The 90-day campaign period for national positions officially kicked off this week with all leading presidential aspirants holding proclamation rallies at their own political bailiwicks.

The rallies were a show of force, convincing voters they have enough numbers to win the elections on May 9 to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte.

It will be an exciting election rematch between the two main political contenders — Vice President Leonor “Leni” Gerona Robredo and former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos.

In 2016, Robredo narrowly defeated Marcos in a contested vice presidential election by a little over 200,000 votes.

Marcos protested the result but the recount of votes in some provinces to test if there was indeed fraud showed Robredo won fair and square and even increased her winning margin by a few thousand votes.

This time Marcos has built a very comfortable two-digit margin in opinion polls and appears headed to win the elections unless people change their minds during the campaign period depending on how the candidates will perform.

A cautious Marcos skipped several media interviews while two other aspirants — Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso — were impressive in the media forums, laying down clear and coherent programs of government for the next six years.

Robredo has also presented a program of government but Marcos has struggled to put flesh and bones to a vague platform based on unity.

Marcos promised to unite a highly polarized country but was not clear on how to do it. He has also refused to acknowledge the sins of his late father, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who stole an estimated $10 billion and jailed, tortured, and killed tens of thousands of human rights victims during his 20 years in power.

Marcos was also seen as one of the factors in the country’s divisions by funding troll farms behind massive disinformation in social media platforms, attacking his rivals and deodorizing the family’s tarnished reputation.

The disinformation has helped repair Marcos’ image to more than half of 65 million voters who never experienced the repressive martial law period from 1972 to 1981. They were fed with a fabricated narrative that the Marcos years were the Philippines’ golden years that featured shiny edifices, roads, and bridges.

It is true that Marcos built a lot of infrastructure in 20 years but these were at the expense of poor Filipinos because funds for the projects were borrowed abroad and a big portion of the money were stashed in secret offshore bank accounts.

Alliances also play an important role as aspirants try to win more support and votes in the elections. Both Robredo and Marcos have won allies going into the campaign.

Various cause-oriented and progressive groups have aligned behind the vice president — two factions of left-wing groups, the Makabayan bloc and Akbayan, as well as the right-wing group, Magdalo, have thrown support to the vice president.

Former officials in the Fidel Ramos cabinet have thrown support behind Robredo but former officials in the Benigno Aquino cabinet were split between Robredo and Lacson.

Rodrigo Duterte has only endorsed his daughter, allowing officials around him to support either Isko Moreno or Bongbong Marcos.

But the most pronounced alliance supporting Marcos was among children of politicians who were tainted by controversies, including corruption.

Former senator Jinggoy Estrada is running under Marcos’ ticket. Jinggoy himself has a plunder case before the anti-corruption court Sandiganbayan. His father, former president Joseph Estrada, was convicted of plunder.

Former Mandaluyong City mayor Benhur Abalos resigned as Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair to become Bongbong’s campaign manager.
He is the son of controversial former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Benjamin Abalos who was linked to the anomalous $300-million deal with a Chinese telecommunications company for a national broadband project under the administration of Gloria Arroyo.

Marcos’ strong showing in opinion polls was actually bolstered by the support given by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio who agreed to run as his vice president.

She is the daughter of the president who was linked to the multi-billion-peso Pharmally medical supplies scandal and the approval of another multi-billion sale of foreign control in the country’s gas fields to a Davao City businessman who is a major contributor to Duterte’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Two former presidents — Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — both tainted by graft, have also aligned with Marcos, the only son of the late dictator who stole billions of dollars from the government’s coffers.

It would appear that an alliance of people with a long history of dishonesty has emerged to support Marcos. It was an alliance of convenience for a group of politicians whose interests are to remain in power and continue to amass wealth.

Sara and Benhur have cast aside principles and chose to align with Marcos. Sara’s grandmother had fought against the dictator when she was alive in the 1980s. Her husband served in the dictator’s cabinet when Marcos was first elected in 1965 but betrayed him by supporting another Nacionalista Party candidate for Davao governor in 1967.

Sara must have forgotten that her father was appointed by the late president Corazon Aquino as vice mayor in 1986, his springboard to becoming Davao City’s longest-serving mayor.

Abalos’ father was staunchly anti-Marcos in the 1980s and was also appointed Mandaluyong mayor by Cory Aquino. How many times did his father defend Cory Aquino against coup attempts by soldiers loyal to Marcos?

It was unthinkable for Sara and Benhur to betray the spirit of EDSA that had propelled their own political careers. But they are not alone; there are several more politicians who were Marcos opponents before but are now working to help the dictator’s son claw back to power.

There were also numerous “sleeping” die-hard Marcos supporters who were suddenly awakened and found their way back into the arms of the dictator’s son.

The choice on May 9 is between the forces of tainted and dishonest politicians and those fighting against corruption. Robredo has no monopoly on the anti-corruption platform. Lacson, Domagoso, the boxing icon Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao, and labor leader Leody de Guzman have raised the banners of honest and transparent government.

Filipinos must make a clear choice between the alliance of corrupt politicians and the forces for good government.