Marcos Jr. biding his time
Winston Churchill, writing for a magazine about how he had an appendectomy on the eve of a major election, described its aftermath as follows: “In the twinkling of an eye, I found myself without an office, without a seat, without a party, and without an appendix.” Our Great Eagle Father is no Churchill, but on Oct. 8 he found himself without a coalition, without a full senate slate, without a tandem, and indeed, without an anointed successor. Such is our national Stockholm Syndrome—that phenomenon in which some hostage victims develop positive feelings toward their captor—that at first blush, the public still thought this was yet another sign of the great political gifts of the President, when what it actually was, as I said in a commentary for this paper, is a collection of politicians out of steam, out of ideas, out of touch with each other: yet hoping against hope for a Daughterte ex Machina to magically solve their being in a political dead end.
Sparing the President ending up with his own Otso Diretso (which would have sent the same message for his administration that it did for the then-opposition in 2019: a force incapable of even finding 12 to run), three more candidates trickled in to add to his ticket, so now he has 11, still one short of a full slate. Yet this is the ruling party: at one point even Pacquiao had a slate of eight to match the President’s; and the opposition, by contrast, seems in the pink of health when one considers public fighting has broken out over the question of who should be invited by Robredo to fill the 12th, and remaining slot, in its slate. The (positioning for itself, anyway) third force of Lacson has such a big tent it’s endorsed a slate of 14 to fill 12 slots.
Hope still springs eternal, and so three days ago Salvador Panelo took the opportunity to take credit for the movement to draft Daughterte for the presidency, claiming in his column he planted the seeds for her candidacy in a gathering with OFWs. But, he wrote, the clock is ticking. Indeed, it is: with seven months to go, the President’s political machine is less 800-pound gorilla and more dazed and confused circus orangutan.
Coalition partners-in-waiting have the infrastructure in place: Leoncio Evasco Jr., whom Daughterte likely trusts in contrast to her intense dislike for Bong Go, is in the People’s Reform Party, officially in alliance with Hugpong ng Pagbabago since 2019. Lakas-CMD has placeholder candidates ready for substitutions at a moment’s notice: a role Bato dela Rosa has gamely taken on for himself, too, in PDP-Laban. All these placeholders simply exist because if no Duterte runs, then the administration and all who lived it up during its term, will wholly depend for their long-term personal and political security, on Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
It’s said that behind every big lie is a kernel of truth, and if the current favorite lie of the Marcos Machine—well researched and dissected by Maria Ressa, who argues its online activities represents a clear and present danger to the electoral process—is that they are the victims of a generations-old blood feud between the Aquinos and the Marcoses, then much as it’s a lie (it was always the Filipino People vs. the Marcoses after 1972), it has as its core the truth that this is, indeed, how the Marcoses view it: always have, as the Crisologos remember, and always will, as the Fariñases are experiencing. By this realistic measure, all the more do the efforts of the Daughterte-boosters, including the Arroyo Lakas-CMD bloc, make political life-preserving sense.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr., lest we forget, is in a kind of placeholder position, too, having put on the vest of an obscure party without bothering to announce a running mate or a senate slot because obviously he is only half of the potential ruling coalition. In one respect the Marcoses have been left behind by time, and that’s by the number of big fortunes that are politically active: NP, NPC, NUP are essentially subsidiaries of corporate conglomerates, and any number of big donors can see and raise any Marcos seed money.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has lost two things since 2016: the aura of invincibility and having an inexhaustible wallet. But he retains the reputation of having the smartest online and advertising operation money can buy. The best the administration can manage is to pit Daughterte against Tito Sotto; absent that, it will have no choice but to bend the knee to the Marcoses who, as Imee likes to point out, remember.