After five years under the brutal rule of Rodrigo Duterte, Filipinos will soon go to polls to choose a new leader – and potentially a new direction for the country.
We now have a better idea whether this new leader will be adhering to last week’s deadline for candidates for the May election.
And as candidates begin to jockey for the position, it is becoming clear that Duterte has no anointed successor capable of carrying on the legacy of “Duterismo” – how his brand of populist politics is known. Is.
Rather, the 2022 election is shaping up to be another race for a minority government. Both the ruling party coalition and the opposition coalition have failed to elect consensus candidates and assemble unified campaigns.
The margin of victory is likely to be slim, and voters are seeing the worst part of the country’s electoral politics, from the traditional use of “guns, goons and gold” (violent intimidation and vote-buying) to new means to weaponize social media. can.
No Dutertes running (yet)
The list of presidential candidates includes some familiar names, such as Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and boxing-champion-turned-senator Manny Pacquiao.
But one name is conspicuously absent: Duterte. Rodrigo Duterte recently announced that he was resigning from politics, but many Filipinos doubted that he would actually leave. There was much speculation that he might run as vice president with his daughter, Sarah Duterte, mayor of the city of Davao.
However, the much-awaited Duterte-Duterte ticket could not be made. After his public approval ratings plummeted in recent months, Duterte chose not to run for vice president.
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This potentially divisive move would have been divisive, as they would have had to bypass a constitutional ban on presidents running for re-election after one term. They may have abandoned the idea for fear of public backlash – a June poll showed most Filipinos consider the VP run unconstitutional.
The president’s daughter, meanwhile, had been at the top of the list of potential presidential candidates for months, but also announced that she would not run.
Sarah Duterte has an ongoing rivalry with the leaders of her father’s party, the PDP-Laban, and has repeatedly refused to be dragged into the messy task of saving her future. Instead, she says she will run for re-election as mayor.
The rumor mill about a possible father-daughter campaign (or run by Duterte on separate tickets) will likely continue until mid-November, the deadline for replacement candidates to file.
After all, Duterte has pulled off this surprise before. In 2015, he used this electoral rule “loophole” to jump into the late presidential race – and then won. The repetition of this scenario is still hope for many of his supporters.
Then who’s running?
With neither President Duterte nor Mayor Duterte in the running at this time, the ruling coalition is divided into several camps.
Along with Marcos Jr., Duterte’s favorite police chief, Senator Ronald “Bato” Della Rosa, is also in the running. However, she is considered by many to be just a placeholder when Sarah Duterte decides to run.
This means that Marcos Jr. is the likely candidate from the ruling coalition.
Despite being extremely concerned about another Marcos or Duterte presidency, the opposition has yet to bridge the gap between the various anti-Duarte groups and give a consensus candidate. This is important for the opposition parties, as their numbers in Parliament are dwindling and they have been out of power for the last five years.
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However, Vice President Lenny Robredo has entered the race. But she is lagging behind in the pre-poll elections and a fractured opposition could damage her campaign. Some anti Duterte labor and peasant groups are concerned that they may be sidelined.
Robredo’s talks with moderates who appeal to broader anti-Duarte constituencies, such as Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isco” Moreno, and Senator Panfilo “Ping” Laxon, have also broken down.
Robredo’s supporters have been put off by the prospect of running as a more ideologically cohesive group. But there are concerns that a smaller party will not get a chance against the ruling party’s coalition in the election.
Meanwhile, Moreno is taking a third path between Duterte and the opposing Duterte camps. Manila’s mayor is embarking on a centrist campaign that could reportedly appeal to voters disenchanted with the Duterte administration’s liberalism and mismanagement of the pandemic and the opposition’s elitist and unpopularity.
With his reputation as an effective and efficient mayor, his electoral figures are competitive, at least for now. But his centrist position makes him vulnerable to attacks by loyalist bases of both camps. More importantly, any disturbance to the voters of Duterte or Marcos could cost them their democratic credentials.
the stakes are high
In the coming months, Filipino voters will decide whether they want continuity, change, or a combination of these two things. The stakes are high, with the country still dealing with high daily COVID cases and a slow vaccination rollout, as well as a poor economy emerging from last year’s recession.
An opposition victory in next year’s election could also mean Duterte could be tried in domestic courts for the violent war on drugs and potentially by the International Criminal Court, which has just launched a full investigation.
The election will clarify which direction Filipinos want to steer the country’s democracy – towards further erosion under the Marcos presidency, a return to liberal reform led by Robredo, or perhaps a more middle-of-the-way approach with Moreno. This is a decisive election for the country at a crucial time.