WELCOME to 2020, the start of a new decade. Unfortunately, we’re still stuck in the same age of politics, so we shouldn’t expect much of a difference in the way things are run as a whole. While the midterm elections just concluded six months ago, we can expect pawn pieces to start moving across the political chessboard in preparation for the 2022 presidential elections.
Already, several names are being floating around bruited to be presidential hopefuls. The general public will of course only get confirmation sometime in October 2021 when certificates of candidacy are officially filed (unless someone else pulls another Rodrigo Duterte-like substitution circa 2015) but this early, political junkies are already closely watching the moves of those perceived to be gearing up for the big race.
The Duterte administration will be faced with the same problem that confronted former President Noynoy Aquino back in 2016: how to keep a super majority behind one candidate. Run through the whispered list of hopefuls and you’ll see immediately that many of them are part of the broad coalition under the banner of the administration: several senators old and new, a few local officials among them. I’ll hold off mentioning their names for a later time, just to keep the suspense up.
Of course, Vice President Leni Robredo is an easy choice to run in 2022, by mere force of her current position. Most people naturally assume that she’s an automatic candidate for 2022, in the natural order of things. But like former Vice President Noli De Castro back in 2010, she just may surprise everybody and choose to end her term quietly, in order to focus on her daughters. Again, we’ll never know until the Vice President says anything either way.
Expect alliances to be forged or (quietly) broken this year, as different groups will be watching where the wind blows. Power brokers will be more active this year, albeit quietly, continually approached by would-be candidates and their acolytes to get a better sense of where the political fortunes lie. I have a feeling that the run-up to the presidential elections will be a doozy, and will test President Duterte’s ability to hold his fractured forces together.
The President will certainly be on the lookout for the candidate who will best protect his personal interests when he steps down, given his wish to return to a quiet life after his presidency. It certainly won’t be a quiet retirement if he faces prosecution for his administration’s policy on extra judicial killings or his inexplicable obeisance to China, so you can bet your next paycheck that it is in Duterte’s best interest to pick a candidate that will cover his behind post-presidency.
He certainly won’t be short on choices for would-be successors who will be lining up to court his blessing. Will he make his choice among the politicians who supported him, or will he resort to his tried and tested formula in Davao: fielding one of his own children? What if he fields Sen. Bong Go for the presidency then runs as vice president? It sounds crazy, and it’s never been done, but we’re living in an era where the crazy has become ordinary.
Crazy as it may seem, such a gamble will ensure his continued protection from prosecution, and allow him to disappear from view while holding power for himself. It’s quite obvious that his trust in Go is deep enough to make such an unorthodox plan sustainable, and will allow his children to keep holding court in Davao City. Whether it’s a viable plan or not is obviously up for debate, but check your incredulity at the door and watch how Go’s self-promotion has gone beyond the midterm elections. (The man has even appeared in public service announcements for Christmas lights, if you can believe.)
A Go-Duterte tandem will certainly appeal to the President’s base of fanatics, and it gives them a reason to continue believing in the promised change that was supposed to come in June 2016. Some might ask, why not Mayor Sara? Perhaps she’s proven herself to be a little more independent minded for comfort, given her demonstrated inclination of going against her father’s allies in the past. That one toes the party line when she deems fit, and that particular trait might not sit well with others around the President.
But as with everything in politics, nothing is set in stone. Politicians change their minds as soon as the wind blows in the other direction, and these movements will only be more pronounced as the months pass. For now, we watch, and we wait.
Happy new year, dear millennials and fillennials. May this year be better than the last, for you, your family, and for our beloved country.