Choosing a presidentiable for 2022

Published March 20, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Rj Nieto


RJ Nieto
RJ Nieto

Several strong potential candidates have started to make their 2022 intentions felt, like Senator Bong Go, Senator Manny Pacquiao, former Senator Bongbong Marcos, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, and others. Some of them have even started revving up their public relations machinery. 

Since I am one of the country’s political commentators with the largest followings, I think it’s just normal for my followers to ask who I’m rooting for. And I have so far refused to answer.

The deadline for filing certificates of candidacy (COC) is still over six months away. Lots of things can happen before that. Who knows, the next six months might be Jojo Binay-esque for some of these hopefuls?

Recall that former Vice-president Jejomar Binay was on top of the presidential race leading to the 2016 elections. But he fell from grace after his political opponents exposed a career-ending scandal. His PR machinery, if any, wasn’t able to handle the full force of the Malacañang-powered operation.

But even if these hopefuls somehow manage to avoid a fate like Binay’s, many other factors can change the 2022 roster. 

For example, there are rumors that Senator Bong Go and Senator Manny Pacquiao’s respective camps are at loggerheads because both want to run for president. Go and Pacquiao are both from PDP-Laban, both from Mindanao, and both are heavily pro-administration. 

That sounds like a perfect recipe for a Caesar-Brutus scenario.

But I think both men (or their assistants, at least) have seen the Harry-Meghan interview with Oprah, so they may have been reminded that it is not wise to air dirty laundry in public. 

I bet that these two will reach an amicable settlement before the October 2021 deadline, if only to avoid spreading forces too thinly. Besides, both men have lots of shared connections, given that they belong to the same party and are just neighbors in the Senate Building. 

The same goes for potential presidentiable Bongbong Marcos, who is also pro-administration, assuming he decides to run. His lawyer Vic Rodriguez said he’s going to run in 2022, but he never specified the position his client is running for. But assuming BBM wants the top post, then he will inevitably get entangled in something akin to the rumored Pacquiao-Go rift. 

But then, Marcos has no history of dragging people into public mudslinging matches: he is not a Cayetano.

Whichever the case, I bet that these men can reach a modus vivendi before October.

While all these supposedly internal political kerfuffles are being resolved, I see many netizens bickering about who should and shouldn’t run. Even other prominent bloggers I know personally have weighed in on the issue. 

But I have refused to participate in the ongoing debate significantly.

FIRST, lots of stuff can happen before the October COC deadline. 

That includes the amicable settlement I mentioned above. Why should I burn bridges this early, bridges that I may later discover as having no need for burning?

What if there’s some major legislation that will need both Pacquiao’s and Go’s backing (or opposition)? How will they both listen to me if I alienated them this early?

I have been a political commentator for several years now, and if there’s one lesson I will never forget, it’s what the late journalist and my mentor Jojo Robles taught me: restraint. He taught me that we can’t unsqueeze the toothpaste back into the tube. 

“Bossing Jojo” taught me that Prudence is more important than Courage and that Courage sometimes qualifies as Stupidity.

I have very little political capital, so I have to spend it wisely.

SECOND, how can I choose when I don’t even know who’s definitely running?

Yes, the time will come when I’ll eventually choose who to support. But the time isn’t now. The time to choose is after the COC deadline, when they start talking about their campaign platforms, when they start showing their competence (or incompetence) for the job, when we start seeing how they handle a crisis. 

After all, every political campaign of every political candidate is an ongoing crisis for that person. I want to see how they handle political relationships when push comes to shove, especially since consensus-building is a politician’s primordial job. 

Consensus-building doesn’t include wantonly throwing people under the bus. 

For now, I watch these squabbles like another episode of Raffy Tulfo in Action (or for the petite bourgeoisie, The Jerry Springer Show). You know that feeling when you’re just watching a fight just for the heck of it, and you’re not rooting for anyone just yet? That’s exactly how I see it, for now.

I guess it’s time to remind our leaders that if they don’t want to be seen as jokes, they shouldn’t make themselves one.

Regardless, I told President Duterte one thing when I hung out with him in 2017. I said it jokingly, and I can’t remember the exact words, but it goes something like this:

“Mr. President, you are over 70. Who knows how many good years you have left? You’ll be 77 by the time you step down. I don’t know, but in 2022, I’ll choose someone who won’t pick on you.”

But I guess it’s nice to know that most of the hopefuls are PNoy’s opposites, so that line I said in 2017 is not yet an urgent concern.

But why did I tell that to PRRD? 

Because I have seen how President Noynoy Aquino barraged his predecessor President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with non-bailable cases to keep the latter in indefinite detention, cases that were eventually dismissed for insufficiency of evidence. 

I do not want anybody else to suffer the same fate under a president as vindictive as that guy from Times Street.

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