WITH 40 DAYS LEFT to Election Day, the campaign season in the Philippines is now on the homestretch. From here onward, everyday counts. While the five remaining and active presidential candidates – Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Leni Robredo, Isko Moreno, Manny Pacquiao, and Ping Lacson – are busy crisscrossing the archipelago courting voters, many of whom are still undecided who to vote for on May 9, 2022, the bandwagons of Robredo and Marcos Jr. are gathering supporters in all regions. But between the two candidates, Robredo appears to be gaining momentum, particularly among the young voters, many of whom are voting for the first time.
Driven – and inspired — by idealism and good governance, the young voters are overwhelmingly supportive of Robredo whose campaign theme has resonated well with them.
Meanwhile, the Leni-Kiko campaign is gaining momentum. Everywhere they go, tens of thousands of enthusiastic young people come out shouting “Leni! Leni!…” And a lot of them wear pink, Leni’s color.
It is interesting to note that some groups are supporting Leni in tandem with Sara Duterte. They call themselves RoSa, short for Robredo-Sara Duterte. Coincidentally, Rosa or pink is Leni’s campaign color. Another group call themselves LeTi, short for Leni and Tito Sotto, Ping Lacson’s vice presidential running mate.
But while Robredo and Bongbong are locked in a battle for survival, the other three presidential candidates wouldn’t give up. Recently, presidential contender Sen. Ping Lacson was offended when vice presidential candidate Lito Atienza, the running mate of presidential candidate Manny Pacquiao, said that he was considering backing out of the race and was hoping Lacson would also quit. Well, being near the tail end of the pack, it might be wise for Lacson to reconsider his candidacy and get behind Bongbong or Leni. The same is true for Pacquiao, who is just a tad behind Lacson. But Pacquiao said that he would withdraw from the race if he gets an “instruction” from God to drop his bid.
“Who am I to go against God? If there is conviction, if God shows it to me, I will withdraw even two days before the election or one day before the election. If God has an instruction for me, I will follow,” Pacquiao said.
When asked what sign he would seek from God regarding his candidacy, Pacquiao said there were times he dreamed about his defeats in boxing when he was still a professional boxer. “I shared these things to some people before the fight, and what I dreamed about was what exactly happened during the fight,” he added.
Let’s take a look at the results of the latest surveys: Marcos 49.3%, Robredo 21.3%, Moreno 8.8%, Lacson 2.9%, and Pacquiao 2.8%. Isn’t Pacquaio’s poor approval rating a “sign from God” that his crusade isn’t going anywhere? But like in boxing, there are times when the difficulties appear too great and we just throw in the towel. Perhaps, it’s time for Pacquiao to throw in the towel and bow out gracefully.
If I were to put my money on who’s going to win, I’d put it on Robredo. As you can see, Marcos had a 60% approval rating in February and Robredo had 16%. Marcos dropped by 10.7% while Robredo increased by 5.3%. The rest basically remained unchanged.
But looking at the people who attended the candidates’ campaign rallies, Robredo drew the largest turnout. She also has been bagging political endorsements from governors, congressmen, mayors, and local officials. In other words, Robredo’s bandwagon is attracting a lot of enthusiastic supporters. More than 80 local government officials from several provinces nationwide released a statement endorsing Leni, citing her track record of public service.
In the three provinces of Samar, 43 out of 47 mayors endorsed Leni. But what surprised a lot of pundits is Leni’s strong showing in Duterte bailiwicks, with two Davao governors –- Davao del Norte’s Edwin Jubahib and Davao del Sur’s Marc Douglas Cagas IV –- and Congressman Pantaleon Alvarez throwing their support for Leni. This is a very significant win for Leni because Mindanao is the second largest island in the Philippines. Bongbong’s vice presidential running mate, Sara Duterte is President Duterte’s daughter. Indeed, Leni appears to have cracked the fabled “Solid South” of the Duterte clan. Leni has shown the ability to mobilize ground support in the Visayas, Mindanao, and Metro Manila. Even in Ilocandia, Leni was able to attract thousands of supporters in Cagayan and Isabela. In Echague, Isabela, 10,000 kakampinks showed up chanting “Awan ti Solid North! (There is no Solid North!).
Lots of baggage
On the other hand, Bongbong is inundated with issues, many of which can be traced back to Marcos Sr.’s dictatorial martial law regime and corrupt government. But the biggest issue is the unpaid tax assessment against the Marcos family, which amounts to P203 billion. Marcos Jr. claims that the tax liability is still pending in court – a statement rejected by presidential candidate Isko Moreno as “all lies,” who brought the issue just two weeks ago.
However, Ernesto Ramel, chairman of Moreno’s Aksyon Demokratiko, reiterated that the Supreme Court affirmed in 1997 a Court of Appeals ruling that declared the Marcoses’ estate to have a tax deficiency of P23 billion but ballooned from P23 billion to P203 billion due to interests and penalties 20 years later. In 1999, the Supreme Court had determined that the judgment ordering the Marcos heirs to pay the taxes was “final, executory, and unappealable.”
“If Marcos Jr. wins the presidency,” Ramel said, “the Filipino people’s P203B will surely disappear like a bubble. It is evident in your actions, words, lies, and excuses. Enough is enough Atty. Vic Rodriguez and Marcos Jr. Give the money to the Filipinos.”
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) confirmed that it sent to the Marcos family in December 2021, a written demand to settle their estate tax liabilities. But the Marcos family refused to pay the estate tax liabilities, which has become a major campaign issue.
With the election barely a month away, the P203-billion tax liability is causing a lot of flak from the other candidates, who are now using the tax liability as the number one issue. And no matter how the Marcos camp defends their stand, the issue is spreading like forest fire.
Marcos Jr.’s educational attainment is questionable. Marcos Jr. claimed that he graduated from Oxford University and earned a degree. But in October 2021, Oxford University confirmed that he failed to complete his degree and did not graduate. Yet in spite of Oxford’s denial, Marcos Jr. insisted that he completed his degree.
Like they say, surveys might not be reliable, but turnouts don’t lie. It’s a living manifestation of popular support. At the Leni-Kiko grand rally in Pasig City on March 20, around 130,000 “kakampinks” – a portmanteau that combines “kakampi” (partner) and “pink” (Leni’s campaign color) – attended the grand rally, the largest assembly of Leni’s supporters. A few days later, 80,000 kakampinks attended the Leni-Kiko grand rally in Bohol. A day later, 50,000 kakampinks showed up in Tarlac City.
Let’s face it, as in previous Philippine elections, the early frontrunners tripped over some issues that torpedoed their candidacies. It happened to Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004, Manny Villar in 2010, Grace Poe in 2016 and Jejomar Binay in 2016, who both lost to Rodrigo Duterte. While I find it irrelevant to discuss the issues that befell their candidacies (they’re fait accompli), Filipino voters do not like electing controversial candidates. And once they lose their confidence in a candidate, you might as well kiss them good-bye.
With numerous controversial issues that haunt Bongbong, would it be fair to say that he’s lost the confidence of the majority of the Filipino people?
While people may have forgiven the sins of the father, they will never forget the things that the late dictator did. And for Bongbong to not apologize for his father’s atrocious regime, claiming that his father did not do anything wrong – he even called it the “golden era” — is an insult to the people’s intelligence. Bongbong’s bias foretells how his presidency would mirror his father’s 20-year bloody rule that had bankrupted the Philippine economy, which led to the People Power Revolution of 1986.
My crystal ball for 2022 clearly shows that Bongbong will lose in a landslide.