JUST three months to election day, the field of candidates for the presidency is the weirdest ever in Philippine history. Other than a disqualification (or incapacity), not a single analyst — given Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s over 50 percent ratings in the polls — will dare say it “ain’t over till it’s over.”
What makes the elections a bit Kafkaesque is that Leni Robredo, billed in the running just a few months ago, is now viewed universally as a laughingstock, which even her strategists concede to be so. Every week, it seems, she makes a gaffe that makes people wonder why in the first place did the Liberal Party — or the “Pinklawans” — ever think she could be president. How the hell do you reverse a perception of being dumb in just three months?
Why, as she showed in that ridiculous simultaneous interview by Jessica Soho of the four candidates — which by any measure cannot be called a debate — she can’t even understand a simple instruction as reacting to a set of pictures with just one word. Nothing she has said has impressed Filipinos that she could be president.
What adds to the absurdity of the presidential elections is that one candidate is running simply “for the funds of it,” appealing for “campaign funds” from taipans he has been friendly with and even helpful to for his “muscle” since President Estrada’s time, which — the donors know — he intends only to be his huge retirement fund. That really could run into hundreds of millions.
Candidate Isko Moreno, for instance, admitted he had left-over campaign funds of P50 million — and he ran only for Manila mayor, and spent a lot to defeat then Mayor Joseph Estrada. Isko doesn’t really expect to win, nor will he be spending much of his funds to win.
This campaign is simply his debut for a national political career, his big chance for exposure. And he’s playing the game right.
Just 47 years old, and full of gimmicks he learned from showbiz, he could be the frontrunner in 2028, especially if Sara Duterte-Carpio flops as vice president. By next year expect a movie to come out, his exaggerated biography or playing a Hero from Tondo. This guy is smart, make no mistake about it.
Manny Pacquiao on the other hand has proven that the 40,000 blows to his head (as computed by boxing reporters) has taken its toll. How could he think he has any chance to be president?
Next February, Robredo’s campaign machine would likely sputter and even stop, as donors, mostly from just one section of the elite, would not waste their money.
The Yellows and US operatives had stupidly thought their huge and undoubtedly expensive operation to make Maria Ressa a Nobel laureate could be a booster for Robredo, as she would campaign for her, with the credibility of a Nobel prize winner. Well, Ressa is spending her days in the US and Europe enjoying the limelight there, and preparing for a career in some US-funded NGO devoted to undermining authoritarian governments.
(I was shocked that in an Al Jazeera interview, she repeated the lie that Duterte’s anti-drug war killed 28,000 victims. Only Ressa makes that claim now, incontestably proven a lie, as even a research by the Ateneo financed through Sheila Coronel’s institution in the US could point to “not more than 5,000 drug war casualties.”)
Have you heard of any personality of stature and respect really campaigning for Robredo except for those “former Cabinet members” of Fidel Ramos, who mostly are hiding in that crowd? 1Sambayan called me a purveyor of fake news when I wrote in a column weeks ago that former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario had quietly vanished. Well, where is he now? Didn’t you notice that the Liberal Party is practically AWOL these past months?
There’s a message there: del Rosario is an executive of Manuel V. Pangilinan, who in turn is an executive for Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim, the only magnate who can donate substantially to Robredo to reverse her fall.
As I said, both Isko and Lacson are smart guys and in the next few months they’d likely strike some kind of agreement to torpedo Robredo’s campaign, so that Isko will elbow out Robredo as the second-placer — a better track record for him for the 2028 contest. Already some social-media polls are putting Isko as the second-place with 15 percent of voters saying they will vote for him, as against Robredo’s 12 percent. Note that Isko’s main tycoon-benefactor is also close to Lacson, one of whose lieutenants is that magnate’s security chief.
Because of Isko’s 2028 ambition, I expect Robredo to land third. Respondents in her home region Bicol, which make much of her second-place ratings, will not vote for her in what is a secret ballot. She will not have vote-watchers as her campaign’s chest dries out, while Isko can throw money at her home province.
In the meantime, Marcos is just cruising by his 50 percent ratings unchanged. It was a brilliant move — whether it was deliberate or not — for Duterte not to endorse him. That distanced him from alleged misdeeds of President Duterte, principally the killings in his anti-drug war.
I myself had never thought Marcos could be so far ahead in the 2022 presidential contest, until the survey findings in November — ironically commissioned by del Rosario, one of Robredo’s biggest and most vocal backers.
Unlike us in the intelligentsia and the elite, the barrage of Yellow anti-Marcos propaganda by their powerful propaganda machines for the past 36 years obviously have been rejected by most Filipinos.
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