"What we need is a just and honest president."
Pulse Asia’s initial survey on the race for the presidency is misleading and hardly reliable because most of the contestants have yet to admit they are running for the position. Only Mayor Sara Duterte has been going around telling everybody she is running for president with or without her father’s permission.
Since the race has not yet started, the survey showing Sara Duterte ahead smacks of poll trending.
It is too early to know where the candidates stand in the race since they are still prancing around, waiting for their official nomination by their respective political parties.
What the release of the survey report did was to hasten the polarization and alignment of political forces.
The race is going to be delayed.
Only Ping Lacson has so far announced he is running for the position with Tito Sotto as his running mate. The team recently toured North and Central Luzon, asking the people what they need from the next administration. If Sara’s hashtag is Hugpong ng Pagbabago, Lacson has Karanasan, Katapatan at Katapangan (experience, sincerity and honesty, and courage).
In a few weeks, the other aspirants will have to decide if they are joining the race.
Eventually, most of them will drop out of the race. One or two will slide down to the vice presidency. Some will run for senator, congressman or governor. Others will just support a presidential candidate with a cabinet position promise.
Deep differences still stalk both the administration and opposition quarters. The PDP – Laban has been split wide open. Senators Manny Pacquiao and Koko Pimentel are now the President’s nemesis. This reaffirms the observation that in politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies. But this one could be a painful parting of ways for either or both parties.
The Liberal Party, considered the nominal opposition party, has failed to unite the various anti-administration groups and critics. Doubts have been raised about Vice president Leni Robredo’s viability as the standard opposition party candidate. She and the Liberal Party seem to have been “liberal” in their accusations and criticisms of President Duterte.
The 1Sambayan, led by former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, is still an amorphous political entity.
But time pressure will force the presidential aspirants to finalize their slates or tickets for the general election and get ready for the gruelling campaign.
Looming as a strong contender for the presidency is Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, close second to Sara in the Pulse Asia survey.
He could be the official candidate of the National Unity Party headed by former Congressman Ronnie Zamora. Isko is deputy secretary general of the party which has around 60 members in the House of Representatives and several incumbent heads of local government units.
Some political analysts believe that the Manila mayor will be a good alternative between the administration and opposition candidates since he is not identified closely with either side. Isko’s backers claim that Isko will anchor his candidacy on an ardent appeal for national unity.
Senator Manny Pacquiao’s handlers are eyeing the possibility of forming a Pacquiao-Moreno or a Moreno-Pacquiao ticket.
The shifting political alignments remain porous and fluid.
The most probable candidates for president are Sara Duterte, Isko Moreno Domagoso, Bongbong Marcos, Leni Robredo, Manny Pacquiao, Ping Lacson, and Antonio Trillianes.
The presidential race will be even more exciting once President Duterte decides whom to support for president, whether he will run for vice president, and who his running mate will be if he does.
President Duterte may eventually decide not to run for vice president and instead endorse either his daughter, his closest aide, Bong Go, Bongbong Marcos or Isko Moreno to succeed him.
He will support a candidate who can enrich or at least preserve his legacy.
The race will be hotly contested because no one among the leading candidates stands taller than the others in terms of moral and political ascendancy and eminence.
What could be of grave and disturbing concern to the candidates and the electorate is the intervention of the superpowers in the coming political exercises.
Opposition candidates are particularly wary of China’s support for the administration candidate. In his recent SONA, President Duterte casually dismissed suspicions that Xi Jinping will support him and his candidate for president. He laughed off rumors that China helped him in his successful campaign for the presidency in 2016.
But keen observers of the local political scene are certain that China will provide massive financial assistance to the president and his candidates. Xi Jinping would want to gain complete control not only of the West Philippine Sea but of the entire country as well. China can also provide the most advanced social media platforms to create overwhelming media hype for candidates of the administration. The United States may also support a presidential candidate who is not only an anti-communist but also faithful to democratic ideals and insitutions. Uncle Sam also has the sophisticated information technologies which can blunt Chjina’s social media operations. Joe Biden can likewise extend various kinds of assistance to its preferred candidate to ensure that the next president will not be a puppet of Xi Jinping.
The coming general elections will be a watershed event for the Filipino nation. With the grave problems still confronting the country and with its leaders sharply divided and at odds with each other, the next president must be a strong-willed and honest head of state who can impose discipline and make decisions based on common sense.
The country needs a leader who can inspire and unite the Filipino people. What we need is a just and honest president.
Mr. Ernesto Banawis is a former general manager of the Philippine News Agency. His email address is email@example.com