"There are three women and three men this early in the day."
As the term of the incumbent President of the Philippines progresses, the list of individuals widely believed to be (1) interested in seeking the highest position in the land and (2) capable of mounting a credible Presidential run lengthens. The present political situation is no exception, and as President Rodrigo Duterte heads into the last third of his term, the names of six individuals—three women and three men—have been placed on that list by Filipinos. The three women are Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Cynthia Villar, and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte; the men, not arranged in order of significance, are Senators Panfilo Lacson and Christopher Go and former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Even if the 2022 presidential election is still over two years away, I believe that a look at the qualifications and electoral-success prospects of these six.
The three women clearly are the leaders of the pack. If the election were held today, the successor to President Duterte could well be probably one of them.
Vice President Robredo clearly has the inside track in the coming presidential race. There are several reasons for this. For starters, she already occupies a high official position—the Vice Presidency no less. Leni Robredo will carry no baggage going into the contest; on the contrary, she will carry the respect and prestige enjoyed by her late husband Jesse, former Secretary of the Interior and Local Government and mayor of Naga City. Jesse Robredo was Mr. Clean and his widow is Mrs. Clean. And, last but by no means least, Leni Robredo is the titular head of the Liberal Party, an old-time party that is currently lying low but is bound to come back to life as 2022 election approaches.
The reason—the one and only reason—why Mayor Sara Duterte has to be considered a potent candidate in the coming presidential election is that she is the presidential daughter. A candidate who is a daughter or son of the Chief Executive must be accorded utmost seriousness as a candidate to succeed Daddy. This is not to say that “Inday Sara” is without important attributes of her own; not at all. She has an Ateneo law degree and a large part of the sweeping victory of the HPP (Hukbong Pagbabago ng Pilipinas) in the 2019 election must be credited to her energy, charm and organizational skill. However, as some past Presidential elections have shown, an administration’s superior resources cannot always be counted upon to bring its Presidential candidate to the finish line. Sara Duterte’s victory prospects in 2022 will depend almost entirely on whether the majority of voters want Malacañang to be occupied by another Duterte in the succeeding six years.
Reelectionist Cynthia Villar topped the list of winners in the 2019 senatorial election, with a respectable margin over the No. 2 winner. The record shows that something always happens to Senate-contest topnotchers: They become giddy and sooner or later are seduced by the thought of making a run for the highest position in the land. Cynthia VIllar, chairperson of the committee on agriculture, has thus far not given a hint about her plans. If she decides to make a go for it, Senator Villar will be carrying into the fray whatever baggage her husband, former Senate president Manny Villar, carried with him in his unsuccessful 2010 presidential run.
Christopher ‘Bong’ Go, the man who invariably appeared behind President Duterte in his pre-Senate days, has been active and highly visible since his first day in the upper chamber of Congress. In the process he has unmistakably signaled an interest in going to the very top of the governmental ladder. He is involving himself in some of the most controversial issues of the day and at times has sounded like Presidential Spokesman No. 2. Senator Go’s electoral success prospects should not be underrated; he is smart and he is rich. Because of his very close association with President Duterte, it can be said, at this juncture, that his political stock will rise or fall with that of the Chief Executive. But it’s early days yet and many things can happen between now and May 2022.
Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson has a deep yearning to be president of the Philippines; unfortunately his two runs for the nation’s highest office were unsuccessful. The gentleman from Cavite has been a dedicated and honest Senator—he has never accepted his annual pork barrel allocations—and his virtual one-man crusade against the pork barrel system has endeared him to his corruption-weary countrymen. Ping Lacson is not done yet; he almost certainly desires to make a third run for the presidency. If he receives really strong financial backing from his supporters in the business sector and elsewhere, Senator Lacson will be a formidable candidate. Third time lucky, perhaps?
Though he is still deep in his electoral protest against 2016 Vice Presidential winner Leni Robredo, Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. has already announced his candidacy for president in 2022. He has to be regarded as a major candidate because of his surname and his money. But if he couldn’t even win as a candidate for vice president, how can he be elected president?