Gearing up for 2021

"Let us wait and see."


This article was written yesterday, exactly a year before the national elections of 2022.

It was also Mother’s Day yesterday, a Hallmark card-inspired commemoration of our mothers. Mine was born 99 years ago on this day, but she died on November 16, 2011, half a year short of 90, which she had hoped to reach despite quietly suffering breast cancer.

My mom’s birth date has always been around the time elections are held since we ratified the 1987 Constitution.  Prior to martial law, we elected our presidents in November, and their terms began at high noon of the last day of the year.  Campaigns began a year before, or right after the two grand old parties, the Nacionalista and Liberal, proclaimed after a convention their candidate of choice.

These days, however, in what many tout to be a very crucial election, we still have to fathom who will and who will not aim for the presidency by filing their certificates of candidacy on October 1 until 8 this year.

“Strange” is the best way to describe the manner by which our elections are scheduled, first on account of the constitutionally-selected date, and secondly because our Smartmatic- franchised (since 2010) electronic voting system requires lead time for printing a kilometric list of candidates on paper to be fed to a Made-in-China plastic contraption which is read and then transmitted to a national canvass by our telco duopoly.

I always hope and pray that a new president will initiate the revision of our 1987 Constitution because it has several inherent flaws, both political and economic.  One of its most glaring defects is a political system that is incongruous as it is incompatible --- a presidential form with a multi-party system compounded by an ill-defined party-list contraption.  But these are for a future article, a topic I have written about in previous columns in this space and others.

For now, we are 364 days away from choosing who is to lead our country in the most difficult of times, probably the worst crisis in our history since the Pacific War which many of us did not even experience.

And we still have to know who will or will not rise to the monumental challenge.

Someone who has declared he is definitely running is our Pambansang Kamao, the world-renowned Emmanuel Pacquiao, born to a dirt-poor family in Bukidnon who grew up in then Dadiangas, now the booming tuna capital, General Santos City in southern Mindanao.

Maintaining that such is his God-whispered destiny, the one-time congressman and one-time senator from neighboring Sarangani by the bay, is all geared up for the contest.  He has a palatial war-room with a Pentagon-inspired monitoring system inside Dasmarinas Village, with a wall of monitors to track competitors’ movements.  Unlike any other potential rival, he has been jetting in and out of Mindanao, beginning his pre-campaign where his electoral strength should be.  He has hired a platoon of so-called PR and political operators, and commandeered in December last year the so-called party with the mostest, the PDP, which has grown from pedicab-sized membership in 2015 to a flotilla because the current president needed, and quickly, a shibboleth on deadline day to disguise his “non-candidacy.”

Pacquiao is either No. 3 or 4, depending on which survey you read, behind Inday Sara, the mayor of Davao City, today’s political mecca, and equal to or a step or two behind Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso of the national capital city, former senator Bongbong Marcos, and Senator Grace Poe.

Despite initial rankings, the Pacman is undeterred and determined to parlay boxing fame into the presidency of the benighted land.

Vice-President Leni Robredo has kept observers guessing, whether to run or not; better yet, whether she would go for the top position, or settle for the governorship of Camarines Sur, to battle a long entrenched political dynasty on its third generation of governors. She is either fourth or fifth in the preliminaries, the tale of the surveys, which has substituted for party conventions as determinants of candidates.

A tandem that has been formed is that of Sen. Ping Lacson and Sen. Pres. Tito Sotto. While its presidential candidate is not faring well in the surveys, the tandem has formidable credentials in terms of experience and qualifications. Whether or not they could rise above single-digits in the surveys remains to be seen.  Yet realistically, time is not an ally --- filing time is just five months away.

Then there is the only son of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his namesake fondly called Bongbong by loyalists, Bonget by close friends, who tried for the vice-presidency in 2016 and almost made it.  He protested before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, claiming that he was cheated by Leni Robredo.  But last month, in a 15-0 decision which raised some eyebrows because there are many Ilocanos in the tribunal, his protest was given short shrift.  If he files a motion for reconsideration, the deadline being today, the Supreme Court is likely to write finis. 

But as he is 63 years old, and his mother, the fabulous First Lady Imelda is in her nineties, the betting is that he will make a determined go for the top prize this time.  His numbers, though behind Inday Sara, are quite respectable.

Will Grace Poe, who lost a presidential quest in 2016, but was re-elected to second spot in an overwhelming show of support in the 2019 senatorial elections, and whose second term as senator will end in 2025, this time try once more? The lady has remained quiet, and privately, she has shunned the limelight in the forthcoming race.

There are two elephants in the room, the most formidable being Inday Sara Zimmerman Duterte-Carpio.  From the beginning of her father’s incumbency, Davaoenos have been goading her to succeed the president come 2022, much like her succeeding him as mayor.

While she has shown formidable political clout, even unseating two Speakers of the HoR and installing her favorites, be it former Pres. GMA or Lord Allan Velasco, she has remained sphinx-like about her 2022 plans.

Yet she leads the current tale of the surveys, with a formidable two-thirds of Mindanao’s vote, which is 23 percent of the national vote.

The president has publicly expressed support for a Sara stand-in, Sen. Bong Go, his trusted aide who finished a strong third in the 2019 senatorial race, but obviously, the loyal BG will only do so if (1) Mayor Inday does not run, and (2) the president wills it by being his vice-presidential team-mate.

The other guy most political observers closely watch is the mayor of Manila, Francisco Domagoso, better known as Isko Moreno, who was born to dirt-poor Visayan parents and grew up in the squalid slums of Tondo, but who through grit and determination, with little but a public high school diploma became councilor for nine years, then vice-mayor for another nine, before becoming the Yorme of the national capital, all the while pursuing a college degree and post-graduate studies to improve himself.

Will Yorme exchange sure re-election in Manila, and go for the presidency, with his numbers closely tailing the lady mayor of Davao?

Again we end this piece with a “vamos a ver.”  Let us wait and see.

There are other possibilities, like former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, and Sen. Richard Gordon, even the debater with no one to debate, former magistrate Antonio Carpio, whose believers say Pres. Duterte just raised to presidentiable status.

Five months hence, we should know, or if someone uses the Duterte template in 2015, even 7 months from now, by the queerly-invented sleight-of-hand called “substitution.”

Topics: Lito Banayo , Mother’s Day , Nacionalista , Liberal , 2021 elections , 1987 Constitution
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