It just got down and dirty.
The President launched the first salvo accusing a “presidential aspirant” of being a cocaine user, a weak son of a strongman with no accomplishments nor substance but his name.
“Who, me?” was the Marcos camp response to the accusation. “BBM does not feel alluded to” said his spokesman Vic Rodriguez which makes him the only one of 107 million Filipinos not to think so. This is the definition of an alternative reality. It is also the definition of whistling in the dark.
D30 is furious at Marcos. In his mind BBM & Co. “seduced” his one and only adult daughter, the heir to his legacy and franchise; with sweet little nothings to abandon a Presidential run which was hers to lose. Now she is not even assured of the VPship against a popular Tito Sotto. Understand this was a woman whom the father built up politically, whose name she carries and without whom she would not be who she is. She was his protection against the ICC and whatever else awaits him after May 2022. In one swoop BBM took all that away from him.
Sara had originally filed to run as Davao Mayor. The President believes Sara would not have gone to the dark side without significant prodding from malicious forces. Worse, the plot was hatched in the dead of night without prior notice to nor consent from the father. D30 had always a soft spot for BBM, had often called him deserving of the Presidency, was seen almost as a big brother or an uncle. This was a betrayal of trust. It was a brazen affront to his persona and the President does not like to be affronted.
The President was shamed and disrespected – the elements he is most sensitive to – not only publicly but to his peers and his people. He fancies himself as seeing and knowing all things political in this country. Now he is viewed as having been upended by an upstart and lesser being, as having lost control of his family, of having everything he built and cherish stolen from him behind his back. People have been killed or incarcerated for much less than this.
BBM is facing disqualification charges at the COMELEC for failure to file income taxes many years ago. The COMELEC is composed of seven Commissioners four of whom were appointed by D30 and the other three to be so by Feb. 2022. The COMELEC has recently allowed BBM some leeway when it controversially extended the deadline to file his defense even if the period for doing so had expired. One wonders if this was just a way for the body to display its impartiality before dropping the axe. BBM could appeal the COMELEC decision to a Duterte dominated Supreme Court at which point things could get messy. The COMELEC has to start printing its ballots by December which leaves little time to retain or erase BBM from the roster.
Life would be simpler for the President if BBM was not present. It would improve the chances of Bong Go by not splitting the Administration vote. It would mean D30 would not have to be hostage to a BBM presidency should the latter win.
What are possible scenarios?
One, the COMELEC does not disqualify BBM and the race is on.
Two, the COMELEC disqualifies him and the matter is appealed.
Three, the COMELEC does not disqualify him, the President keeps the heat on and BBM decides to fold.
Four, the COMELEC does not disqualify BBM, the latter’s poll numbers continue to hold and Bong Go’s to stagnate; prompting the President to reach out. Absent Bong Go BBM is arguably still D30’s best bet for future political cover. BBM will probably honor his word.
Five, BBM is disqualified, Bong Go continues to tread water requiring D30 to approach say Isko for an arrangement in exchange for the President’s support. Isko has always maintained an open-door policy so that might work even if it is a stretch.
Six, BBM is disqualified or withdraws and Sara joins up with Isko or Manny to spite her Dad.
Seven, Sara withdraws to dial down the tension but the damage would have been done.
Eight, BBM is disqualified but replaced by Imee. Under Sec. 77 of the Election Code someone who is disqualified can be replaced by another candidate from the same party even after Nov.15 provided they have the same name. BBM filed under Partido Federal Ng Pilipinas (PFP), Imee is under Villar’s Nationalista party but she could change affiliation to PFP. I doubt Imee would jump in.
The Presidential fury is not only directed at BBM. Sara is running under GMA’s Lakas party which, in D30’s mind, could mean GMA is part of the conspiracy. Whether this then takes on a life of its own is interesting.
The non-Administration candidates are delighted at the unraveling of events. A disqualification of BBM would throw the race wide open. Bong Go would become more competitive but he is an easier target than BBM. Sara’s base could partly spill over to Isko and Manny.
The ground under the presidential race is still shifting. The critical factors to watch are the COMELEC decision on BBM, the latter’s reaction to an unfavorable ruling, Bong Go’s poll numbers with and without BBM, how aggressively the President will take on BBM and how the latter stands up to it; and how the “opposition” candidates react individually and collectively to the changes.
The Marcos/GMA team may rue the day they persuaded Sara to join their cause. BBM was polling well and looked a likely winner even without Sara. On boarding Sara as a junior partner, especially the manner in which it was done, was a public slap on the President’s face something he does not take lightly.
The President is upset with BBM & Co. for barging in and exploiting what was a family affair. Will he pursue the drug charge or is this just a warning shot across BBM’s bow? Let us see how far his anger takes him.