Alignment and re-alignment

By Artchil B. Fernandez

The year 2020 is crucial for different political forces in the country. For those aspiring to contest the 2022 presidential election, this is the time to start preparing for battle. To decide to join the coming presidential derby beyond 2020 is rather late.

With the looming presidential election a little over two years from now, 2020 will see the alignment and re-alignment of political forces and the drastic alteration of the country’s political landscape. War rooms and back rooms of political parties and operators will be abuzz and alive with action.

Among the forces in the political field, it is the present administration, particularly Du30 that has his eyes fixed in 2022. Its outcome is vital to Du30 for it will determine his fate in the post-Du30 era. What scares the hell out of Du30 is an opposition victory in 2022. Averting an opposition win is now Du30’s most important concern and this obsession will become more and more overpowering as 2022 nears.

Given Du30’s supermajority in Congress and his control of every organ of the state, it seems he has nothing to worry about in the future. With the Supreme Court firmly in his pocket and the majority of the justices licking his palm, it appears Du30’s future is secure after 2022.

On the surface, Du30’s future is safe but scratching the surface reveals Du30 has reason to be fearful of what lies ahead. His supermajority in Congress, the Coalition for Change, maybe big and the grand political coalition he cobbled looks immense but it is like a balloon – huge on the outside but hollow inside.

The PDP-Laban, Du30’s political may have considerably expanded due to his victory but it is just one of the junior parties in his coalition. It only has 82 members in the House, not even half of the 241 district representatives.

Other parties in the coalition successfully resisted being gobbled up by PDP-Laban and retained its substantial membership. The Nacionalista Party (NP) has 42 members in the House, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) has 36 and the National Unity Party (NUP) has 57 members, up from the previous 25. They kept their identity, their structure, membership, and leadership intact. The coalition is fragile, glued only by self-interest. The parties stick in the alliance solely to extract political grease from the administration in power.

As the present administration sails into the sunset, the parties in the coalition are beginning to chart their place in the post-Du30 era. The danger facing the Coalition for Change is its fragmentation as 2022 nears, and the parties in the alliance jostle to secure their future after the term of the present administration ends.

It is not certain that NP, NPC, and NUP will support the presidential candidate of PDP-Laban. Most likely these parties will field their candidates. Those who do not have a presidential timber will gravitate toward the strongest candidate in 2022.

The NP, for example, has three possible candidates for president – Bongbong Marcos, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Cynthia Villar. Of the three, Marcos and Cayetano’s presidential ambition is pronounced. Villar could be a compromise candidate but this is contentious. Marcos, obsessed to redeem their family will run and will likely break away from NP if he cannot get the party’s support. NP will be on its own in 2022 and will coalesce with other parties to build support for its presidential candidate.

PDP-Laban will definitely field its candidate as the party of Du30 but who? This early Sara Duterte is being floated as the possible successor of her father. She has formed a regional alliance, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) and many Du30 partisans are rooting for her. But within the Du30 camp, many are uncomfortable with Sara Duterte. Some of Du30’s hard-core supporters find her too hard to control.

One name recently surfaced that Du30 will likely field as his successor. The prospect is no other than Bong Go, the senator who continues to moonlight as Du30’s personal assistant. Bong Go’s presidential candidacy may be laughed at or dismissed by some people but do not forget, the same reaction was generated when he decided to run for senator. He is now a senator and Du30 is said to be thinking on the same line. If he can propel Bong Go to the third spot in the senatorial race, Du30 assumes he can also make him president.

Between Marcos, Cayetano and Bong Go, Du30 feels more secure of his future in Go. Marcos and Cayetano maybe his allies but Du30 cannot be assured of their constant support once they become president and he an ex-president. Marcos and Cayetano have their agenda which may not necessarily be aligned with Du30’s interest.

In Bong Go, Du30 is more than 100 percent sure of protection. Given the long history between the two and their current relationship, there is no question that Du30 is solidly safe under a Bong Go presidency. Why would Du30 work for the victory of Marcos or Cayetano who are not as reliable as Bong Go?

Orders are said to be secretly out to lay the ground for Bong Go’s presidential run. If this assessment is correct, this move will become more and more apparent as 2022 approaches.

This does not mean that the other partners in Du30’s coalition will bow to his wishes. They have their agenda to pursue. Beginning 2020 major alignment and re-alignment of political forces will start to manifest. Du30’s Coalition for Change will be the victim of this re-arrangement of political configuration. Its disintegration is inevitable as forces supporting Du30 position themselves beyond Du30. Political upheaval in the race to secure the post-Du30 era starts in 2020. Many interesting political events will occur this year which will determine the outcome of the 2022 election.