"Despite the continuing prevalence of the virus, the politics of next May cannot but be grist for the mill."
In 2016, Rodrigo Roa Duterte was the candidate who espoused disruption of the system. The people bought his wares.
In 2019, his popular acceptance shafted the entire Otso Diretso slate of the identified opposition to kingdom come. I distinguish opposition in terms of the “identified” as against those independent but bide their time, or those who qualify their support on an issue-for-issue basis.
The aftermath of the 2019 mid-term victories gave rise to a feeling of invincibility, and as early as then, two movements emerged: One, a draft for Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio, mayor of Davao and presidential daughter, to run as immediate successor. Two, the float of a PRRD running for vice-president in the 2022 elections, where he is constitutionally barred from re-election, but not necessarily another position, not even, the argument goes, the vice-presidency which is a breath away from the presidency.
COVID-19 initially froze most of the political discussions leading to 2022, but now, despite the continuing prevalence of the virus, the politics of next May cannot but be grist for the mill. Because a publicized 2020 year-end survey gave the president a 91-percent approval rating, the betting has been toward whomever he endorses as successor.
He has publicly stated he does not want Inday Sara to run. The many slings and arrows that come with the top prize campaign is not something a father would wish upon his own daughter, not unless she is steeled for it, or he is uber-confident of his endorsement value, along with the powers of incumbency.
But in the first quarter of 2021, it became evident that a Pacquiao run, using the PDP as flag of convenience, would likely diminish the votes of another candidate from Mindanao, be it Inday Sara, or the loyal assistant, Senator Bong Go.
First things first: Fortress Mindanao had to be protected.
The disruptor had to take the spurs away from the challenger within the PDP. Hence, what was rumored earlier as a vice-presidential run became publicly acknowledged. No longer “resist”; no longer “refused”, as the presidential spox earlier distinguished. And likely, at the PDP convention in Clark this weekend --- ratified, delivered and accepted.
Manny Pacquiao, in absentia as he is training for a boxing bout with a certain Errol Spence in the peak of the coming ghost month, will not only be disrupted from his political quest. Maybe not just disrupted; rather, discombobulated.
Meanwhile, the respected favorite of the thinking class, Sen. Ping Lacson, who in pre-COVID times had also sealed a deal with the Senate President, Tito Sotto, to be his vice-presidential partner, was seeing survey results stuck at single digits. He publicly acknowledged being dismayed, but recently, with the actions of the disruptor and the seemingly uncontrollable determination of the daughter-mayor, began a “consultation” tour with Sotto. Will the numbers increase considerably as to make a run viable?
It would seem, by the words of Tito Sen, that a fallback has been arranged for him by Ping himself, and that is, a match-up with the Pacman upon his return, likely victorious, from his boxing bout.
So after this weekend, the administration will have Inday Sara running under a combination of her Hugpong and GMA’s Lakas, her running-mate still up in the air and decisions most likely announced after August. Choices are Bongbong Marcos, if he agrees to descend from his lofty political dream; or cousin Martin Romualdez if Bongbong decides to forego both presidency and the vice; or even a feebly resurrected Gibo Teodoro.
On the official flag, the PDP, it will be a Bong Go-PRRD tandem, with high chances of last-minute substitutions, every move and timing to be decided by the disruptor – El Presidente, mismo!
Next to be disrupted is the 1Sambayan, which after a grand debut in March, with venerables leading its convenors, found itself politely rejected by most of the names it floated. In the absence of a strong defined political party, and in the wake of the LP-led Otso Diretso shut-out in 2019, the anti-Duterte forces had to go the convenor route, resurrecting what Cory Aquino supporters did in 1985 to thwart Doy Laurel’s established UNIDO proclamation as candidate against Ferdinand Marcos. It succeeded then, especially with the imprimatur of the late Cardinal Sin. It does not seem so this time, as 1Sambayan likely becomes not a convenor, but part of the support chorus for whomever.
Disrupted as well has been Vice-President Leni Robredo’s chances at a presidential run. Her numbers are at low double digits, far from frontrunners Inday Sara and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno. Separating her from the two are Bongbong Marcos, Grace Poe, and the Pacman, all statistically tied. Wisely though, the lady has prepared a fallback --- the governorship of Camarines Sur, or even back to Congress representing her late husband’s Naga City. Either way, she is likely to win, while the presidency may be a long shot, given the paucity of time to catch up, and the lack of resources to fuel an uphill climb.
The enfant terrible in this election season is the 46 year-old mayor of the nation’s capital, the former basurero from Tondo’s fetid slums, who pulled himself by sheer grit from poverty to become Manila’s youngest mayor at 44. He defeated in 2019 two political legends, Former President and Manila mayor Erap Estrada and former senator and mayor Fred Lim, garnering more votes than their combined totals.
Isko Moreno turned around a decaying city into one of Bloomberg’s 50 Champion Cities of the World and with his excellent management of the Covid-19 situation, the young-looking mayor, older by three years over Inday Sara and the Pacman, has become the man to watch in the political circus of 2022.
Without confirming higher ambitions, and with a certain re-election, political and business circles, not to mention the diplomatic community, are taking a closer look at Yorme’s next moves.
Will he, or won’t he?
Will he be the un-disrupted by the disruptor? Will he be the next disruptor of the political scene?
We should know in a few more months, when the major palay crop has been harvested, what political seeds will be planted for the May 2022 harvest.