‘Big Sister’ comes to the rescue

With her little brother caught in a quagmire of electoral protest that doesn’t seem to be moving towards a victory over Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, Ilocos Norte Governor Maria Imelda “Imee” Marcos is stepping up to the plate to lead the Marcos dynasty in trying to regain national preeminence. Can she do it?

At 63 years of age, the road to a national office is fraught with risks. Simply put, there are many of the old Marcos enemies who would relish in pulling her down. And just like what her only brother former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. had to run the gauntlet to make it to the finish line. But it was a “photo finish” with Leni finishing by a nose – 263,473 votes – that Bongbong could not accept, claiming he was cheated. Yep, it seems like it is another case of the Loser Syndrome: “Survival of the Cheatest.”

Bongbong had asked the Supreme Court, which sits as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to order the recount of ballots in pilot provinces Camarines Sur, Negros Oriental and Iloilo. The initial recount is set for March 19.

That reminds me of the unofficial election rule: In Philippine elections, there no are no losers, only the winners and those who were cheated. And when a candidate gets defeated, it breaks his or her heart, but usually – in most cases – he or she would concede defeat and graciously congratulate the winner. But at the back of the loser’s mind, plotting begins on how he or she could cheat bigger and better to win the next election.

But Bongbong couldn’t admit that he was beaten with the “unofficial election rule” still fresh in his mind. So he was cheated, he so believed. The election was his to win. It was his destiny to continue his father’s legacy but it was short-circuited by the “Yellow Army” of former prez Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. Yep, the Yellows did it again, just like in 2010 when Noynoy won the presidency. It was a long period – six years — of nightmarish mind games.

Bongbong’s gambit

But Bongbong set his eyes on the presidency by way of the vice-presidency. He thought that it would be easy to win the vice-presidency because the presidential derby was packed with high-powered wannabes who know how to play the “unofficial election rule” and win! Bongbong figured that once he is elected vice president, there are several ways in which he could take over the presidency. I don’t know how he would have done it, but who cares – he’s out of the game now.

Instead he’s concentrating in trying to convince the PET members to reverse the outcome. He had counted the heads of the justices and was pretty sure that he had majority of them supporting him. This led some observers to believe that the Marcos billions was being played like Monopoly money.

However, the pace of the PET process was painstakingly slow and tedious like a turtle having difficulty making it to the finish line, which makes one wonder: would PET be able to complete its mandate by May 2022 at the end of the current presidency? And while the PET process continues, Bongbong is immobilized, unable to make a political move, lest he’d lose his chance of winning his electoral protest. But this could all be an exercise in futility because nobody has yet to win an electoral protest for the presidency or vice-presidency.

“Big Sister”

Meanwhile, “Big Sister” Imee Marcos has been honing her political tools, knowing that she is entering an arena where political gladiators fight it to death: no rules to adhere to, no “below the belt” restrictions, and no quarters given.

Of course, Imee will win a Senate seat if she decides to enter the Senate race in 2019. There is no question about it. She told reporters there is a 50-50 chance that she will run. It all depends on whether Bongbong continues to pursue his electoral protest against Leni. But it’s taking forever and there is no end in sight.

If she wins a Senate seat, that would position her to run against Leni for president in 2022. It would be quite a spectacle: Leni supported by the Aquinos and the Liberal Party and Imee supported by the Marcos dynasty, the archenemy of the Aquinos. Indeed, it’s going to be a proxy war between the Marcoses and the Aquinos.

When asked if her father’s legacy will affect her decision to run for national office in 2019, Imee said she’s confident that her father’s legacy will “stand on its own.” But she’ll be vying for one out of 12 senatorial seats, which gives her a greater chance of securing a Senate seat.

But what if Bongbong wins his electoral protest? Would Imee still run for Senator? With Bongbong gunning for president in 2022, would “Big Sister” forgo a Senate run and put all of the Marcos’ political capital behind Bongbong? It’s sort of “all or nothing” for Bongbong.

But what if Bongbong loses the election? That would put an end to the Marcoses’ plan to regain the power and prestige that they lost during the People Power Revolution 32 years ago.

Third generation Marcoses

And with Imee terming out as Ilocos Norte governor in 2019, that would put a limit to the family’s influence beyond her province. It doesn’t come as a surprise then that third-generation Marcoses have been involved in local politics.

In May 2015, Imee officially notified the Commission of Elections that she was a resident of Laoag. In September that same year, the three sons of Bongbong – Ferdinand “Sandro” Alexander III, Joseph Simon, and Vincent – registered as voters of Laoag City, claiming their dad’s house in Barangay Suba as their residence. Imee’s youngest son, Matthew Joseph Manotoc, ran for the Ilocos Norte provincial board in 2016 and won. It won’t take too long before this new crop of Marcos politicians would be running for Congress. Ilocos Norte has two congressional districts. The 1st District is controlled by the Fariñas political dynasty while the Marcoses hold the 2nd District tightly. Congressman Rudy Fariñas – just like Imee – will be termed out in 2019. With Imee now officially a resident of Laoag, which is in the 1st District, what is the likelihood that she’d run in the 1st District?

Bongbong’s eldest son Sandro is now primed to run for office in the province. Why not the governorship that Imee would be vacating? Bongbong’s second son, Joseph Simon would be in a position to run for mayor of Laoag City against incumbent Chevylle Fariñas. And Bongbong’s youngest son Vincent would qualify to run against Laoag City’s incumbent vice-mayor and Chevylle’s husband, Michael Fariñas. That would certainly stack up the cards against the Fariñas clan right in their own backyard.

The Senate, however, is a hard nut to crack. There are just too many “senatoriables” from the various political groups and dynasties, mostly southerners with political ties to President Duterte.

By the way, the matriarch of the Marcos clan, Imelda Marcos, is the congresswoman representing the 2nd District of Ilocos Norte. If she’s ready to retire from politics, she could easily hand the district to one of her grandsons, unless Imee comes to the rescue and takes full command of the family’s political affairs.