Co-authored with Jayvy Gamboa
We are down to the last 5 days before elections. 2 days left to campaign and to convert; then, 2 days of quiet reflection and solitude follow.
For the presidency, it has come down to two choices: Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. or Vice President Leni Robredo.
What the campaigns teach us
The diametrically opposing campaigns and governance philosophy of the Marcos, Jr. and Robredo have been under public scrutiny for the past six years. They contended for the vice presidency in 2016—which VP Robredo ultimately clinched as affirmed by the Supreme Court.
However, nothing of the past six years can even approximate the stark difference that the country has witnessed in the past half a year since they declared their candidacy for president and the 90 day campaign period.
Perhaps, transparency and accountability top the list.
It is not a secret that Marcos, Jr. has deliberately and consistently refused to engage in any traditional debate organized by credible media organizations and the COMELEC, which characterizes every presidential election in recent memory. Consistent at best as well, Marcos, Jr. has been reported as exceedingly difficult to be interviewed by the media and the press on issues concerning him.
As if challenging Marcos, Jr.’s campaign strategy of avoiding the hot seat, Robredo always insists on the value of “show[ing] up in the most difficult times”. Not only has she done this during the length of her tireless campaign, but in the past six years of serving as Vice President.
“Asaan ba sila noong wala pang eleksyon? ‘Yun ‘yung pinaka sukatan kung talagang totoong mahal tayo.” And even during elections, some candidates just fail to show up.
Of course, there are many more points where their campaigns diverge, such as the volunteer-driven and crowdfunded movement by Robredo as opposed to the machinery-driven and quid pro quo mobilization of Marcos, Jr.
Another important, yet now overlooked, factor in this elections is that one candidate, Marcos, Jr., has at least three disqualification or petition for cancellation of COC cases pending before the COMELEC en banc. We expect these to be decided by the COMELEC before the 9th, but we can never tell. Definitely, the Supreme Court will decide these after May 9. These cases hang over the head of his presidential ambition, which the voters must consider no less.
Campaigns for a highly contested and zero-sum presidency serve as mirrors to one’s governance. When pressed against the walls, when forced to make a stand, and when there is a need to balance interests, will the candidate, if elected president, show up?
What to expect on May 9
Despite the pandemic scare, we might see the highest voter turnout in Philippine electoral history this year, even surpassing the highest recorded turnout thus far of 86% in 1998. The energized voters of all campaigns will definitely make their presence felt. Needless to say, in a potentially tight race, voter turnout is key to securing a victory.
Additionally, the youth vote, while not consolidated behind a single candidate and still fragmented, can influence the balance seen in previous elections. Voters aged between 18 and 41 account for 56%, or more than 37 million, of local voters. Again, turnout is key.
The credibility of the elections will also be measured by the public eye through the extent of irregularities that occur on May 9 in precincts nationwide. No, we are not entertaining the thought that the results of the election could be undermined through wide-scale cheating and electoral fraud. Instead, we are referring to minor glitches in vote-counting machines, power outages, misprinted ballots, and so on. These do add up and swell to full-blown doubts.
We cannot overemphasize the fact that, as it is currently situated, the elections are heated. Any irregularity of such sort, however small, coupled with social media access, can be problematic for post-election transition, whoever wins.
All we can pray for is that the COMELEC, the poll watchers, and the election watchdogs are ready for such scenarios—even for the worst one—to secure the vote of every Filipino.
Polls close at 7 PM.
By then, all eyes shall be on Metro Manila (7.3 million votes), Southern Tagalog (9.2M), Central Luzon (7.3M), and Central Visayas (5.2M). Not only do these regions hold the largest number of votes, results from these can also be transmitted the fastest—possibly by night of May 9. A runaway winner in these regions have a very good chance of sealing the presidency early on.
On the scenario that these regions figure to be competitive with only a difference of some hundred thousand to a million votes, the political bailiwicks enter the picture: Ilocos region for Marcos, Jr. and Bicol region for Robredo.
With still a close race at this point, the Mindanao votes (15.7M) matter, which we think are competitive although not accurately reflected in reports and pre-election polling. Despite VP candidate Sara Duterte by the side of her running mate Marcos, Jr., significant and widespread support for the Robredo-Sara (RoSa) tandem act as counterweight to the former. Add to these the historic endorsement of Robredo by the MILF, through the United Bangsamoro Justice Part (UBJP).
Only an overwhelming voter turnout for either candidate and the efficiency of COMELEC’s systems can determine how quick can the electorate know its President-elect.
We decide the next 100 and 1,000 days
The last part of this article is looking at what is ahead of us.
Whoever wins, whether Marcos, Jr. or Robredo, we need not wait for the 1000 days that follow to see where we are headed.
Let us first consider a Marcos, Jr. victory.
Immediately, a Marcos, Jr. victory would make headline in all major news organizations worldwide. “36 years later, son of ousted Philippine dictator reclaims the presidency.” This would shock the world, because a country that has suffered so much under the rule of the dictator Marcos, Sr. and his cronies has given the reins of power back to the same family.
A Marcos, Jr. victory would also mean that one who is sinister enough could get away with twisting facts and exercising lordship over the truth for one’s own benefit, as Nobel laureate Maria Ressa warned. A rebranding, sanitization, and revisionism are what it takes to win the presidency. Further, it is obvious that a such is a regression in Philippine politics; to trapo or traditional politics.
On a longer term and tying back to transparency as earlier discussed, Marcos, Jr.’s aversion to discourse, to participatory democracy, and to accountability by media shall definitely be the tone of his evasive administration.
However, these are contingent on the fate of Marcos, Jr.’s disqualification cases. As earlier said, these cases are still pending before the COMELEC en banc. If ever he garners the most number of votes in May 9, yet declared as disqualified by the Supreme Court, he will be replaced by the Vice-President-elect.
It is nothing short of a stray or spoiled vote for Marcos, Jr.
This is why one of us (Dean Tony), in a separate article, categorically advised the voters to think twice in voting for Marcos, Jr., because one’s vote should not be wasted on a candidate that is too unstable and too uncertain.
We, thus, reiterate this call to vote for candidates who do not pose such uncertainty and who do not face disqualification cases. Let us ourselves decide what happens in the next 100 and 1,000 days!
We endorse the tandem of VP Leni Robredo and Senator Kiko Pangilinan as our country’s next leaders!
Robredo and Pangilinan need no further introduction. Before entering politics in 2013 as member of Congress, Robredo, the current Vice President, worked tirelessly as a developmental lawyer for farmers, fisherfolk, and other marginalized sectors for decades. Pangilinan, a Senator for 18 years, started as a student leader in the University of the Philippines and has since advocated for the agriculture and food security sector of the country. No allegation of corruption; no taint in integrity.
The Leni-Kiko campaign has mustered a historic unity coalition, from the most conservative groups to the most progressive ones, across basic sectors, and especially those from the margins of society. The grassroots support for the tandem surged as they presented a platform of government and governance philosophy that inspire Filipinos to be more creative, to be more generous, and to be more patriotic than ever before.
The most important gift of all is the Pink Movement composed of energized and dynamic volunteers spread throughout the country that has accepted the challenge of bringing Leni-Kiko to Malacañan together with their hopes and dreams for the country.
At the end of it all, the Pink Movement will sure to last for the following 100, 1000, and 10,000 days—whoever wins the presidency—and continue to hold power to account, to catapult those on the margins and not politicians to the center, and to ensure that the next generation shall never have a shortage of Filipino servant leaders, like Leni and Kiko.