MANILA, Philippines—A preview of what the 90-day campaign would look like burst into public consciousness on Tuesday (Feb. 8) when proclamation rallies erupted in lights, colors, fireworks and loot bags.
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As Maria Ela Atienza, a political science professor of the University of the Philippines Diliman, said, proclamation rallies are essential since they “set the tone of the campaign” which will last until May 7.
With diverse “shows of force,” especially in Luzon and Mindanao, individuals seeking elective posts, especially the presidency and vice presidency, plunged into day one of the 90-day stretch to woo voters.
The Commission on Elections said the 2022 elections will have 10 presidential candidates, nine for vice president, 64 for senator and 177 for party-list groups.
These are higher compared to the 2016 elections which the Comelec said only had six presidential candidates, six for vice president, 50 for senator and 115 for party-list groups.
Igniting the fire
Partido Lakas ng Masa’s Leody de Guzman and Walden Bello were in Quezon City’s Bantayog ng mga Bayani with a message of changing the government to a “government for the masses.”
De Guzman addressed himself to the people: “This election is a good chance to change the course of politics. It should be the politics of the masses, and we should change the economy.”
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He said the economy should be for the masses and “not of the few,” stressing that rich individuals have always been the ones in government––millionaires, capitalists, landlords.
Senators Panfilo Lacson and Vicente Sotto III, of Partido Reporma and Nationalist People’s Coalition, were in Cavite’s Imus Grandstand, saying that Filipinos should not tolerate “thieves in government”.
Lacson said people should choose the “good,” taking pride in the years of “public service” that he and Sotto had. He said should he win the presidency, “I will not fail you”.
The former head of the Philippine National Police, Lacson said there are thieves in the government and these thieves “don’t choose what they steal.” He said these thieves deprive people of education, health, livelihood and infrastructure.
“The problem, however, is that we are even the ones choosing the people who will steal from us. It made me think, why do we vote for people who will steal from us?” he said.
Away from Ilocos Norte and Davao City, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and mayor Sara Duterte, of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas and Lakas-CMD, were in the country’s biggest closed-door events venue, Bulacan’s Iglesia Ni Cristo-owned Philippine Arena to highlight Marcos Jr.’s lone battle cry––unity.
“Unity has been my advocacy because I firmly believe that unity will be our first step to thrive from the middle of this crisis, from the middle of the economic crisis brought by the pandemic,” he said.
He said he and Sara are an “example of unity,” saying that the “north and the south” are working together through the “UniTeam”: “When I first expressed my desire, my goal, for our country is to unite the Filipinos.”
Mayor Isko Moreno and Willie Ong, of Aksyon Demokratiko, were in the City of Manila’s Kartilya ng Katipunan after parading through the streets of Manila filled with residents wearing blue—Moreno and Ong’s campaign color.
Moreno addressed himself to the people: “So how’s the Philippines after 39 years? I ask because that’s one reason why I joined the elections. We have experienced 39 years. We have given them a chance. That’s enough.”
He was talking about the camps of Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator who ruled the Philippines for 21 years, and Vice President Leni Robredo, chairperson of the Liberal Party, which was the dominant party for many years after the Marcos regime.
Moreno said he presents himself as an alternative, saying that the usual candidates already had their chance to prove their worth for 39 years: “We have been waiting for 39 years. So why not try your luck [with me] for six years?”
Sen. Manny Pacquiao, of PROMDI, who was expected to be with Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, was in General Santos City’s Oval Stadium. Atienza was not able to be with him because he sprained his foot. He had a video message, instead.
As he started the campaign period, Pacquiao expressed outrage against corruption. He earlier visited a fish port to greet workers. He likewise paraded on the roads leading to the Oval Stadium.
“I already had enough. There were lots of individuals who ran for president, however, they were only promises. Why are we becoming poorer instead of becoming richer?” he said.
Pacquiao said the Philippines doesn’t need politicians because these people only make a living out of “public service”. “I promise you, all Filipinos will win in Manny Pacquiao’s fight,” he said.
Robredo and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan were in Camarines Sur’s Plaza Quezon as they ended a day of visit to Lupi, Libmanan, Tigaon, Iriga City, and the Naga Cathedral in Naga City.
Highlighting the message of “Gobyernong Tapat, Angat Buhay Lahat,” Robredo said should she win the presidency, her government will be accessible and people-centered.
“We’re going to put slippers on the government and make it cross the farm field’s mounds to reach you. In my leadership, the people in the margins will be the new center,” she said.
Robredo also sought to highlight how she was strengthened when people lively responded to her call of bringing life to a force that initially slept. “I am not afraid, I am not worried,” she said.
“Hope, cooperation, unity. This is what we’re betting on. This is where we stand. Get ready to link arms, because I assure you: No one can match our united strength. Let’s go, let’s win this.”
Dissecting the messages
Atienza told INQUIRER.net that while proclamation rallies reflect what the campaign stretch would look like, as well as the strengths of the individuals seeking elective offices, it was significant to dissect what they said.
She said the anti-corruption message of Lacson and Pacquiao were expected and this kind of message is “popular with a lot of voters.” However, she said every election, most people are already too familiar with promises of fighting corruption.
The message of De Guzman, Atienza explained, was relatable to the people. She said while it was not the first time that Filipinos heard his message, he offered a different one––a pro-poor and labor agenda.
She said Robredo promotes “participatory and inclusive governance,” explaining that the vice president was the only one who directly asked Filipinos not only to vote for her plans: She wants them to be active players in governance.
For Atienza, Moreno fell short of his “anti-elite, anti-political dynasties” message by presenting the last four decades as simply the governments of the Marcoses and Aquinos when there were other presidents and families who dominated politics in the Philippines.
When Marcos was ousted in 1986, Corazon Aquino became president and was succeeded by Fidel Ramos in 1992. Joseph Estrada was elected to the presidency in 1998, but was ousted in 2001.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was president for nine years––2001 to 2010, the year when Benigno Aquino III was elected to the presidency. Aquino III was succeeded by Rodrigo Duterte.
On Marcos Jr., Atienza said while he highlighted his message of unity again, there were not enough details regarding his programs should he win in the 2022 elections.
Atienza said the campaign stretch is still very long, saying that all campaigns have to strive to make gains instead of losses and finish strong on the exact day of the election––May 9.
While Atienza said the 90-day stretch is a chance to strengthen positions for a win in the elections, there are already real winners now––individuals seeking Senate seats who are being endorsed by several coalitions.
As presidential and vice presidential candidates started their bids to woo voters, with them were senatorial candidates who were either physically present or present through representatives.
Roy Cabonegro, David D’angelo, and Luke Espiritu were present at De Guzman-Bello’s rally while only Lutgardo Barbo and Raffy Tulfo, who is likewise part of Lacson-Sotto’s slate, were present at Pacquiao-Atienza’s proclamation rally.
While Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian was represented by his girlfriend, Bianca Manalo, her presence fell short of an endorsement since Gatchalian, who was present at Marcos-Duterte’s rally, already addressed them as president and vice president.
Jejomar Binay, Chiz Escudero, Sen. Richard Gordon, Loren Legarda, Joel Villanueva and Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri had video messages to present themselves to the people and thank Pacquiao and Atienza for having them in the slate.
Binay, a shared candidate of Lacson, Pacquiao, and Robredo, had his own kick off rally in Batangas while Legarda, a shared candidate of Lacson, Marcos, and Pacquiao, started her bid in Antique.
Villanueva, a shared candidate of Lacson, Pacquiao, and Robredo, had his own kick off campaign through Facebook, saying that he will continue his fight for employment security in the Philippines. Villanueva had recently been infected with the COVID virus.
With Lacson and Sotto in Imus were JV Ejercito, Manny Piñol, Monsour del Rosario, Guillermo Eleazar, and Minguita Padilla. Gregorio Honasan was represented by his sister while his wife was present at Marcos–Duterte’s rally.
Gatchalian was represented by his brother, Wes Gatchalian, while Zubiri, who was present at Marcos-Duterte’s rally, was represented by his wife, Audrey Zubiri. Escudero, Gordon, and Legarda had video messages.
The President’s former agrarian reform secretary, John Castriciones, was present in Manila with Isko-Ong’s Carl Balita, Samira Gutoc, and Jopet Sison. A volunteer group––Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee––likewise backed Moreno’s candidacy.
Present at Robredo-Pangilinan’s rally were senatorial candidates Teodoro Baguilat, Chel Diokno, Risa Hontiveros, Alex Lacson, Leila de Lima’s spokesperson, Antonio Trillanes, Gordon, and Sonny Matula. Escudero had a video message.
With Marcos Jr. and Sara were Herbert Bautista, who had been also part of Lacson-Sotto’s slate but dropped on Wednesday (Feb. 9), Jinggoy Estrada, Larry Gadon, Gatchalian, Rodante Marcoleta, Harry Roque, Gilbert Teodoro, Mark Villar, and Zubiri.
Honasan was represented by his wife, Jane Honasan, while Legarda had a video message which likewise fell short of an endorsement for Marcos Jr. and Sara.
Out of the shared candidates––Bautista, Binay, Gatchalian, Gordon Legarda, Tulfo, Villanueva, Zubiri––only Gatchalian and Bautista had an express endorsement by addressing Marcos Jr. and Duterte as president and vice president.
For Atienza, these scenes are the result of the weakness of political parties in the Philippines, the lack of laws preventing turncoatism, and the dominance of personalities over programs and ideologies.
She said strategically, the different camps can say that they are more inclusive and strategic by showing that they can be practical and can work with different politicians.
“However, only the senatorial candidates being endorsed by several tandems can possibly benefit from this because they can court more groups of voters and supporters,” she said.
“They are not bound to campaign for any specific presidential or vice presidential candidates,” Atienza said.
“This practice rewards turncoatism, personality politics and candidates with big resources but punishes efforts to strengthen political parties and programs. It also confuses voters,” Atienza added.