The real fight begins

By Artchil B. Fernandez

This week, the campaign for national positions in the 2022 elections started. Although candidates for national posts had been going around the country since last year, the real fight begins this week.

Official campaign started last February 8, 2022 and the next ninety days will make or break the candidates. Those running for the top positions have entered the most critical and crucial period of the campaign.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) officially approved the candidacy of ten persons for president. Of the ten, five are officially being covered by the media which considers them having the fighting chance for the top position. They were Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Panfilo Lacson, Senator Manny Pacquiao, Mayor Isko Moreno and dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Lately, labor leader Ka Leody de Guzman was added by the media in the list.

None of those running for president is officially backed by the Du30 administration. This is the most unique national election in the history of the country. For the first time, the sitting administration has no official candidate for president and is reduced to a fence-sitting role, a mere bystander in an important electoral exercise.

Failure of the administration to come up with its own presidential candidate exposed the myth of Du30’s much-hyped political astuteness. The guessing game Du30 played last year was trumpeted by his supporters as evidence of his political genius. But Du30 got entangled in his own game leading to the collapse of the administration slate.

Du30 maneuvered to clear the path for his daughter and/or his political son to succeed him to the presidency. He floated so many trial balloons to confuse and confound the competition but, in the end, Du30 was outwitted by the wily Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA). Neither Sara Duterte nor Bong Go ran for president and Du30 was left with no candidate for the post. Worse for him, GMA snatched his daughter from him and made her play second fiddle to Bongbong Marcos. In the end, Du30 was left clutching at straws.

To stay relevant in the current political exercise Du30 was reduced to making incoherent ramblings during his midnight talks. On one occasion he threatened to dig some dirt on the candidates and expose them to the public. Lately, he gave a tame and lame statement calling all presidential candidates ‘qualified’ for the position but will not endorse any one of them. Du30 is not only a lame-duck president he is irrelevant in the current political exercise.

As the real fight for the presidency unfolds Du30 is only part of the audience as six of the nine candidates considered by the media as serious contenders battle in the political arena. This early, however, the fight for the presidency is narrowing down to two candidates – Vice President Leni Robredo and Bongbong Marcos.

Bongbong Marcos cobbled together an alliance popularly known as the Axis of Evil. The Axis of Evil is a coalition of dynastic families who ruled the country for the longest period since the foundation of the republic. These are the Marcos, Arroyo, Duterte and Estrada families. They all have been accused of plundering the national treasury and committed the most horrendous acts of corruption in the long time they ruled the country.

The Marcoses’ kleptocratic rule lasted for twenty years. Arroyo reigned for nine years, Estrada for three years and Duterte six years. In total, the Axis of Evil ruled the country for thirty-eight years. In almost four decades that the Axis of Evil dominated the political scene, the country was buried in gargantuan debt and majority of Filipinos remain poor, hopeless and voiceless.

Yet this cartel of dynastic families had the nerve to declare that should Bongbong Marcos win the country will rise again. In the first place, the Axis of Evil is largely responsible for the quagmire the country finds itself in. They should be made accountable for the high crimes they committed to the nation and should not be rewarded with an extension of their destructive rule.

Oligarchs, the corrupt, past and present officials with dark and shady records in public service are all gravitating towards the candidacy of Bongbong Marcos. Dark forces are drawn to the Axis of Evil.

The candidacy of Vice President Leni Robredo on the other hand is consolidating forces committed to good, clean, and honest governance. Former officials of the Ramos administration came out to support her while almost a hundred officials, former ambassadors and military officials who served the administration of PNoy signed a manifesto backing the vice president. The Makabayan bloc and a confederation of electric cooperatives are the recent groups that hitched to the wagon of Leni Robredo.

Many local officials are also lining up to support the candidacy of Vice President Leni Robredo. Almost all of these local officials are awardees of good governance and their units had been held as models of innovative, clean and honest local administration.

As the campaign period for the presidency officially starts, there is a growing polarization of forces into the camps of Vice President Leni Robredo and Bongbong Marcos. While Bongbong Marcos is the front-runner based on last year’s survey, recent surveys indicate his candidacy has plateaued and is on the decline. Analyst Julio Teehankee, in a recent ANC interview, cited weekly poll tracking firm WR Numero showing that Bongbong Marcos’ number declined by 9 percent while that of Robredo increased by 4 percent.  Will this trend hold deep into the official campaign period? The fight has just begun and there are many imponderables in politics.