Former senator Bongbong “BBM” Marcos (second from right) with House Majority Leader cousin Martin Romualdez
It’s seven months to the day an expected throng of more than 60 million registered voters will be going to their respective polling precincts to select their national leaders for the next six years and local executives for the next three years.
Before the filing of certificates of candidacy is over this weekend, we will then know who will join the others who have officially declared their intention to run for the two top political posts of this country of 110 million people.
The latest to join the presidential race is former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, son and namesake of the country’s longest chief executive, who announced he was joining the 2022 presidential race after taking oath as a member of the revitalized Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP), a political party allied with the Duterte administration.
The 64-year-old Marcos Jr., a former governor of his home province of Ilocos Norte and which he transformed into a first-class province, has defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial drug war and supported the death penalty for traffickers.
He declared his candidacy in a video broadcast live on Facebook and after taking his oath as member of the PFP, which earlier endorsed him as its presidential candidate, ahead of Marcos’ father’s own Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.
Those who are already standing on the race track are Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto III as presidential and vice president bets (Partido sa Demokatikong Reporma); Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso and Dr. Willie Ong (Aksyon Demokratiko); and Senator Manny Pacquiao (PDP-Laban Pacquiao faction).
Each of the declared candidates dreams to replace the 76-year-old President Rodrigo Duterte when his six-year term ends in June next year, when, by his announcement, he will retire from active politics.
In announcing this week his intention to run for the highest political post, held by his father from December 31, 1965, to February 25, 1986 – Bongbong Marcos said “I will bring… unifying leadership back to our country,” the Marcos scion said, joining a growing field of contenders seeking to replace Duterte.
“Let us bring Filipinos back to one another in service of our country, facing the crisis and the challenges of the future together.”
A run for the country’s highest office comes after Marcos Jr’s failed bid for the vice presidency in 2016, which he narrowly lost to Leni Robredo and from which he raised an electoral protest that went up to the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.
Marcos vowed to offer what he described as a “unifying form of leadership in the country” that has been grappling with the coronavirus-2019 pandemic for almost two years now, infecting hundreds of thousands and killing nearly 40,000.
Losing the 2016 election was a blow for the Marcos family, which had gone into exile in Hawaii after the patriarch’s downfall in 1986 following a so-called Edsa Revolution largely backed by the Catholic Church.
He and his wife Imelda were accused of massive corruption while in power, an accusation repeated to this date by their political enemies but denied by the Marcos matriarch and their children.
Bongbong Marcos was in second place behind Duterte’s daughter, the 43-year-old Sara, whose husband Manases Carpio is from Paoay, Ilocos Norte, in a recent PulseAsia Research survey of voter preference for president, though she has denied plans to run and said she was running for re-election as mayor of her hometown Davao City.
Bongbong Marcos served as a senator from 2010 to 2016, and his mother Imelda has said she dreams of him becoming the country’s leader.
The matriarch herself served three straight terms in the Lower House of Representatives before being succeeded by her nephew, Eugenio Angelo Marcos Barba.
But the son of Ferdinand Marcos accused of bloody repression and corruption during martial law from September 21, 1972, to January 17, 1981, remains one of the most polarizing politicians in the country, whose favorite pastime is politics and cockfighting.
Bongbong Marcos has defended his father’s rule by citing economic growth and minimizing the human rights abuses during that regime.
He has also claimed he was too young to shoulder any responsibility, but critics point out that he was governor of the Marcos family’s home province from 1983 to 1986.
News of his presidential candidacy was met with swift condemnation from his political opponents.
An anti-Marcos coalition described it as “a brazen show of disregard and contempt for the thousands of Filipinos killed, disappeared, tortured, displaced and violated” by his father’s regime.
But the Marcos camp has suggested there were more violations of human rights and killings during the administrations of Marcos’ successor Corazon Aquino (1986-1992) and her son Benigno III (2010-2016).
At this stage, it would be interesting to see who would be Marcos’ vice-presidential teammate.
Analysts see in the young Marcos rise to the presidency – particularly if he wins – an opportunity for full “rehabilitation” with some saying that while there are many shouting in social media platforms “Never again” to a Marcos presidency, there are even more people who want to move forward from the current health and economic crises and are endorsing the young Marcos.
The next few days should allow the electorate to see and read the platforms of each candidate and who would be in their respective tickets to complete the 12-member Senate down to the grassroots level where the political parties will derive their strength.
Delivering his impassioned speech in mixed English-Filipino, Marcos said: “As I speak to you today, our beloved Philippines faces one of the greatest tests in history. The global pandemic destroyed the lives of people… of communities. And if we have learned anything in this time of COVID pandemic, it is that each of us, no matter our station in life, needs the help of our fellow Filipinos.”
“We must face this challenge as one… as one country… as one people. Together we must work towards a shared vision for our country through COVID and beyond COVID… to find a way through this crisis with a common goal, a vision to guide us and to lead us,” he continued.
The days, the weeks, the months ahead are pretty interesting beyond doubt. (ai/tmvn)