POSTSCRIPT / September 9, 2021 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Is the Opposition still in the running?

PAGING the political Opposition. Is it still competing in the May 2022 national elections?

Filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2022 polls begins in just three weeks, but it seems that opposition members are still deciding who they are, what they stand for, and who their candidates are for president, vice president, 12 senators, and other positions down the line!

How is its network down to the barangays shaping up amid the economic difficulties and the raging pandemic? Billions of pesos are needed on the ground to overcome the financial superiority of the administration party in winning the votes.

Hefty contributions can be expected from the usual sources most of whom bet on both sides to ensure their post-election standing whoever wins, but some substantial amounts must come early to have a decisive impact.

Big names on the administration side have been prematurely campaigning while being careful not to say ”Vote for me” or be caught announcing their intention to run – except for President Duterte who, claiming immunity, says openly that he is running for vice president.

(This observer is still mesmerized by a possible Bongbong Marcos-Sara Duterte tandem with President Duterte giving up his alleged intention to become vice president under his former aide.)

The Commission on Elections says about 61 million voters are registered for the 2022 elections. The turnout in the 2016 presidential election was 81 percent, while in the 2019 midterm polls it was 75-78 percent.

If a presidential candidate to whom money is no problem will project an expense of P500 per voter (although the law allows only P10 per voter), with 61 million registered voters, an obscenely financed candidate may throw away P3 billion during the campaign.

But that splurge can be recouped many times over if he wins. And if he is a good bet to gamble on, his dynasty, their coterie, and suki financiers (if his family has been in the election racket long enough) will not hesitate to advance the money.

The pandemic might reduce the turnout, but that could be offset when hot issues so incense a large number of voters as to come out to express their approval or disapproval of the candidates involved.

For instance, the revelation that Chinese middlemen with ties to the administration had cornered multibillion-peso deals involving pandemic supplies despite their being undercapitalized may infuriate normally reserved Filipinos to come out and vote in droves.

The stench of big-time corruption, an issue that Duterte bragged would not taint him, had leaked from a Commission on Audit report. The scandalous details exposed in the ensuing inquiry of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee have become grist for the political mill.

The exposing of high-level corruption could result in the unraveling of Duterte in the last year of his term, depending on how he, his gofers and propagandists handle the splatter.

In 2016, when then Makati Mayor Jojo Binay appeared unbeatable as presidential bet, persistent allegations of corruption and his poor performance in the debates dragged him down to 4th or 5th place in the final tally. Early leads in surveys may not hold till Election Day.

With the start of the CoC filing already on Oct. 1, we look around but do not see recognizable opposition figures taking big steps toward making a serious bid for the presidency.

This could be just a matter of timing on their part, but could be also taken as an indication of lack of confidence or a failure to muster enough support. Whatever it is, it could result in rash decisions close to the Oct. 8 deadline.

We have this creepy feeling that President Duterte might just be correct in saying that the May 9 elections next year will just be a repeat of the Otso Derecho debacle in 2019 that saw the eight opposition senatorial candidates wiped out.

Vice President Leni Robredo’s not saying yet whether or not she would run for president may be out of prudence. It might be too early to announce her intentions considering that such a declaration is fraught with risks in a fluid situation.

Only Duterte has openly said that he is running for vice president – except if his daughter Inday Sara runs for president as she seems set to do as reflected in her active preparation while she is on leave from the Davao mayorship.

The President has been chosen as VP nominee by the PDP-Laban, the party vehicle on which he as then Davao mayor hitched a ride on his way to the Comelec to file his candidacy papers and on to Malacañang in 2016.

The opposition should not delude itself as enroute to winning the 2022 presidential election just because the big stink of corruption and other jolting issues kicked around in mainstream and social media seem to have hurt Duterte.

National elections are not won on Facebook or Twitter. High reaction scores on social media or trending likes and retweets are irrelevant when the official votes are canvassed on the basis of what Comelec’s computers crank out.

If we listen to conspiracy theories, it could even be that the official campaign which is from Feb. 8 to May 7, 2022 – preceded by the flagrant premature campaigning – will just condition the public to the tally that the computers had been programmed to add up as the official results.

And talking of premature campaigning, it is galling that the Comelec seems to be blind to the giant tarpaulins of candidates flaunting their election plans in defiance of the intent of the law against campaigning before the official start.

But what can plain citizens do with people who have elevated themselves above the law?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 9, 2021)

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