It was supposed to be an arranged marriage. But the daughter chose to elope with another man. The upset father harangued the favored man.
This is not a scene from a Korean drama or from a Filipino movie. It comes from the latest political drama playing out in the Philippines after Sara Duterte-Carpio spurned her father’s Bong-Sara tandem for the May 2022 elections.
The two-term mayor of Davao City chose to run for vice president and rallied her supporters to back the only son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos who is running for president under another party.
Junior’s political party adopted her as its vice-presidential candidate in a resolution issued hours after she filed her certificate of candidacy.
Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go also withdrew from the vice-presidential race and switched to president under a new party, dragging along the president who was convinced to run instead for a seat in the Senate.
The merry-go-round and political drama had social media ablaze for a week, with netizens speculating on the reasons behind Sara’s decision to run for vice president when everyone expected her to shoot for the stars.
She was, after all, the frontrunner in all pre-campaign surveys. In a Pulse Asia survey last September, Sara had a 20-percent voter preference while Marcos only had 15 percent, good for second place.
Last month, a commissioned survey done by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed Marcos zooming to the top of the pack with 47 percent, leading all presidential aspirants, including Vice President Leonor Robredo who was in second spot with 18 percent.
Junior’s loyalists declared it was game over, predicting Marcos would win hands down.
But political analysts cautioned Marcos supporters against holding an early celebration, reminding them that no candidate who was in the frontrunner position before the campaign ever won the elections.
In 2010, former Senate president and billionaire Manuel Villar, who was supported by an incumbent administration, lost to Benigno Aquino III in an election driven by emotions over the death of the latter’s mother.
In 2016, former vice president Jejomar Binay and Sen. Grace Poe alternately led the presidential hopefuls before the campaign, only to fall behind eventual winner Rodrigo Duterte and former interior secretary Manuel Roxas who was a distant runner-up in a winner-take-all contest.
One of the country’s prominent political analysts, Dindo Manhit, described Marcos’ sudden rise to number one as shaky because of the absence of one name in the survey—Duterte. “I consider that as soft support,” he said.
It was possible that when Sara did not file her candidacy on the Oct. 8 deadline, all her supporters transferred to Marcos. The absence of a candidate endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte could have also been a factor for Junior’s rise.
Duterte threw a monkey wrench on the Bongbong-Sara tandem by endorsing Bong Go as his chosen successor, pushing a rival Bong Go-Sara tandem.
Naturally, Duterte’s die-hard supporters will swing back to the Bong Go-Sara tandem even if Sara did not agree to run under her father’s long-time personal assistant.
It could affect Junior’s numbers although some Sara supporters would likely remain behind the Bongbong-Sara ticket. How many would leave and how many would stay could not be quantified easily. Duterte is more adored by ordinary people than his daughter.
In Davao City, for instance, many Duterte supporters have shifted to the Bong Go-Sara tandem. It could be true in other parts of Mindanao and the Visayas, where the Marcoses are despised. Junior only has solid support in the north and in the capital.
Pulse Asia is expected to come out with its fourth-quarter survey in early December and political analysts expect Junior’s numbers to decline as support for Bong Go will be factored in.
But Bong Go’s numbers will not move up dramatically, at least not enough to push him to the second spot behind Bongbong. Robredo and Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso, a.k.a. Isko Moreno, are also expected to rise. They are at striking distance to dislodge Junior from the totem pole position.
Bong Go is not the only problem for Junior. He faces petitions for disqualification before the Commission on Election (Comelec) for tax evasion, a ground for any candidate to be barred from holding public office perpetually under elections and tax laws.
In 1995, a local court convicted Marcos for non-payment of his income tax as governor of Ilocos Norte from 1982 to 1985.
The conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeals two years later but it removed the seven-year jail term imposed by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.
He may have a slim chance to escape disqualification in the petition before the elections body but it will be difficult for him to get a free pass under tax laws.
Marcos has very little influence to sway the decisions in the elections commission and in the Supreme Court, which will eventually hear the disqualification cases.
Junior should remember he lost his election protest against Robredo before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) in the Supreme Court and in two appeals.
Both the Comelec and the Supreme Court are under the full control of the president, who appointed most of its members.
Duterte can also use this as a leverage to make sure Junior won’t win and, at the same time, increase the chances of Bong Go to move up and possibly win the contest in May.
The disqualification petitions are Junior’s biggest concern. It can make or break his candidacy and he may lose support if the issue is not resolved soon.
If Junior is barred from running in the election, another Marcos can substitute him in the balloting. Sen. Imee Marcos or any member of his family can replace him, but they may not be as popular as him.
If a decision is made after the elections, but it comes before the proclamation of the winner and Marcos is ahead of the canvassing, the candidate with the second highest number of votes can become president.
But if the decision comes after the proclamation and Marcos is declared the winner, the winning vice president will sit as president.
There is so much drama in this election. There is so much uncertainty and the public will have to wait until after the election to find out who will succeed Duterte.
Of course, the public will not have to wait if Junior loses.
Robredo could win in a classic rematch of the 2016 balloting, or it could be newcomers Isko, Ping or Manny. Who knows, even Bong Go might pull an upset.