The 2022 election landscape starts to take shape

Published May 8, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Rj Nieto

THINKING PINOY

RJ Nieto
RJ Nieto

Manila Bulletin reporter Raymund Antonio on Wednesday reported that Vice President Leni Robredo got a barangay clearance in the Camarines Sur town of Magarao. Robredo claims to be a resident of Naga City, having voted there in the 2019 midterm elections. But then, a barangay clearance is issued only to residents, so it appears that despite earlier denials, Robredo is now a Magarao resident.

The reporter correctly pointed out that Naga City is an independent component city, so its residents can’t participate in CamSur provincial elections. Magarao, a half-hour’s drive from Naga, is a municipality of Camarines Sur, so its residents can vote or even run for provincial-level positions.

Two weeks prior, Robredo denied rumors that she applied for a transfer of voter registration from Naga to Magarao. I am inclined to believe this denial: The deadline for voter registration is in September 2021. That’s almost five months from now, so she can do that at a later date.

Almost everyone sees Robredo as the opposition’s top choice for the 2022 presidential elections. Unfortunately, despite massive and favorable media coverage, she continually fails to rank well in presidential surveys. Hence, it will be understandable if she has plans to run for a lower position. Depending on what she will do in the next several months, she can run for a provincial position in CamSur or one in Naga City. 

I think Robredo’s latest move is logical since her Liberal Party (LP) dismally performed in 2019 after its entire senatorial slate – Otso Diretso – was wiped out. Philippine politics is volatile, and there may be surprises soon that may benefit Robredo, but it’s logical for her to hedge her political prospects given the status quo. 

PDP-Laban is the administration party. Nacionalista, NPC, Lakas-CMD, and NUP are either aligned or neutral to the administration, and LP is the only major true blue opposition party. With the distinct possibility that LP may not be able to field an even remotely winnable candidate, it appears that the 2022 race will be among administration-aligned bets.

True enough, political realignments seem to have commenced. At the forefront is Senator Manny Pacquiao (PDP-Laban), a historically staunch Duterte supporter, who shocked everyone when he criticized the president for the first time since anybody can remember. Administration-aligned figures are known to have criticized the president at one time or another: I myself have criticized this president despite my general support for this administration. However, I think nobody thought that Pacquiao would ever do the same.

A possible explanation is his need to transfer to another political party because PDP-Laban has become too crowded. Case in point is the attempt of many PDP-Laban members to convince President Duterte to run for Vice President in 2022, which perfectly aligns to the fact that surveys (1) so far indicate that PDP-Laban Senator Bong Go, another potential candidate, may find it difficult to win if he teams up with somebody else and (2) a Go-Duterte tandem is quite likely to win.

Of course, all these can change in a matter of months. For one, then Vice President Jojo Binay was on top of the 2016 presidential surveys but gradually slid down after the months-long full-force attack against the Makatizen that started in late 2014. But then, I do not see any ongoing high-impact demolition job aside from what LP is doing to the current president, and we know that one didn’t work, at least in as far as the domestic audience is concerned. 

Despite all that has, will, or may happen, what’s clear is that the potential candidates are starting to make their moves. However, let me remind everyone that sometimes, not making a move can also be a move in itself. As they say, why interrupt potential enemies when they’re making mistakes?

While I am not a big fan of political stunts, I very much enjoy watching political stunts that gloriously backfire or ones that are so brilliant that I could do nothing but gasp in awe. How will they mount a campaign in the middle of a pandemic? How will they do their own thing while minimizing political fallout? Or will somebody do something so reckless that it puts the political pecking order in disarray?

The next several months will be exciting, and I can’t wait to see whatever these potential presidentiables will do next.

(As a side note, Mr. Antonio’s report is a breath of fresh air because anybody who has read the entire article can see the amount of research that he put into it. I hope he continues to exercise the same amount of diligence and dedication in his future writings, and I also hope that more reporters can be like him.)

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