys now, the fact remains that Sara’s numbers are not that good in the voter-rich regions. And with this rift from PDP-Laban and the absence of the Alvarez faction who is now Reporma, it is uncertain if Sara would be able to secure a very strong showing in the Visayas to balance her numbers in the voter-rich Luzon especially in Region 4-a and the National Capital Region (NCR).
With Bongbong’s vaulted electoral machinery still entrenched in Luzon, Sara will be able to use this machinery to bolster her political stock in these regions. However, Sara might encounter severe opposition during the elections from these areas. It is best for this administration to instead go for the best option that is to pit Bongbong against Ping Lacson and Robredo for the win.
However, Sara might lose to a very strong Sotto come election time should she chooses to go for the vice presidency. The only possible strong contender against Sotto is Pacquiao and the Pacman, sources told this writer, is serious in considering a senate comeback instead of a risky presidential or vice presidential run. The problem really is if Leni’s camp convinces the Pacman to go to their camp and run for the vice presidential post. This is very risky for Pacquiao Jr., I must say. For one, Pacquiao is set to lose valuable support from the intelligentsia who are with him because they see in him another Duterte and most of them are avowed yellow haters. The minute Pacquiao coalesces with Robredo, a sizable portion of his supporters will leave him and go to another candidate.
I really don’t know why Robredo is still desirous to meet with Pacquiao because as things stand, Pacquiao political advisers and associates are mostly people who are against the Liberals. There is a reason why Pacquiao’s closest political associate Chavit Singson Jr is with the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC). NPC is the safest haven for what I tagged as “Duterte enablers” who are now doubting the political future of the Dutertes post May 2022 elections.
After the political dust had settled, I believe that the following scenario is expected to happen:
- The administration will come to its wits and pursue a BBM-Sara Duterte combination. Everyone agrees with me that this is the “dream team” because both political personalities compliment each other–the strength of one is the weakness of the other.
- A Bong Go-Rodrigo Duterte or even a Sara Duterte-Go tandem is sure to fail and split the administration vote, similar to the one that happened in 2008 when former president Ramos was forced to support two administration allies vying for the same prize. Trust that the Pimentel-Pacquiao faction will never support such a possibility not until Cusi and Matibag remain in their party.
- If the administration pursues number 2, then, BBM had no choice but to gun his political machinery and do it on his own–either with a Pacquiao Jr as his tandem or some other personality, the likes of a Vilma Santos? His numbers may not be high by this time but if the debates begin, BBM’s numbers would surely climb.
- Several negative news had already sprouted against Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, that reminded voters of his association with former president Joseph Estrada and his former stint as PNP chief. It remains unknown what comes out of these attacks, but those who are now doing this must be advised to clearly tread their paths carefully because Ping still appeals to the middle aged voter.
- If the PDP-Laban rift worsens, this might drag the party into an unusual coalition with either the 1Sambayan or Aksyon or the Lacson-Sotto clique. This might affect the Sara Duterte Hugpong campaign in the Visayas.
- On the opposition side, Robredo must coalesce with Isko Moreno of Aksyon Demokratiko. Yet the risk of losing the Magdalo support may likewise affect the chances of winning the presidency since Magdalo has a formidable electoral machinery. So, an Aksyon-Akbayan-Liberal party coalition? Possible.