Land of promise
The President’s son, Sebastian, suggests that an endorsement of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. by his father is coming soon. The announcement can be considered a foretaste of what would be the crowning glory of the Marcos campaign. From the start, it projected, and organized, itself on fundamentally traditional lines: first, as a North-South alliance, and second, as the pinnacle of political machine politics. A presidential endorsement, as we’ll see below, would achieve a lockout of Robredo. It also settles the question of where the President stands at the end of his term.
From Earl Parreño’s interesting biography of Rodrigo Duterte, we know that Vicente Duterte, the President’s father, was an ally and political protégé of Sen. Alejandro Almendras and President Ferdinand E. Marcos; that at a certain point, both Almendras and Marcos turned against Duterte, who’d embarked on the path—including becoming the Secretary of General Services — previously carved out by Almendras; but that, when the elder Duterte defied Marcos and insisted on running for congressman, Marcos supported Duterte’s rival while Almendras, supportive in public, actually opposed Duterte in private; so that three months after his defeat, the elder Duterte died, his son was convinced, of a broken heart.
Soledad Duterte exacted her revenge on Ferdinand Marcos by supporting Cory Aquino, only to reveal her authentic political colors when she called for Cory’s resignation in 1990 and for Doy Laurel to take over. When the Aquino administration ran an official candidate against Rodrigo Duterte, he had no compunction about approaching the still-influential Alejandro Almendras to seek, and obtain, his political support for the mayoralty; in a similar manner, he sought, and obtained, the support of the Marcoses for his presidential bid in 2016.
He paid his political debt by authorizing a state funeral at the Libingan ng mga Bayani for the late dictator. For a time, it seemed the President, miffed his daughter had decided to slide down to veep, was toying with the idea of somehow being a spoiler for Marcos Jr. Now, it seems, the New Society of Marcos and the Newer Society of Duterte have reconciled again. In what is likely the closing political act of his presidency, the President is ending his political career as he began it: by setting aside his feelings out of a pragmatic quest for success.
As Randy David put it bluntly last Sunday, right now, the opinion polls project a Marcos Jr. victory. A review of those polls, each a snapshot. The most recent is the Laylo Report, January, February, March: FM Jr., 64 percent, 63 percent, 61 percent; Robredo, 16 percent, 17 percent, 19 percent. For SWS, January, February: FM Jr., 50 percent, 46 percent; Robredo, 19 percent, 15 percent. Pulse Asia, January, February: FM. Jr., 60 percent; Robredo, 16 percent (same for both months). Ranged against this is the theory, as yet unproven, that the surveys may no longer be accurate, and that measuring Google search and Facebook sentiment provides a totally different picture (see Roger Do’s blog, www.autopolitic.com/blog).
With numbers like these, in the end, does the President need Marcos more than Marcos needs the President? Yes and no.
The Marcos dream remains to achieve a hugely historic mandate, which is what anything over 42 percent, the highest post-Edsa plurality ever (Benigno Aquino III, in 2010), would be. All the rest of our presidents since 1992 obtained 39 percent, the magic percentage. My former colleague John Nery believes 41 percent is needed to win, or 22 million votes. The challenge for the Marcoses is whether hugely expensive but unreliable machines can deliver on election day, when the Robredo campaign is experiencing a surge driven by an enthusiasm and daring markedly different from the glum-faced, low-energy Marcos sorties.
The clincher can be Mindanao. For some, the rule of thumb is this: No candidate has won the presidency with merely 5 percent of Mindanao, which is what Robredo has in Mindanao, according to both Pulse Asia and Laylo. So how to keep her there, where elsewhere she is becoming more competitive? Note that Pulse Asia gives the disapproval rate of the President at only 4 percent in Mindanao: He remains, overwhelmingly, the favorite son. What then happens in Mindanao, when the President formally endorses Marcos Jr.? In particular, what will happen to the local politicians who have endorsed the Vice President in Mindanao? There would be an administration lockout, delivered by the President.