Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio takes her oath as member of the Lakas-CMD. Flanking her are House Majority Leader Rep. Martin Romualdez and Senator Bong Revilla, president and chair of Lakas, respectively,

No election campaign has had so many twists and turns than the one we are currently going through. And the campaign hasn’t even formally started, if we go by election rules that make our politics the queerest of them all, if not the world’s laughing stock. But the joke is really on us, folks, for allowing things come to this pass. 

If we go by common sense – no longer so common in these parts – everybody is campaigning prematurely. In saner times, this would be an election offense, but now, we can’t say anybody is campaigning because, as the law states, the campaign period has not officially begun. Duh! So, how can there be any offense? Pray tell, how can anybody campaign prematurely after the campaign period officially opens? Why is this so? Because we allowed our elected representatives to pass such laws, that’s why! 

But before we go any further, let us be reminded that as a nation we have always been hounded by the curse of factionalism. Let’s go as far back as the Philippine Revolution and the Katipunan, and recall what happened to the Bonifacio brothers. Factionalism at its worst! The Liberal Party was in fact a splinter of the old Nacionalista Party. It is no wonder then that as frequently happens before an election, political parties split into as many factions as there are people wanting to run for office. 

In better times, when there were party conventions, the losing candidate would sometimes simply move to another party willing to accept him or her. These people were called political butterflies. One butterfly of note was Ramon Magsaysay, who bolted the Liberal Party to be the standard bearer of the Nacionalista Party in 1953. Another was Ferdinand E. Marcos, who left the LP to become standard bearer of the NP in 1965. Even Ninoy Aquino bolted the NP to join the LP for his Senate run.  

Today, we claim to operate in a multi-party system, but, as before, the parties have no distinctive ideologies to differentiate them from each other. In fact, most politicians now simply gravitate to whoever is in power and holds the purse strings of the state. The clique is known as the ruling coalition.  

Rodrigo Duterte was himself a political butterfly, flitting to PDP-Laban in order to qualify for the 2016 elections through the mechanism of candidate substitution, another scheme contrived by our wily politicians. After he won, almost everybody from the other parties migrated to PDP-Laban in numbers reminiscent of Monarch butterflies migrating to warmer zones in winter.  

But let’s go back to the twists and turns of the current campaign. 

True to form, the now-lame-duck Duterte’s PDP-Laban split into factions at the approach of the 2022 elections. These were mainly the faction of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, which moved to Duterte’s baton, and the faction of PDP-Laban president Manny Pacquiao. Their fight over which faction truly represents the party is pending settlement before the Commission on Elections. 

Meanwhile, the Cusi faction initially proclaimed Sen. Bong Go, Duterte’s factotum, as its presidential candidate, with Duterte as his running mate. The move raised a howl of protests from many sectors. The people wouldn’t allow Duterte to fiddle with the Constitution again. Go eventually declined the nomination and so did Duterte, who acknowledged his candidacy for vice president might indeed run afoul of the constitutional ban on any person wielding presidential power for a second time. 

As expected by many, the talks to unify the opposition under the auspices of the 1Sambayan coalition fell through soon enough. Some blamed this failure in part on Vice President Leni Robredo’s dalliance in her decision to run for the presidency. But in reality, it was factionalism at work. 

And so, Sen. Panfilo Lacson announced his candidacy for president with Senate President Tito Sotto as his running mate. Never mind that they came from different parties. Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, who has gone from party to party, announced he was also seeking the presidency with Dr. Willie Ong as his running mate. Manny Pacquiao, too, announced he was seeking the presidency and chose Lito Atienza as his running mate. The Partido Lakas ng Masa announced its candidates for president and vice president were the labor leader Leody de Guzman and academician former Rep. Walden Bello, respectively. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. announced his candidacy, too, with no running mate as yet.  

Robredo eventually announced she was running for president, but not under the Liberal Party, of which she was chairperson, but as an independent. She chose Sen. Francisco Pangilinan, the LP president as her running mate. 

The initial showdown came with the formal filing of candidacies on Oct. 1- 8. Pandemic protocols kept the usual crowds at bay. No circus this time. But this did not prevent followers of Bongbong Marcos from deploying the country’s emergency alert system to beat the drums for his candidacy. Illegal? Of course! Let’s see what happens to the authorities’ investigation. 

Predictably, politicians filed their respective certificates of candidacy. There were just a few surprises, principally Bato dela Rosa filing his candidacy for president under PDP-Laban with Bong Go as his running mate. He had just been told by his party to file for the presidency just a short while earlier, he said. “So much the better,” he answered, chuckling, when a reporter asked if he was holding the slot for Sara Duterte, who up to that point had disavowed any plan of running for the presidency. 

In all, 98 people filed certificates of candidacy for president; 28 for vice president; 174 for senator, and many thousands more for members of the House of Representatives, provincial governors, vice governors, provincial board members, city and municipal mayors, vice mayors and members of city and municipal councils. You still wonder why we have very long ballots? Let’s see how well the Comelec prunes the list. 

The circus finally came to town on Nov. 15, the deadline for the substitution of candidates who voluntarily withdrew. This is where some politicians, principally Duterte and others identified with him, performed somersaults to put trapeze artists to shame.  

Duterte somersaulted from his previously announced plan to retire from politics to running for the Senate by replacing someone from a previously unheard of party called Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDDS). Goaded by Duterte, Go somersaulted to presidential candidate, also under PDDS. Poor PDP-Laban was left with no prime candidates because Bato dela Rosa somersaulted out of the race. 

In a display of defiance to her father, Sara Duterte Carpio abandoned both her run for a third term as mayor of Davao City and the regional party she formed and headed, the Hugpong ng Pagbabago, to join the Lakas-CMD party of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo et al as its vice presidential candidate. This is what led Duterte to push a reluctant Go to aim for the presidency. 

Bongbong Marcos’ new party quickly adopted Sara Duterte as its vice presidential candidate. Quickly, too, Lakas-CMD made Sara Duterte its chairperson and subsequently adopted Bongbong as its presidential candidate. Sara then reclaimed leadership of Hugpong, which she had abandoned just days before. 

With so many butterflies flitting around and political parties adopting this and that candidate or forming alliances with this or that party, one can easily lose track of party affiliations or simply get dizzy. 

Not a single party has fielded organic party members for a full slate of candidates from president, to vice president, to senator down to municipal council member. Doesn’t this show to what depths our political party system and our politics have sunk? Two presidential candidates aren’t even running under their respective parties but have chosen instead to run as independents. Of course, they have their justifications for this. 

In the past, political parties “adopted” one or two politicians to run for the Senate or some other position under their ticket. But look at the field of senatorial candidates today. Almost every one of them is a guest candidate. 

Five senatorial candidates of the group cobbled together under the auspices of the 1Sambayan coalition are guest candidates also on the slates of two other groups. Many of those running for the Senate are simply guest candidates, too. Isn’t this as frustrating as playing in a basketball league when you know some members of your team are also playing for other teams?! 

So, has the dust settled? No, far from it. Expect more twists and turns in the days ahead.  

Already, after a week of making such noices, Bong Go withdrew from the race today. This leaves Duterte, despite all his bluster,  with no one else to support but Marcos. So much for the dramatics. Didn’t he say, at the height of Bongbong’s effort to unseat Leni Robredo, that if he needed to, he would relinquish power only to Bongbong Marcos?  

Apart from this new but expected twist, the Comelec has yet to decide on motions to cancel Bongbong Marcos’ certificate of candidacy or to disqualify him. This issue is likely to reach the Supreme Court.  

This is the stage when we, the voters, must be wary. This is the time when politicians engage in more horse trading, that is, trading our future welfare for their private interests.  

Already four political parties have united to push for Bongbong Marcos and the rehabilitation and restoration of the Marcoses to political power. Look closely and you will find that these are families or dynasties that have inflicted the most harm on our nation. All of them tainted by plunder and corruption scandals. 

About the Author

Miguel C. Suarez’s professional career spans more than 50 years in journalism and public relations. In his last semester in college, he sought and found work at Agence France-Presse. He was eventually invited to join The Associated Press where he rose to become news editor at its Manila bureau. He was also a desk editor at the Philippine daily Inquirer for nearly 10 years until 2015. He pioneered the practice of Investor Relations in the Philippines while working for San Miguel Corp. He also taught journalism, communication and public relations at Lyceum of the Philippine University. 

What is your reaction?

In Love
Not Sure

You may also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *