By Ernesto G. Banawis
The presidential elections in May 2022 will be a wide-open, free-for-all and no-holds-barred political exercise as no one among the prospective candidates enjoy a certain degree of political, intellectual, and moral ascendancy over all the rest. They are like most of you and me—ordinary human beings with similar shortcomings and vulnerabilities.
With no two dominant political parties as in pre-martial law days, the coming presidential derby will be an exciting, heart-rending, and possibly a photo-finish race. Three or four are expected to be at the starting gate. One or two may eventually stop running and slide down as vice presidential bets.
It is sad that no one among the known aspirants stands taller or way ahead, in all aspects, from the rest.
The winner in the next presidential contest might receive the mandate from Divine Providence.
Who are entering the presidential race and what are their chances of crossing the line ahead of everyone else?
President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to endorse either Senator Bong Go or Mayor Sara Duterte. Like all previous presidents, he would want his successor to pursue his program of government and prevent his enemies from making him account for whatever grave mistakes he may have committed during his term. Proud of his high acceptance and performance rating, President Duterte is confident that his endorsement is more than enough for his candidate to win.
Still, Mr. Duterte might commit a costly mistake: ignoring the fact that his popularity cannot be transferred or inherited. His candidate will have to stand on his own track record, his own credentials, and rely on his own wit and wisdom to win the race.
Vice President Leni Robredo appears the best candidate of those opposed or disenchanted with the present dispensation. She has been the most vocal and persistent critic of President Duterte. She is expected to gain the support of women, the victims of abuses under the current regime, and the wealthy power brokers whom President Duterte has alienated.
Unfortunately, the Liberal Party of which she is the titular head has dissipated and dwindled in membership. Many LP congressmen have joined the administration coalition in the House of Representatives.
The vice president may have remained widely-admired, highly respected, and endearing to some sectors of the electorate, but she a bit short of the attributes of a charismatic leader.
In the next 18 months, she would need to show her impressive credentials and intellectual prowess and turn on her feminine charms to establish a certain degree of superiority and competence over her opponents.
One aspirant who has been making waves and constantly on the political radar is Senator Panfilo or Ping Lacson. He has successfully kept himself in the public eye. His rejoinders on current issues and developments have been given belligerence in the press. The possibility of his getting the blessing and support of President Duterte is remote. What is plausible is the possibility of his being the rallying point of those lukewarm to Go and Robredo, Lacson cannot be dismissed as a non-viable candidate.
Another presidential wannabe is former Senator Bongbong Marcos who still insists that he won the vice presidency in 201 6. He is determined to regain the glorious days of his father’s tenure and erase the dark shadows left by the martial law regime.
Three female senators are highly qualified to be president Riza Hontiveros is articulate and has been coming out with profound rejoinders. Senator Grace Poe is still glamorous but has lost her novelty and inherited fame. Senator Leila de Lima is glib and arresting for her vitriolic asides against the president but could not make her imprisonment a martyrdom case.
One popular former senator and now a governor is Chiz Escudero who seems to have lost much of his political ardor after getting married to an actress. These prominent personalities from the Senate are all excellent materials for presidential running mates.
Another name gaining currency in political circles, social media platforms, barbershops and sidewalk gatherings is that of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso.
He is seen as an alternative to Robredo and Go. Isko appears to be a maverick and a no-nonsense politician, in sharp contrast to the traditional varieties. He is expected to get strong support from the Gen Z, the millennials, and young voters which constitute the biggest sector of the electorate.
In soundly thrashing former President Erap Estrada and former Mayor Alfredo Lim in the last mayoralty race in Manila, Isko has caught the interest of the power brokers and gained national stature and eminence, roughly equivalent to the prestige of two members of the Senate. Aggressive and populist, Isko is coming out strong as an alternative to the other candidates in the same manner that then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte came out of the blue to beat his rivals in the last presidential race. The voters are getting convinced that experience in local government positions is a good springboard for the highest administrative office.
But why should the most important and powerful position in government be limited to traditional politicians and mostly to members of Congress and the cabinet? Considering the complexity and gravity of the problems of the country, the people have the right to enlist the services of the best and the brightest minds from the academe and the business community.
Former Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Secretary Carlos Dominguez, business moguls Manuel V. Pangilinan, Mariano Ang and Enrique Razon could be the best presidents the country should have.
The reason our country remains a basket case is that most gifted minds do not want to work in government. They loathe politicians but they do not offer themselves as alternatives. They consider running for president as beneath their dignity. They are as much guilty as our corrupt leaders for evading their noble obligation to our people and our country.
The coming presidential race will be a crucible for the electorate. They must cast their votes for those who are highly respected for their competence and probity.
Mr. Banawis was legislative adviser of former Speakers Cornelio T. Villareal and Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr.