Where did it Go?
Back in July, when Daughterte was riding high as the potential candidate to beat, the People’s Reform Party (PRP) chaired by Narciso Santiago declared it would back her and join the coalition coalescing around Hugpong ng Pagbabago (which was limited by the fact that it’s a regional alliance and thus has no standing before the Comelec as a national party). That coalition, back in July, was going to consist of the Lakas-CMD of Arroyo-Romualdez, the National Unity Party (NUP) of Razon, the Nacionalistas of Villar, the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino of Estrada, and PRP of Santiago. The only outlier at the time was the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) of Ang, which variously toyed with the idea of running Ang himself, then dangling the potential of Pacquiao.
Since July, there has been a realignment of sorts, a large part of it hidden behind the scenes. The easy manner in which Pacquiao was kicked out of PDP-Laban, and Ang’s need to focus on his core interests (pushing his pet PAREx scheme) meant NPC has focused on pushing the highly viable vice presidential candidacy of Sotto, while for now, accommodating Lacson. In that time, it also lent Banayo to the Moreno campaign (just as Razon lent Puno to the Lacson-Sotto campaign; this cross-fertilization means some consideration should be given to the possibility of a Moreno-Sotto tandem, formally or informally, and with it, an NUP-NPC alliance of sorts, if the Lacson candidacy proves deadweight). That realignment is due to two falling numbers, as measured by public opinion: the President’s, and Daughterte’s.
The President ditched his bid for the vice presidency on the basis of the surveys showing six out of 10 respondents opposed his run for VP. Surely a glass half-full argument could have been made: the same percentage that elected him president was in favor of a VP bid. Just as likely is that all the other numbers, whether known to the public or not, suggest the President has lost much of his political clout — and appeal.
Yesterday, Pulse Asia released the rating of the administration, which fell 10 points in terms of its efforts at fighting graft and corruption. Note that this is not an opinion on the President himself: it tantalizingly remains to be seen if his approval and trust numbers went down in all regions and social classes (the President’s air of resignation suggests he knows ahead of the public that there has been a plunge noticeable everywhere). Go as his substitute points to his loyally taking the fall for his Boss. Daughterte for her part, fell eight points nationally, in the same polls (with double-digit drops in at least three major regions). Her filing her candidacy for a third term as mayor thus made sense. The signal this all sent, though, was the supposed ruling party couldn’t scrape up a presidential candidate, but needed a truly reliable ally, which Moreno can’t possibly be, which only strengthened the hand of Marcos. Yesterday, BBM interestingly was inducted as the new chair of the Partido Federal, amidst talk that in time, the Nacionalistas to whom he’d formerly belonged, would field a Villar as his running mate.
But hope springs eternal and Monday had Leoncio Evasco Jr. signing on to the PRP, sparking rumors that it was in preparation for Daughterte also taking her membership oath in a bid for the presidency. Here, two uncivil wars have to be acknowledged, both fought mainly behind the scenes. The first is exemplified by Daughterte’s disdain for Go as gofer who is perpetually going in between their father and themselves, meaning the President’s children by his first wife. The second is the intense, because high-stakes, bureaucratic battle for the soul, if one can call it that, of the Duterte administration, between Evasco who wanted to create a radical new movement, and Go, who outfought him on the basis of appealing to the President’s conservative and unimaginative instincts.
Go won that fight, but the sum total of its achievements are revealed in a ruling party incapable of even producing a presidential candidate, and with a VP despised by Daughterte who has become possibly more electable than her father. There could still be a dream ticket: Marcos-Duterte.
It may be that we have another month of drama left, before the Nov. 15 deadline for substitutions finally allows the dust to settle, revealing whatever will be our choices from which to select come May 2022.