Turbulent Days Ahead for the Country

“The poor and the basic sectors above all must be represented in that coalition of the willing.

I submitted this column not knowing the results yet of yesterday’s elections. Perhaps by the time the Manila Standard print edition comes out, there is already a clear winner. Given the consistency of the surveys from November to April, it is possible that Senator Bong Bong Marcos can win this election by a landslide and we would have known this by midnight last night or early morning today.

But there is also a plausible scenario of an upset, come from behind, and narrow victory by Vice President Leni Robredo. Under this scenario of a close election,  we would have to wait for a few more days before knowing the winner.

Observing the crowds and long lines in the polls today, we might see the highest voter turnout in Philippine electoral history, even surpassing the highest recorded turnout thus far of 86 percent in 1998. 

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. A blackout of results in the first few hours, as we saw in the 2019 senatorial races, would be catastrophic to the credibility of the process.

Whoever wins, whether Marcos or Robredo, there are stormy days ahead for the Philippines.

Immediately, a Marcos, Jr. victory would make headlines in all major news organizations worldwide. This would shock the world, because a country that has suffered so much under the rule of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. and his cronies has given the reins of power back to the same family.

Marcos Jr.’s aversion to discourse, to participatory democracy, and to accountability by media as we have seen in the campaign could definitely be the tone of his evasive administration. Even as the campaign ended, we do not know what Marcos stands for – his platform, economic plan, and other policy positions. We do not know who his cabinet will be – although he would likely draw from the usual suspects from our traditional political elite.

However, these are contingent on the fate of Marcos, Jr.’s disqualification cases. As earlier said, these cases are still pending before the Commission on Elections en banc. According to reports, the Comelec will decide this today May 10. If as expected, Marcos prevails at the Comelec, there will immediately be petitions in the Supreme Court questioning the Comelec decisions.

Indeed, even if Marcos garners the most number of votes on May 9, he can be disqualified by the Supreme Court and will be replaced by the Vice-President-elect. That could be Sara Duterte, confirming the conspiracy theory that this is what the lame duck President Digong Duterte wanted from the start. But that assumes a Supreme Court willing to play along — a notion I totally reject believing in the integrity and independence of the Chief Justice and the members of the current Court.

It does not take rocket science to anticipate the anger of Marcos supporters if in fact he is disqualified. Still, they could be divided in that the Duterte supporters among them could welcome such a decision if Sara Duterte is installed as president, temporarily or permanently.

In the scenario that Leni Robredo wins, there will also be stormy days ahead of us. First, the Marcos supporters have already said they would take to the streets to denounce and overturn  a result as possible only through massive cheating. 

Second, even if Robredo is proclaimed and inaugurated, it will be a narrow victory and one can imagine there will be several destabilization attempts against her government. Given her strong will and character, however, these are likely not to succeed.

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.

If Marcos prevails and makes bad decisions inimical to the country, this is the broad coalition (with the supporters of Leody de Guzman joining) that can be mobilize to push back against corruption, human rights violations, a return of cronyism, and major foreign policy blunders. More positively, this is a coalition  that can unite for social equality policies, a strong climate justice agenda, and  the completion of all the peace processes still pending – from the Mindanao process which the Aquino and Duterte administrations has rightly advances(and a Marcos government could endanger)  to the negotiations with the National Democratic Front which must be resumed.

This broad coalition would not be destabilizing but would in fact challenge Marcos to flesh out his vision of national unity. He should welcome this and engage with the coalition.

Whether is it Marcos or Robredo who will win in these elections, either must call for and put together an authentic national unity government – not of political families and dynasties coming from different regions which actually represents the worst of our politics, but one that represents all stakeholder interests in our country. The poor and the basic sectors above all must be represented in that coalition of the willing.

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