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Pre-election year: No administration candidate?

/ 09:00 AM December 29, 2021

Art by: Samuel Yap

MANILA, Philippines—As 2021 comes to a close, the Duterte administration’s political fate and continued hold on power through the dominant but now fractured PDP-Laban is in limbo without a standard bearer in the 2022 presidential elections.

Throughout the year, two groups have been fighting ownership of the PDP-Laban, which was supposedly led by President Rodrigo Duterte. The faction led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and its nemesis, the faction led by Sen. Koko Pimentel, ended up relinquishing control of the party when their members filed COCs.

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But how did the administration party come to this sorry state? What has the future in store for it?

Cracks in Duterte’s backyard

Cracks in the PDP-Laban started to appear in 2020, when Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III stepped down as party president and passed on the mantle to Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who rose to fame through a storied boxing career.

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This did not please then party vice chair and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and party secretary general Melvin Matibag.

Pacquiao, in early 2021, started criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte’s policy on the South China Sea dispute, saying the President’s response to China’s aggression appeared to be lacking.

Pacquiao also claimed there was massive corruption in the Duterte administration, particularly in distribution of pandemic aid to the poor.

Read: Pacquiao now wants ‘questionable’ P10.4B fund for SAP probed

Read: Pacquiao says lockdown ‘ayuda’ marred by corruption

He even claimed that the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Energy and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources were among the corrupt agencies in the Duterte administration.

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Read: Pacquiao adds DSWD, DOE, DENR ‍to his list of ‘corrupt’ agencies

Duterte took offense in Pacquiao’s claim and went on the offensive against the boxer-turned-politician.

This led to the rift within the party with one faction siding with Pacquiao and the other with Duterte and headed by Cusi.

In July, amid the infighting, in a meeting attended by Duterte, Cusi was elected as the party’s president.

It has since turned into an all-out war as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has come into play.

The Cusi-led group asked Comelec to consider the Pimentel and Pacquiao-led faction “illegitimate.”

Read: Cusi faction in PDP-Laban asks Comelec to declare Pacquiao camp as illegitimate

A month before the filing of certificates of candidacy, both groups declared different nominees for standard bearer in 2022.

On September 8, the Cusi-led faction proclaimed Senator Bong Go as its presidential candidate and Duterte as its vice presidential candidate.

Read: PDP-Laban Cusi wing proclaims Go, Duterte as standard-bearers in 2022 polls

Merely 11 days after, the faction headed by Pimentel proclaimed Pacquiao as its standard bearer.

Read: Pimentel PDP-Laban faction declares Pacquiao as presidential bet for 2022

Filing of COCs shenanigans

However, during the filing of COCs in early October, Pacquiao, despite being allied with the party co-founder’s son Pimentel, filed for president under PROMDI, a Cebu-based regional party that served as vehicle for Lito Osmeña’s presidential bid in 1998. He has Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza as his running mate.

Read: Manny Pacquiao files certificate of candidacy for president

In a move that shocked many, Duterte, on October 2, days after he accepted the Cusi PDP-Laban faction’s nomination to be its vice presidential candidate, announced he intends to retire from politics when he steps down as President in 2022.

Read: Duterte officially accepts PDP-Laban nomination to run for VP in 2022 polls

He had his long-time aide and now senator Go to run for vice president in his stead. Neophyte politician and senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa then filed COC as the Cusi faction’s standard bearer.

Read: Bong Go files candidacy for vice president in 2022 polls

Dela Rosa later revealed that the decision to put him up in the presidential race was made only hours before the filing of COCs ended.

Read: Dela Rosa on last-minute decision on presidential run: Bahala na si Lord

This spurred speculations that Dela Rosa is only a placeholder for the party’s true and desired standard bearer, presidential daughter and Davao City mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

The saga of who will run in the 2022 elections would have ended during the filing of the COCs had it not been for the filing for candidate substitution until Nov. 15, a tactic Duterte himself used when he ran for president in 2016.

Substitution saga

Political players made their final moves.

First, Dela Rosa withdrew his presidential bid, as expected. Also withdrawing his original plan was Go who instead ran for president but, surprisingly, not under PDP-Laban.

He ran under the banner of the Pederalismo ng Dakilang Dugong Samahan (PDDS), an allied party of PDP-Laban.

Duterte took back his word on planning to retire and decided to run for senator instead in 2022.

At this point, PDP-Laban technically has no standard bearer in the 2022 elections, but Duterte expressed his much-coveted support and endorsement to Senator Go’s presidential bid, making him the administration candidate.

But then Go, in the last days of November, started to hint at pulling out of the presidential race, saying it is not yet his time.

Read: Bong Go mulls 2022 presidential run: Maybe it’s not my time yet

Withdrawal of administration bet

On November 30, Go announced his intention to withdraw from the 2022 presidential derby, effectively leaving PDP-Laban and the administration without a standard bearer.

Read: Bong Go withdraws from presidential race; PDP-Laban now without standard-bearer

Duterte also withdrew his senatorial bid, seemingly resolved to continue his earlier decision to retire from politics altogether.

This move left many to ponder on the play the administration has in mind in the 2022 elections.

With no more recourse in fielding yet another candidate, Duterte is left only with the choice of endorsing and supporting the current roster of presidential candidates, which included Vice President Leni Robredo, Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno, Senator Panfilo Lacson, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., his former ally and party-mate Pacquiao.

Read: Duterte withdraws from senatorial race

Family matters

Duterte may no longer be in the national electoral race, but the family’s bid for a national post has not ceased. All eyes are now on the president’s daughter–Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio who is now vying for the vice presidential seat.

Even as early as 2020, Sara topped surveys of possible presidential candidates for the 2022 elections, prompting her supporters and several political parties to urge her to run for the country’s top post.

Her father, Duterte, was also faring well in surveys as he topped the vice presidential survey rating.

This prompted the question: Will there be a Duterte-Duterte tandem for the 2022 elections?

Read: Duterte withdraws from senatorial race

Critics were quick to question this possibility, saying such a move reeks of political dynasty, which the Palace denied.

Read: ‘That’s a dynasty,’ Pangilinan says of possible Sara Duterte presidency

Read: Sara Duterte succeeding her father as next president not political dynasty — Palace

Read: Duterte-Duterte a political dynasty? ‘This is an electoral process’, says HNP exec

It seemed that the writing was on the wall when Duterte accepted the nomination to become PDP-Laban’s vice presidential candidate.

However, Sara later issued a statement saying she would no longer vie for the presidency, citing a supposed agreement within the family that only one of them–herself or Duterte–will run for national office.

“I am not running for a national position as we both agreed only one of us would run for a national position in 2022,” Sara said in a text message to the media in September.

After announcing that she will no longer vie for the presidential seat, Sara urged her supporters to back the vice presidential bid of her father.

Read: Sara not running for president after Duterte takes VP

A few days later, Sara announced her political plans for 2022: Reelection as Davao City mayor. Sara later made this official by filing her certificate of candidacy (COC) for Davao City mayor on October 2.

Read: No more presidential run for Sara Duterte in 2022; to seek reelection as mayor

Read: Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte files candidacy for reelection in 2022

But then the plot took another turn when Duterte did not file his COC for vice president. Instead, it was Go who sought the vice presidential post leading many to ask: What’s next?

Father’s playbook?

Duterte’s non-filing of COC for vice president once again diverted attention to Sara. After all, the decision she initially cited for not vying for the presidency was the supposed agreement with her father that only one of them would run for a national post.

While Sara had already filed her COC for Davao City mayor, she could still vie for the presidency under the substitution rule–and with speculations that Dela Rosa filed his candidacy for presidency only as a placeholder for the president’s daughter. There was a path in sight.

After all, Dela Rosa himself had expressed willingness to give way to Sara should she decide to vie for the presidency.

Despite Sara’s decision to seek reelection as Davao City mayor, calls continued for her presidential run especially with her strong performance in the surveys. She, however, repeatedly rejected such calls, saying she wants to finish her mayoral term in Davao City.

Read: Sara Duterte again rejects calls to run for president, wants to complete term as mayor

But on November 9, six days before the deadline for substitution, Sara withdrew her COC for Davao City mayor. She said she will be replaced by her brother, incumbent Davao City vice mayor Sebastian Duterte.

The move fueled speculations that Sara would vie for a national post–possibly the presidency.

Read: Sara Duterte withdraws COC for Davao City mayor

Critics have dubbed such a move as straight out of the Duterte playbook.

To recall, in the 2016 elections, Duterte–then Davao City mayor– said he would not run for president. However, he later withdrew his candidacy for reelection as Davao City mayor and instead joined the presidential race as a last-minute substitute for Martin Diño, who was the standard-bearer of the PDP-Laban at that time.

The Marcos connection

Amid speculations on Duterte-Carpio’s next move, another name came into the picture–former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who, after a loss to Vice President Leni Robredo for the vice presidential post in 2016, filed his COC for president for next year’s polls.

In October, Sara flew to Cebu while Marcos Jr was also in the province. This raised speculations that the two were in talks regarding next year’s elections.

Read: Sara flies to Cebu, raises speculation of meeting with Bongbong

It was later reported that Sara and Marcos Jr. met at the birth anniversary celebration of Tingog Sinirangan Rep. Yedda Romualdez.

The meeting between the two fueled speculations about Sara possibly vying for the vice presidential post since Marcos Jr. had already filed his COC for president.

But five days before the deadline for substitution and a day after Sara withdrew her COC for Davao City vice mayor, a close ally of hers, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, said that she will likely vie for the presidency and that the vice presidential seat was not an option for her.

Read: Sara will likely run for president, no VP option for her — Salceda

Sara then made her next move: She resigned from her regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) and hours later, joined the national party Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The move was essential for Sara to vie for a national post as candidates should join a national party so they could qualify as a substitute candidate for whoever that party fielded.

Sara and Macapagal-Arroyo are no strangers to each other. In 2018, it was said that Sara played a hand in the ouster of then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and the installation of Macapagal-Arroyo at the helm of the lower chamber.

Read: Inday Sara joins Lakas-CMD after HNP resignation

Two days later, Sara’s move became evident: She filed her COC for vice president–a decision that seemed to have baffled even her father, Duterte, who hinted at the possibility of filing his own COC to go against his daughter.

Read: Sara Duterte files COC for vice president under Lakas-CMD

Read: Duterte says he will run for vice president in 2022

The Marcos return?

Speculations on the possible partnership between Marcos Jr and Sara came to a close when on November 16, the two politicians confirmed they will be running in tandem in next year’s elections.

Read: It’s official: Bongbong Marcos, Sara Duterte running in tandem in 2022 elections

After a failed vice presidential bid in 2016, Marcos Jr, the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., vies for the highest government post in the country–the presidency.

Critics, particularly those who are still haunted by the human rights abuses during the martial law era under the Marcos dictatorship, were quick to slam the possible return of the family to the Palace.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes said that stopping the return of the Marcoses to Malacanang is “a fight for justice and against historical revisionism.

Reyes pointed out people’s fear of distortion of history in favor of the Marcoses if the late dictator’s son and namesake succeeds in becoming the next president through the 2022 elections.

Read: Stopping return of Marcoses to Malacañang never about feuding families – activist

Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza, who is vying for the vice presidency, said repetition of history may be possible if Marcos Jr. would not admit the abuses committed under the leadership of his father during the martial law era.

Read: Repetition of history ‘possible’ if Bongbong doesn’t admit martial law abuses – Atienza

In a recent television interview, however, Marcos Jr.’s sister, Senator Imee Marcos, said that her brother would be a “unifying” president if he wins the 2022 elections.

“I can’t speak for my brother but the truth is, so much time has passed. At the end of the day, history will judge us and this is a new era,” Imee said.

“And the only way to fight the pandemic, to fight climate change, and to finally see economic and social development in the Philippines is really to unify. So, as trite as that may sound, I think that’s what my brother’s answer would be,” she added.

Several groups have since sought the disqualification of Marcos from the presidential race or the cancellation of his COC for president.

Petitions were filed at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) seeking Marcos’ disqualification, citing Marcos conviction in 1995 by a Quezon City court of tax evasion while he was vice governor and then governor of Ilocos Norte during his father’s regime from 1982 to 1985.

Marcos Jr.’s camp insists that the presidential aspirant does not owe anything to the government as his previous tax issues have been paid.

Marcos Jr.’s spokesperson Vic Rodriguez recently presented a certification from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) that the presidential aspirant paid P67,137.27 in relation to his tax case.

“There is no basis to disqualify Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos. I repeat, there is no basis to deny or not to give due course to his certificate of candidacy,” Rodriguez said.

Friends to foes?

While Marcos Jr is running with Duterte’s daughter, he has not garnered the support of the President as of this writing. In fact, the President has made remarks against Marcos Jr.

A few days after the tandem between Marcos Jr. and Sara was announced, Duterte claimed a presidential aspirant in the 2022 elections is using illegal drugs, particularly cocaine.

While Duterte did not give the person’s name, he hinted that the aspirant comes from a well-known and rich clan, whose family name means “strong” and is known for its patriarch.

Based on this description, many speculated the President was referring to Marcos Jr.

“Hindi ako bilib. He is a weak leader. Totoo yan, di ako naninira ng tao. Talangang weak kasi spoiled child.”

Read: Duterte claims a presidential aspirant does cocaine

Following this remark, Duterte then took a jab at Marcos Jr. in a separate event, calling the presidential aspirant a “weak leader.”

“Hindi ako bilib (No trust in him) . He is a weak leader. Totoo yan, di ako naninira ng tao. Talangang weak kasi spoiled child, only son (It’s true, I’m not accusing anybody. He’s just a weak and spoiled child, the only son of the family),” Duterte said.

Read: Duterte takes jab at Bongbong Marcos anew, calls him ‘weak leader’

Marcos Jr.’s sister, Imee, said the family was “absolutely heartbroken” by Duterte’s tirades against her brother. Imee said: “We have been allies. We have been supporters.”

Despite being on the receiving end of tirades from arguably the most popular president in history, Marcos Jr. has managed to keep his popularity intact.

In the most recent Pulse Asia survey conducted from December 1 to 6 this year, 53 percent of respondents picked Marcos as their presidential choice.

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TAGS: 2022 elections, administration party, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., Ferdinand Marcos Jr., PDP-Laban, Politics, Rodrigo Duterte, Sara Duterte, Yearend, yearender 2021
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