Potential presidentiables

Published December 18, 2020, 11:14 PM

by Rj Nieto


RJ Nieto
RJ Nieto

The filing of candidacy certificates for the presidential elections is still nine months from now. Nevertheless, we all know that political parties have started moving to see who among their ranks have a decent shot at winning 2022. Various camps have already floated multiple names, so let me weigh in on each of them.

First, Inday Sara Duterte.

Presidential daughter and multi-term Davao City mayor is probably the strongest contender right now. Inday shares with her dad the charisma, governance track record, and firmness, qualities that endeared her father to the vast majority of Filipinos. Unlike the elder Duterte, however, she is far more soft-spoken and is not known to have any vices, making her easier to promote than her father.

However, it is unclear if Inday’s circle contains enough qualified new blood to appoint into powerful cabinet posts on the flip side. That is, voters who disapprove of some of PRRD’s appointments (e.g., Health Sec. Duque, who messed up the Pfizer COVID vaccine procurement) may be reluctant to watch a sequel in real life.

Second, Manny Pacquiao.

The top presidentiable in terms of name recall, Pacquiao’s philanthropic efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic are hard to ignore. His childlike honesty is refreshing (e.g., when he interrogated Matobato in Bisaya during a Senate hearing), and he has no known corruption issues. Moreover, the potential backing of the ruling PDP-Laban (where he sits as party president) means campaign funding and machinery won’t be a problem.

On the flip side, Pacquiao is not known for his foreign policy. Today’s Duterte-led Philippines strongly affects the tenor of US-China relations, it is unclear if Pacquiao can extract from both powers concessions that will benefit the Philippines while minimizing blowback.

Third, Bongbong Marcos.

Marcos enjoys the support of the Solid North, Eastern Visayas, and several parts of Mindanao. His supporters feel disenfranchised in 2016 (READ: PET Protest), which can boost voter turnout. BBM’s winnability is proportional to the number of candidates in 2022, as his bulwarks will overwhelmingly support him while the other candidates fight over the rest of the national electorate pie. He also has the charisma, the brains, and military support.

But then, BBM may find courting swing votes challenging. We are all aware of his family’s PR baggage. He cannot expect favorable media coverage, as most mainstream journalists are staunchly anti-Marcos and everything that goes along with it.

Fourth, Leni Robredo.

Robredo is undoubtedly the most unapologetically pro-American presidentiable on this list. She can use this to court support from a Biden-led White House. Biden intends to reassert America’s historically dominating role in the global order, a position that has been sidelined by Trump’s generally isolationist policies. If her camp can make an ally out of Smartmatic, she will undoubtedly win 2022.

In terms of popularity, Robredo is hardly a darling of the Armed Forces and the rest of the population. If she manages to win, her reign, like Pres. Cory Aquino’s, will likely be peppered with numerous coup d’état attempts, some of which may actually succeed.

Fifth, Isko Moreno.

The maverick Manila mayor has been the talk of the town since 2019, and some privately commissioned surveys this writer has seen indicate that he’s got a pretty good chance at winning. Moreover, the opposition, composed mostly of Yellows and Reds, seem to like him too. His salt-of-the-earth image, reinforced by his deft use of the vernacular, makes him an instant hit to the masses. It also appears that Big Business likes him so that campaign funding will be easy.

However, some feel that Moreno has a disturbingly soft spot for the increasingly unpopular CPP-NPA-NDF. Either he finds a way to revamp this notion, or he may find it difficult to court support from the Armed Forces and anti-communist Filipinos.

Sixth, Ramon Ang.

With the billions he poured in donations to the government and the general public, San Miguel Corporation CEO Ramon Ang has become a superstar during this pandemic. Like Moreno, Ang is also known for his facility with Tagalog, which will help a lot in delivering heart-rending campaign speeches. He undoubtedly has the money for the campaign, and the Nationalist Peoples Coalition may provide the machinery.

However, I am not sure if running is the optimal course of action for Ang. If he becomes president, the specter of regulatory capture will hover all his policies. And when he steps down in 2028, it is not unlikely that his billionaire-competitors, who will inevitably feel one-upped, will try to exact their revenge.

Seventh, Cynthia Villar.

She indubitably has the money. She has the machinery (the Nacionalista Party where her husband Manny is party president). She has the support of a lot of political families throughout the country.

Yes, she is living every aspiring politician’s dream.

But then, I doubt that she will run in light of her husband’s arguable traumatic experience when he ran for the same position in 2010. More likely, her family will prefer being the power behind the throne so they won’t have to parry attacks from the frontlines.

Will all of the seven lodge their presidential candidacies come October, 2021?

A lot of things can (and shall) happen before that time comes. For all we know, some of them may not even be entertaining the thought at all. Some of them may retreat after the eventual discovery of a red flag. Some of them may even band together. Maybe, a dark horse may come out of the woodwork and snag the presidency, just like what the two most recent Philippine presidents did.

It’s too early to stress ourselves too much over this issue. If I were you, just enjoy the holiday season for now.

Merry Christmas!

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