"I think there will be just three or four serious candidates by the time our people cast their votes."
So who do I foresee as the presidential contestants by October 8, 2021, the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy for the presidency?
First is Mayor Inday Sara Zimmerman Duterte, whose father is President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, himself mayor of Davao for the longest time. The father of President Duterte was once governor of the undivided Davao province, also a cabinet member, as Secretary for General Services under President Ferdinand Marcos. He comes from the Duterte-Almendras-Durano-Veloso clan of Cebu, more particularly, Danao City, but migrated to Southern Leyte where the child who would be president was born, then Cabadbaran in Agusan, finally Davao where the Duterte political fortunes began to blossom. The mother, Elizabeth, is half-German. Inday Sara is a lawyer, was first groomed by her father to be his vice-mayor, later reversing their dynastic roles. Then, when Mayor Digong ran for president and won, Inday Sara became mayor again in 2016, then got herself re-elected in 2019. Collectively, she has had 12 years in public service, as mayor and vice-mayor. She is young at 43 years old, and is married to Atty. Manases Carpio, originally from Paoay, Ilocos Norte.
Second is Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, whose father was a stevedore working in the Compania Maritima inter-island ships which docked in the North Harbor in Tondo, Manila. Joaquin Domagoso was a poor man from San Jose, Antique, one of the poorest provinces in the country, who tried his luck in Manila. The mother was Rosario “Chayong” Moreno from Allen in the then-undivided province of Samar, then and now, still quite poor. Like Joaquin, Chayong came to Manila in search of greener pastures, but ended up first as a laundrywoman, then, when “Scott” was born, shifted to peeling garlic bulbs to be supplied to restaurants via the ubiquitous middlemen. Scott Domagoso had to provide for his widowed mother and himself by going through odd jobs, as a scavenger, a tricycle driver who sometimes foraged for left-overs from Jollibee and McDo which his mother would wash, re-cook into some kind of adobo, just to ease the pangs of hunger. Still, he was able to finish high school, which was when a talent scout got him into the entertainment industry, where his and his mother’s life turned for the better. At age 23, still a bachelor, he ran for councilor of the first district of Tondo, won 5th place in a team of six, and studied business administration, finishing it on his second term where this time, he was the topnotcher. He married Diana Lyn Ditan of Sorsogon and Las Piñas, with whom he has five children. Thereupon, he became vice-mayor for three terms, meanwhile taking up two years of law at Arellano University, and several governance courses at UP-NCPAG, Harvard’s JFK School of Governance, and the Said School of Oxford in the United Kingdom. He is now the mayor of the nation’s capital, besting formidable opponent—Mayor Pres. Erap, and long-time mayor Fred Lim. The youngest councilor, vice-mayor, and now mayor of the City of Manila when he was elected to these positions, is now 46 years old.
Third is Panfilo Morena Lacson, son of a jeepney driver from Imus, Cavite, whose mother ran a dry goods stall in the public market of their town. Though born and raised in Imus, the Lacsons all over the country are supposed to have originated from Molo, Iloilo. There are Lacsons in Bataan, Tarlac, Malabon, and of course Negros Occidental, but their ancestral roots derive from Iloilo. Lacson joined the Philippine Military Academy after a bachelor’s degree from the Lyceum University, and became a Philippine Constabulary officer, which later became the Philippine National Police, where he rose from major to general, and PNP Director-General under President Erap. He had an outstanding record as PNP Chief. He stopped “kotong,” forbade malingerers in the police force, and managed to burnish the bad image of the police institution to the highest levels of public esteem. He is married to Alice de Perio of Bolinao in Pangasinan, with whom he has four children. After the fall of Erap, he ran for senator, was re-elected, and is now on his third term as a senator, eagle-eyed in budget deliberations, and has disavowed the nefarious “pork barrel”, which is manna from the budget for legislators. Lacson just turned 73 years, and is the only declared presidential contender with an equally declared vice-presidentiable, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto.
Fourth is Vice-President Ma. Leonor Gerona Robredo, who shot into the national consciousness after the unfortunate demise of her famous Magsaysay Award-winner husband, DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo, who was a beloved mayor of Naga City in Camarines Sur. Leni was a quiet housewife who was into community-help projects in their native province while raising three kids, apart from volunteering as lawyer for indigents.The Liberal Party during the term of the late Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III drafted her to run as congresswoman in 2013, right after being widowed, which she won handily. In 2015, Pres. PNoy got Leni to agree to be the vice-presidential candidate of Mar Roxas. She bested a field of six, defeating by a small margin former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., followed by Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan and Antonio Trillanes. That was a spectacular victory for the native of Sorsogon who married the mayor of Naga, and whose fondest ambition before then was to be a judge in their home province, like her father who was once an RTC judge. The vice-president is now 56 years old.
Fifth is Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the longest running president the country has had, all of twenty years and two months, seven years of which were elected tenure and the rest as a military-backed dictator. Exiled in Hawaii along with his family after the EDSA Revolt, the Marcoses came back in 1991, and re-established their political dynasty over their home province, Ilocos Norte. Bongbong was a governor, a congressman, and a senator before he ran, and marginally lost, to Leni Robredo in the vice-presidential elections of 2016. Married to practicing lawyer Louise “Lisa” Araneta of Negros Occidental, he has three sons, one of whom is being urged to also join politics in their province. His mother is Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos, who is from the Romualdez clan in Leyte. He is turning 64 this September.
Sixth is Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao, who won his first term as senator of the realm in 2016, after two terms as congressman of the lone district of Sarangani province, where he transferred after losing an election in his native General Santos City upon South Cotabato. He is arguably the most well-known Filipino in the world, having won the championship in six boxing weight divisions, and is currently preparing for another bout, this time non-title, with Errol Spence of the USA. Manny Pacquiao, better known as the “Pacman” triumphed over abject poverty as a pugilist, rising from his native Mindanao to Manila, and into the big-time world of international boxing in the USA. He is now a billionaire, and has parlayed his fame as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time into the field of politics. He is married to Jinkee Jamora, with whom he has five children. He is also quite young, and will be turning 43, like Sara, before Christmas this year.
Are there any more?
Former Sen. Antonio Trillanes, who will turn 50 this week, has warned Vice-Pres. Leni Robredo that if she does not run for president, he will. Former Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano, who will be 51 years old in October, is moving around the country trying to feel the pulse of the voters, and has declared that he is open to run for president, or senator, or get himself re-elected to Congress. Sen. Richard Gordon, who will be 76 this week, has also made public statements about wanting to run for president.
In the end, I think there will be just three or four serious candidates by the time our people cast their votes on May 9, 2022. Some of those I mentioned here will instead rethink their ambitions and join forces with another, for the sake of uniting into a strong force, perhaps running for vice-president, senator or some other office instead.
Let me in the end quote Ms. Hidilyn Diaz, who gave the country its first Olympic gold medal ever, and while in quarantine upon arrival back home, posted a video where she said:
“Ang iboboto ko? Yung pinunong may pusong winner, hindi pusong talunan. Yung maka-Diyos at makatao, hindi makasarili. Yung magbibigay ng kalinga, hindi takot.” Then asks, “Kayo rin, di ba?”
Who do you suppose she had in mind, this great Filipina who, with the Lady of the Miraculous Medal hanging from her neck, gave us so much pride in these desperate times, telling us that amid all the gloom, there is a glimmer of hope for our collective future?
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Before saying goodbye for now, let me also inform our readers that I am no longer our Philippine representative to Taiwan, having resigned because of conflict between work and political leanings. And for the record, in response to some previous nasty comments, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales dismissed the frivolous complaint lodged against me and others by the NBI upon the instigation of some people in high office, for alleged complicity with rice importers. The order of dismissal on OMB-C-C-14-0243 for “violation of Sec. 3 of RA 3019, as amended”, was released in September of 2016.
Oh, and one last note, with the indulgence of our editors for the length of this piece: to respond to a reader’s comment that I do not support candidates out of principle, but for money, let me say that the presidents I have helped (though some have gone into the Great Beyond, including Pres. PNoy) can attest to the fact that I have never been a political mercenary. Ask then-mayor, now Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte, or Sen. Bong Go, the keeper of the president’s memory.
But through the years, after the Cory-Doy snap elections, one learns lessons through victories and defeats, that politics is the art of the possible. One needs to combine principle with pragmatism, otherwise defined in the Philippine context as winnability.