The Marcos maneuver
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and colleague Sen. Panfilo Lacson Jr. have been playing coy about forming a tandem for the presidency and veephood, and within weeks Sotto has started becoming more independent. After the will-they or won’t-they confusion about faceshield requirements, Sotto has taken to exasperated potshots: “Now I know why the Handling of the pandemic is not good!” As I said in this space before, as the campaign season nears, everyone will sooner or later become an oppositionist.
Which makes it all the more important to hold as much of the coalition together, as the administration flirts with the possibility of going all in, to ensure it is succeeded by itself, in 2022.
Last week two photos and three press conferences combined to send a powerful message. The photos were of two separate meetings involving the Marcoses. Chronologically speaking, the meetings were: a June 14 meeting at ex-president/speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s, with former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez; and a June 15 meeting at Sen. Imee Marcos’ with Mayor Sara Duterte and Sen. Ronald dela Rosa. The press conferences were the President’s, and his daughter’s, on June 16; and Romualdez’s on June 17. She said she is open to considering running for the presidency, but had no plans of joining a national party, preferring to remain in Hugpong ng Pagbabago. He said he’d gladly not run for the vice presidency if Martin Romualdez would be a candidate. In Romualdez’s June 17 presser he loyally thanked the President for his endorsement and said he’d think about it.
Romualdez playing coy might have something to do with what he may have seen coming. On Monday, MindaNews headlined that Mayor Duterte said there will be no Duterte-Duterte tandem in the 2022 election. It quoted the Mayor as saying on her Davao City Disaster Radio 87.5 FM show, “President Duterte has already said that the presidency is not a woman’s job, particularly not for me. So if President Duterte will run for vice president, let’s not expect that he will get me as president.”
A possible Sara campaign talking point for the faithful is she will rectify the wrongs of her father; so if we take her radio proclamation as an independence-fostering posture, it means the only slot up for grabs is the veephood from which she’s eliminated dear old dad.
Romualdez is the fourth name — the President himself being the first, then Ferdinand Marcos Jr., then Gilbert Teodoro, and now Romualdez — to be mentioned as a potential running mate for the President’s daughter. But of these the most boosting has been given to Teodoro and Romualdez. Oscar Wilde once defined an aristocratic foxhunt as the unspeakable in hot pursuit of the uneatable, and the two trial-ballooned vice presidentiables thus far, Romualdez and Teodoro, could be described similarly.
But the clincher here are the four faces of the ruling coalition — Mr. Duterte, Arroyo, Marcos, and Romualdez — and the message they combined to set out, setting aside trial balloons: Here, in four acts, is the ruling coalition sending a warning to all political players that they will be outgunned, outgooned, and outgolded.
But in the presser in which Romualdez responded to the President, an interesting question was asked. Won’t all this talk of veephood for Romualdez spark conflict with his cousin, Ferdinand Jr.? Romualdez’s reply was a classic political smokescreen: “I don’t foresee any conflict as what you’re anticipating. Because you know that all conflicts, problems, as long as we face them, and we talk about them, we will be able to solve the problem before it arises.”
What Ferdinand Martin Romualdez could not say about Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. is that the former senator has his sights on the presidency, which makes it a problem for the whole Duterte-Marcos-Romualdez-Arroyo Axis. Even if allies peel away to fulfill their own ambitions—as Lacson and Sotto and others are already starting to do — the core coalitionists have to hold together.
For some reason, it seems the President isn’t keen on Ferdinand Jr. for veep; but is Ferdinand Jr. himself keen on being veep? The President can easily say the only person he trusts to have his back is his daughter as the next president. Which means Ferdinand Jr., and not Manny Pacquiao, is the real problem of the ruling coalition.