The pictures of the motorcade were impressive. A vast sea of red-colored shirts crowded both sides of the road as a convoy of vehicles passed.

However, the pictures were not taken last week in the country as supporters of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. would like the public to believe. The pictures were from a protest in Bangkok.

The pictures were aiming to deceive gullible social media users to believe the dictator’s son and namesake has a multitude of followers and was a sure winner in next May elections.

Based on Pulse Asia’s opinion polls in the third quarter this year, Bongbong’s voter preference numbers had shot up, inching close to perennial front runner, Sara Duterte-Carpio, with 15 percent. He is in a statistical tie with Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso and Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao, who got 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Bongbong gained momentum after Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter did not file her certificate of candidacy for president last month.

Duterte-Carpio’s numbers were also failing, from 28 percent in the second quarter to 20 percent in the third quarter of this year.

But Bongbong’s bid to replace President Rodrigo Duterte next year could hit a snag after several groups filed a petition before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to cancel his certificate of candidacy for president on the grounds that he was a convicted tax evader.

Under the election code, any candidate who was convicted of any crime and sentenced to more than 18 months would be disqualified from seeking any public office.

In 1995, the Quezon City regional trial court found him guilty of not paying his income taxes from 1982 to 1985 as governor of Ilocos Norte. He was convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail and paid an insignificant amount of fine.

Two years later, the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s conviction but removed the jail term. Marcos Jr. appealed the decision to the Supreme Court but withdrew it because the jail term was removed.

Arguing against the petitions, he said he was allowed to run for governor of Ilocos Norte, as congressman, senator, and vice president despite the tax evasion conviction.

The Comelec’s second division will decide on the petitions but it could end up at the en banc for final arbitration. The Comelec’s ruling will be appealed before the Supreme Court.

It is uncertain when Bongbong’s case will be finally resolved. It could be the Damocles sword swinging at his neck and Duterte could use it as a leverage against him.

Duterte controls both the Comelec and the Supreme Court. Thus, Marcos Jr.’s fate hangs on the president. He could force Bongbong to give way to his daughter’s run for president next year.

There are speculations Inday Sara will run for a national position after she withdrew her candidacy for mayor in Davao City. She could seek the presidency by substituting for Ronald dela Rosa, who is the standard bearer of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) or the candidate of Lakas-NUCD.

She could also substitute for the Lakas-NUCD’s vice president candidate and team up with Bongbong, a scenario the Marcos family wanted because they could not afford squaring off with her in next year’s elections.

The Dutertes are known to be obsessed with power. Inday Sara could shoot for the moon instead of running for vice president, ensuring the protection of her father from potential lawsuits when the president steps down from power in June 2022.

Sara has been preparing for a presidential run despite repeated denials that she was not interested in the position. She has raised enough funds and prepared campaign materials. It would be a waste if she slid down to vice president.

There is no guarantee Bongbong would protect Duterte from the investigations launched by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his role in the war on drugs which has killed more than 6,000 people since July 2016.

Only Sara can shield her father from possible prosecution in both local and international courts.

But she is taking a big gamble by removing herself from Davao’s political contest. She has a 50-50 chance of winning next year’s presidential elections unlike in Davao where she is certain to win her third and last term.

Her father’s popularity has dropped because of public perception the government’s pandemic response was a dismal failure due to corruption in the medical supplies deal that was awarded to a favored company controlled by a group of Davao City-based Chinese businessmen with close links to the president’s former economic adviser, Michael Yang.

Her own voter preference numbers were also falling and her those of rivals were rising. The numbers of Vice President Leni Robredo and Senators Ping Lacson and Pacquiao were moving up and Bongbong and Isko Moreno’s numbers remained high.

She is also exposing the family’s bailiwick by endorsing her younger brother, Sebastian Duterte, for run for Davao City mayor. Baste is seen as a lightweight in the face of strong opposition in the city.

Former congressman Ruy Elias Lopez is a formidable opponent that only Sara or her father, the president, can defeat in an election. Lopez’s father is a former Davao City mayor who was instrumental in helping Duterte win his first local position in the late 1980s. It’s a political family with considerable support in Davao City.

Thus, there are speculations that Duterte will return to his old position. Baste has yet to file his new certificate of candidacy for mayor and his father can pull a big surprise on or before November 15.

The Dutertes are not taking any chances. They wanted to remain in power both in Manila and in Davao City.

Will they succeed? That is the big question. In Davao City, there is a big chance the family will retain power but in Manila, it will be a big gamble.