The Philippine Political Circus Begins

As expected, the 2022 Philippine presidential election will be one of the most – if not the most – interesting elections in the Philippines. It is a political alchemy of various personalities that includes a former boxing great, the heir of the late dictator, a colorful Manila mayor, two former national police chiefs, and the widow of an assassinated popular political heavyweight.

The people are energized to elect the next president who – as usual – promises to bring “peace and prosperity” to a third-world country that dreams of greatness since the corrupt late dictator promised to make the Philippines great again. Thus was born the “Great Again Society,” which was as promising as it was half a century ago when it became the rallying cry of the “New Balintawak,” which was “For God and country: Guns, goons, and gold” – the three G’s that brought the Marcos family to the forefront of greed, ambition, and power. But in the end, the people revolted and sent the Marcoses to exile in Hawaii.

Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. (Photo by Rouelle Umali)

Thirty-two years later, the heirs of Marcos brought home the remains of the dictator and retreated to Ilocos Norte where they slowly rebuilt their political base, which remained loyal to their “Apo Lakay” to this day. That was the Solid North that brought to the presidency of Elpidio Quirino, Carlos P. Garcia (parents were Ilocanos), Ramon Magsaysay, Ferdinand Marcos, and Fidel Ramos. The loyal Ilocanos hope Bongbong Marcos would be next, which would mark 2022 as the rebirth of the Marcos dynasty or if he fails, its final political burial year.

So, with that introduction, let the circus begin!

As of the final filing date last October 8, more than 90 Filipinos have filed their certificates of candidacy (COC). I’m not going to name all of them since most of them filed just to have the bragging right of “being a presidential candidate.” There are however, a handful of serious candidates. They are the following (in no particular order):

Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. – This is Bongbong’s second attempt to run for higher office. He was beaten by Vice President Leni Robredo in 2016 when he ran for Vice President. His popularity stands at 20%.

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo (Photo by Ezra Acayan)

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo — Although she’s the incumbent Vice President, Leni’s popularity is less than 10%. However, she’s always been behind in ratings since she first entered politics. She first ran as Congresswoman in Camarines Sur’s 3rd congressional district in 2013 beating the wife of former Congressman Luis Villafuerte of the politically powerful Villafuerte political dynasty.

In 2016, she ran for Vice President and won. She became the voice and face of the opposition. In 2018, she criticized China for establishing missiles in the West Philippine Sea. On October 7, 2021, she announced her candidacy for President as an independent although she remains a member and chairman of the Liberal Party. Clearly, she’s distancing herself from the “dilawan” (yellow) brand of the Liberal Party.

To accentuate her independence, she adopted “pink” as the color of her candidacy. But make no mistake, the Liberal Party supports her candidacy and is expected to campaign for her. In explaining why she picked “pink,” Leni said, “This is a different fight. We have a bigger fight ahead. This is a battle against the comeback of the dictator’s son and incompetent governance which is the root of our problems.”

Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao (Photo by Jam Sta Rosa)

Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao – After announcing his retirement from boxing on September 29, 2021, after a record of 62-8-2, 39 KOs at age 42, Manny declared two days later that he was running for President. One of the greatest boxing champions of all time, “Pacman,” as he was known in the ring, won 12 world titles in eight weight divisions. The presidency would be the apex of his rise to greatness.

Manny was so poor that he stopped his studies in high school to help earn money for his family. In 2007, he took, and passed, a high school equivalency exam making him eligible for college education. In the same year, he ran for Congress and lost. Never a quitter, he ran again in 2010 and won. He was reelected in 2013. In 2016, he ran for Senator and won. Surely, he has the mentality of a winner.

Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso (Photo by Ezra Acayan)

Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso – Isko Moreno is running for president in his first attempt at national politics. He was first elected Vice Mayor of Manila in 2019 when he unseated Manila mayor and former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada. A former actor who grew up in the slums of Tondo, Isko Moreno – his name as an actor — acknowledged that he doesn’t have an extensive educational background and he doesn’t come from a powerful political clan. He’s using his successful programs and projects to propel him to the presidency. “I do not run on promises. I run on prototypes,” the 46-year-old mayor said during his campaign launch in Tondo.

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson (Photo by Jonathan Cellona)

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson — Ping Lacson first ran for president as an independent in 2004 when he suffered a landslide defeat at the hands of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He finished third in a five-way contest. A graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, he ran on a campaign against illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption, which was his forte as a former Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief.

After Estrada was ousted in 2001, Lacson won a seat in the Senate that same year, and proceeded to win two more terms. He remained an independent since then. In 2021, Lacson was named the chairman of the revived Partido Reporma. He and his running mate former Senate President Tito Sotto launched their candidacies last August 4.

Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa (Photo by Jesse Bustos)

Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa – Bato rose to prominence when President Duterte appointed him as PNP Chief in 2016. He led the Oplan Tokhang, the controversial “war on drugs” campaign. As a result, several groups including human rights groups and religious leaders strongly objected to Dela Rosa and President Duterte’s initiatives.

In 2018, Dela Rosa was appointed as Director General of the Bureau of Corrections. The following year, he ran for Senator and won. On October 8, he announced his candidacy for President, which surprised a lot of people. Why was he running for President, they asked? Speculations started to spread that Dela Rosa was running for President and then Sara Duterte-Carpio will substitute for him on November 15, when substitutions are allowed. It’s interesting to note that President Duterte used the same playbook in 2015 when he ran as a substitute for an unknown candidate who gladly allowed Duterte to take his place.

I am not going to discuss the other presidential candidates whom I believe have not an iota of chance of winning. At best, they’re spoilers who just wanted to brag about their presidential candidacies.

On the Vice Presidential contest, so far Leni Robredo has announced Senator Francisco “Kiko” Pangilinan to be her running mate; Ping Lacson has picked Tito Sotto; Pacquiao picked former Mayor Lito Atienza as his running mate; and Moreno picked Dr. Willie Ong, a cardiologist and a political newcomer, as his running mate.

Meanwhile, Bongbong Marcos wanted President Duterte to be his running mate but Duterte took himself out of the race for Vice President after his ratings plummeted. Bongbong’s second choice is Bong Go who already announced his vice presidential candidacy. There is no final word on a Bongbong-Bong Go tandem yet but people have started using “Bong in the third power” as a campaign slogan.

So there you go! May the best man or woman win!