Election season – otherwise known as the hunting season – will soon be upon us and already we see stirrings of activity.
VP Robredo has come up with her economic plan. The announcement was her reminder that she is alive and well at a time when speculation was swirling the President was not. The rumor was unofficially debunked by the upload of a really bad attempt of a family photo and officially by a statement from Sen. Bong Go the President is up and about. So, for the time being, we are all good.
The RRD National Coalition for a Revolutionary Government was sufficiently concerned to invite leading members of the state security apparatus to discuss the matter over drinks.
With talks of the election comes speculation of the possible Opposition candidates for the presidency. For context here is what happened in 2016:
Presidential/VP Results (Party) – % Vote:
Duterte (PDP-Laban)- 39.7 %/ Cayetano (Ind.) -14.2 %
Roxas (Liberal) – 23.5 %/ Robredo (Liberal) – 35.1 %
Poe (Ind) – 21.4 %/ Escudero (Ind) – 12.1 %
Binay (UNA) – 12.0 %/ Honasan (UNA) – 1.9%
Defensor (PRP) – 3.4 %/ Marcos (Nationalista) – 34.6 %
N.A. / Trillanes (Ind) – 2.1%
From the above only Grace Poe and Leni Robredo will arguably be left standing in 2022. Marcos has a re-election protest that could run out of time and with it likely his political ambitions. Mar is done after a failed presidential and senatorial attempt. Cayetano and Escudero will mine their future elsewhere.
Grace and Leni are cut from the same mold. They are decent, intelligent, honest, hard working, socially and religiously conservative. They are ideologically in the middle of the spectrum with Leni marginally more left given her work with the poor. Grace is urban, married and raised in privilege. Leni is provincial, widowed and middle class. Politically Grace has the stronger brand, a legacy of her hugely popular parents, and a wider funding base (Ramon Ang is a huge backer as are the Makati corporates). Leni ran for the Liberal VP slot so her money was largely from the party’s war chest which by now is probably depleted.
Leni is the more battle scarred and, probably, the mentally and emotionally tougher of the two. As the standard bearer for the Liberal Party and next in line to the throne, she has been excluded, insulted, ridiculed and intimidated by the Administration and its supporters. She has been trolled by bullies who like to pick on the unprotected. Leni has been left out to dry by her previous backers so she was easy pickings. She has been for the last five years literally on her own. That she has not been diminished by the pummeling is witness to her strength of character. She represents all that we would want in a human being of any gender, a role model for every Filipina in a misogynistic society that sees women as less than equal children of God.
Grace has led a more sheltered life, socially, economically and politically. She has enjoyed the umbrella of her father’s fans and financial backers as well as the shelter of the Senate. She has proven to be a responsible Senator, always prepared. She endured a grueling presidential campaign but benefitted from not being the object of attention in an essentially three party race where Mar was the lightning rod of the Duterte and Binay camps. Grace came off relatively unscathed.
Grace and Leni are both good people. The problem is they draw from the same political well. They both believe you do not steal because you can, that public service is a trust and not a bank account and that leadership comes from respect and not fear.
So the question is not who of the two ladies is the better candidate but who is the more electable should they both seek the presidency.
To win the highest office requires money, an organization, a brand, grit and, very important, an overwhelming desire to win. Grace and Leni were reluctant to enter politics but were driven by circumstances. Both were moved by a call to restore what had been taken away from them in one case by politics and in the other by the demise of a partner. FPJ was cheated from his political destiny. Jesse was cheated from life by what was possibly a conspiracy.
Grace will draw advisers largely from the business world. Leni, a UP alumni in economics, will reach out partly to the academe and I imagine from remnants of the Liberal Party which may or may not work for her.
Leni garnered 14.4 million votes in 2016, Grace 9.1 million; but this should not be a measure of their electability. They ran for separate offices with differing dynamics. Considering her newness Grace accounted for herself well and could have possibly made it in a two person affair with Duterte. The Liberals saw it the other way, that Grace was the spoiler that deprived Mar of the presidency. The truth is the gap was too large and Duterte could just as well taken from Grace’s votes as could have Mar.
Since then Grace has remained dutiful but quiet in her role as Chair of the Senate Committee on Public Service. Probably at the advise of her political and financial handlers she has stayed under the radar never venturing to go off-piste where the uneven terrain could get her into trouble with the Palace.
Leni was an even bigger neophyte in national politics. She barely eked out a victory over Marcos even with the support of the incumbent Liberal machinery. She has since built up her CV in a very hostile environment and armored herself with a toughness that is second to none among political figures, male or female. Nonetheless she still lacks the killer instinct and readiness to instill fear that is critical in the blood sports that is politics. She is not the alpha female she needs to and probably never will be because that is not who she is.
There will be many bumps and turns on the journey to 2022. There is the President’s health, COVID and its impact on the economy, the emergence of new or dormant players like Sen. Lacson. Grace or Leni could reinvent themselves over the next 20 months. Again, neither of them may actually run for President preferring to seek the safe haven of the Senate for what is almost an assured thing.
If the elections were today I would venture Grace is the more electable. She has the machinery of the last campaign, the funding , the brand of FPJ albeit diminishing with time, a base of supporters and a relatively clean political bill of health.
Leni has the greater body of work with all her years working with the poor. She has developed a toughness as an embattled VP. She is arguably the more deserving of the position given everything that she has had to endure but fairness in politics is never a measure of success. She has a bright future in politics because she represents all that is worthy in public service.
Many hope the two ladies would coalesce so as not to split the vote. It could be Thelma and Louise riding their car over the cliff but I think not. Now if Sara would join the tandem it would be a proper hen party, Charlie’s Angels without Charlie. Together these women may finally fix what years of male domination and damage have done. I think the nation would welcome that, the revenge of the Filipina women.