Everything You Need To Know (For Now) About The 2022 Philippine Presidential Elections
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication. Examples of analysis within this article are only examples. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of this publication.
Multiple-time winning national strategist and PR mogul Franco Mabanta helps us analyze the upcoming Philippine Elections. You can reach him on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM and TWITTER)
Link to related article at the end
This is going be to comprehensive and (hopefully) entertaining.
I’ll start with a baseline of verifiable data and then the rest of the piece will be conjecture, so I may get a few things wrong as will be the case with anyone who’s merely speculating.
I really did my painstaking best to analyze everything as objectively as possible. The result might be the most honest thing I’ve ever written.
We cross-referenced the most recent Presidential survey results from Pulse Asia with our other poll providers. The data came back close-to-identical for the frontrunners, with some differences for the candidates polling in single digits. But for the top 5, we’re openly validating Pulse’s terrific work last month.
So the 2022 race still has Sara as a gargantuan favorite. As mentioned in a previous post, if the elections happened tomorrow, the current Mayor of Davao would win by a larger landslide than her dad did in 2016. Remarkable stuff.
Even more remarkable, I think, is that we have four potential powerhouse candidates — BBM, Isko, Manny and Grace — all locked in a tie for second place, each of which have exactly half the number of Sara’s points. In all my years of analyzing polls, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this sort of positional layout.
The race for the Philippine Presidency currently looks like this:
Sara Duterte – 26%
Bongbong Marcos – 13%
Isko Moreno – 12%
Manny Pacquiao – 12%
Grace Poe – 12%
Leni Robredo – 7%
Bong Go – 6%
Ping Lacson – 3%
Alan Cayetano – 3%
Others – 6% combined
*A 1% gap is commonly considered a tie due to margin of error.
Spoiler alert: It’s essentially a mathematical lock at this point. Of a hundred different possible scenarios, I can see only TWO paths to victory for someone with a surname that isn’t Duterte. Sara is basically Thanos with all the Infinity Stones right now (except she punches harder).
What I’ll outline here are all the things that NEED to happen in order for even just a sliver of an avenue to open up for another candidate to beat her. Note that EVEN IF ALL THESE THINGS DO HAPPEN, the opposing candidate still needs to get lucky in terms of a few intangibles to pull off the big upset. She’s simply that far ahead.
Ready? Let’s roll it…
The one candidate who is LEAST LIKELY to drop out of the Presidential race is Senator Manny Pacquiao. Here’s a man who believes in his bones that the Presidency is his destiny — a consequential factor for the overall equation.
Let’s put a pin in that and circle back later.
First candidate we’ll examine is VP Leni Robredo — and I’ll do so respectfully. I respect BBM (and always will), but I haven’t worked with the Marcoses in almost three years and I suppose that permits me to speak more candidly. At the very least, it certainly allows for more objectivity.
I recently learned from close friends who work for this current administration about how good and notable of a man Leni’s late husband Jesse Robredo was. I heard he was a decent, highly competent and honorable DILG Secretary; as I even recall BBM telling me years ago how they agreed on many things in terms of policy.
I don’t think it would be proper of me to delve deeper as there are many things I don’t know, but just the mere concept of any wife losing her husband in a manner so tragic instantaneously humanizes the subject.
In Philippine politics, there’s no greater polarization than the Yellows vs the Marcoses. It is the quintessential Filipino equivalent of the Far Left vs the Far Right, not in terms of political belief (obviously), but in terms of their somewhat intrinsic, decades-long, hateful, seemingly eternal rivalry; both sides formidable, both sides going through their days and years living with some level of fear and some level of unhinged respect for the other, whether or not they ever choose to admit it.
And what happens when you have this kind of situation?
Well, for one, they both end up cartoonizing each other with a strange and mutually destructive finality. The supporters of the Liberal Party have made permanent mental caricatures of Bongbong and Imee; and the Solid North and all their Loyalists have made permanent mental caricatures of Noynoy, Mar, Leni, Kiko, etcetera. And you know what — these circumstances are unfortunate, at least to idealistic/naive little kids like me.
I don’t know many of the Yellows personally, but I do know the Marcoses to be good people; unusually fascinating, too. It’s a dimension that the other side will never see, simply because they’ve already consciously or subconsciously put on their blinders.
My point here is that in many instances I feel like I unfairly judged Leni in exactly that way — as a caricature. And that the story of how she lost her husband Jesse, a guy who seemed to have been respected by everyone, allowed for me to see a human being instead. It allowed for me to have empathy for an experience that would be harrowing and traumatic for anyone, regardless of political party.
I say all that now because I want any LP supporter who reads this to at least maybe have a sense that I’m writing the following statement in good faith, with lucidity, and certainly with no ill intent:
The ground to cover from now to next year is quantifiably insurmountable and Leni simply cannot win.
This isn’t an opinion; it is a clear statistical improbability that absolutely can be proven.
Well apart from the present monstrous 19-point gap between her and Sara, once you deep-dive into the more advanced analytics and change the question from “who would you vote for” to “who would you NEVER vote for”, Leni leads the list by light years.
Think about it. If you’re a hardcore Yellow voter and Leni were to drop out, would you ever in your life transfer your vote to Sara or BBM? Of course not.
Conversely, if Sara, BBM or Senator Bong Go (and perhaps even Manny) were to drop out, do you think any of their voters would somehow magically slide towards Leni? Of course not.
The fact is that the DDS did far too much damage to her political capital (nationally) that I just don’t see a reality where very many moderates and independents cast their votes in her favor. If you vote for Leni, you’re very likely to be a radical Yellow; in the same way that if you vote for Bong Go, you’re very likely a radical DDS.
The point here — and I know this is going to sound counterintuitive for the Liberal faithful — is that for a candidate to have any chance at beating the Duterte family next year, Leni has to drop out and send her 7% (or whatever that number will end up being next year) in the direction of the new face of the Opposition — someone outside the Liberal Party; someone who may actually have a shot. I’m sure the LP has the same data I do and they already know all this.
Sidenote: Love her or hate her, everyone knows Leni would win by a landslide if she ran for Governor or anything else at the local level. I suppose it’s also fair to assume in that scenario that she’d live the next decade of her life with some semblance of peace, something I’m guessing anyone who’s acted as the face and lightning rod of an Opposition Party for six years against a very popular President would ultimately want for themselves.
Next crucial factor: Senator Grace Poe.
What’s really impressive about this woman is she may be the only politician who’s ever taken the full force of a DDS tsunami and not only survived it, but came out on the other end thriving, brimming with political capital.
The DDS is the single most powerful online force in Philippine history and it isn’t even close. It’s successfully bankrupted multimillion-peso businesses, canceled political careers, dominated two election cycles, and devastated the most powerful party of the last three decades in a breathtakingly fast three years.
Yet in as far as I can recall, Grace has taken every hook and uppercut to the chin, yet remains one of the undeniable Presidential frontrunners, not only without campaigning at all, but without even a whisper of interest to run. I remember when I first met her four years ago, she gave me advice — something along the lines of “mass follows class, Franco”. That was back in 2017 so I was confused. “No, mass follows Duterte,” is what I said to myself. But now I kinda see what she meant. In terms of getting things done, there’s an immense upside in being a Sonny Angara or a Miguel Zubiri who’s liked by all parties. When important things need to get done, rarely approached are the people who’ve been yelling.
Now before the bulk of my audience starts getting angry again (you guys can get quite mean when I say anything positive about the Poes haha), in as far as I’ve been told — and note that anything can change from now till October — Grace has no intention to make a run for the Presidency.
Dear DDS friends, there is no need whatsoever to attack her, like how quite the number of you have been attacking Manny for weeks now.
The apex reason why I’m saying that Grace is crucial to the big picture is simple: Of the five current frontrunners, I think it’s safe to presume that she’s the one most likely to drop out first.
Now, if/when she does, where do you think her votes would go?
We don’t have the exact data on this, but I would assume that roughly 70% to 75% of Grace’s votes would be shipped to Isko Land — putting the Mayor of Manila just within reach of Sara. Add Leni’s votes to the total and you see where I’m going with this…
Sidenote: I’ve heard rumors of Grace as VP for Manny, but I think that would be a bad miscalculation. Manny — in spite of his unbreakable friendship with President Duterte — has been on the receiving end of a blitz of attacks from the DDS. Aligning with Grace would mean thoroughly alienating them both from the biggest Filipino voter block of all time.
The correct move (at least tactically) — and, yes, I’m aware this will sound nuts to some — is to have Grace as Sara’s VP. That combination brings about wayyy more political upside than downside for both candidates. The DDS softens up to the Poes; the elites soften up to Sara; a greater sense of national harmony is achieved; the first winning all-female ticket ever; and — for Sara — a nail in the coffin at any shot Isko and Manny will have had at winning. If those two ultra-formidable women teamed up, that’s effectively checkmate, and I wouldn’t even have to finish writing this.
Odds of them actually manifestating into running mates?
I hear they’re friendly, but the responsible answer is unlikely.
Now for the single most indispensable factor of a possible Opposition win: Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso.
It has to be him. The data is clear as crystal.
There is literally no one else.
If Isko chooses not to go for it, it’s game over. You can chalk it up for Sara D.
I’ve been saying repeatedly for months that a new Opposition is inevitable. As mentioned above, the data has been consistent and irrefutable in that the Liberal Party is now fundamentally comatose after the unprecedented beatdown they took from this administration.
But the purpose of any political Opposition is to fight and keep fighting, oftentimes compelling its target to fight back. The paramount objective is to keep those in power honest within the context of a dishonest industry historically prone to abuse. Without an Opposition, where is the democracy?
As someone who’s supported President Duterte from day one, I simply do not see how the country’s national politicians, power players, and billionaires would universally settle for a multi-year scenario without an established Opposition. That doesn’t sound like a pragmatic prediction. Moreover, I highly doubt that Manny will say or do anything to grossly antagonize PRRD — they’re too close.
So it has to be Isko, at least that’s what the math says.
Thing is the man is so seasoned in that he’s completely avoided the issue all year and correctly kept the focus of his rhetoric on Covid management at the Capital. No politics. That’s the sign of a sharp and experienced politician being advised by an assembly of smart people. My point is no one outside of Yorme’s circle can honestly say whether or not he even wants it.
But let’s have fun and play with the idea for a moment.
The 2019 elections for Manila City was extraordinarily different for two reasons:
1. The Estradas — many of which I’m quite close to and consider good friends — got systematically dismantled by a colossal war chest and a prime-time strategy. Almost no one from their family, including former President Erap (get well soon, sir), won their races. And the coordinated attacks against them didn’t stop for months after election day. It was a prepared, calculated and thorough expulsion of one of the country’s most prominent political clans — clearly meant to have a long-term effect. It was a hostile political takeover. It was revenge.
2. We saw the stratospheric rise of one Isko Moreno. I used to think my media mogul partners and I owned the strongest PR and crisis management firm for politics in the Philippines — and we’re extremely competitive when it comes to our work — but after seeing the comms masterclass that Isko’s team put together, I couldn’t in good conscience make that claim anymore; at least not definitively. This is how special what the combination of Isko’s PR and Isko himself (as a praiseworthy political character) is: We saw a then-local level guy with no national footprint go from where he was in 2019 to someone who is today neck-and-neck with multi-generational political monoliths like Poe and Marcos, as well as the undisputed single most known and loved Filipino athlete of all time.
Isko achieved this level of national recognition in three years. That rate of elevation is outstanding.
Now if we look at this from the lens of dollar-billionaire Ricky Razon — who is very obviously a genius-level tactician — had he asked Isko to run for President a few weeks ago, he’d have no replacement at the Mayor’s Office, and Erap, presumably, would then almost definitely take back Manila, likely leaving Razon’s operations vulnerable. (This is all conjecture of course.)
But as fate would have it, the most unfortunate of health circumstances transpired just days ago, and now the good former President is hospitalized with Covid.
(Nice to note that Isko sent his well wishes and that both men seem cordial these days.)
I ask this as someone who’s speculating with the rest of you: Where does this sequence of events now leave Yorme and the shipping titan?
President Rody Duterte — as recent as a week ago — publicly declared that one of the great achievements of his administration was the damage he did to the oligarchy. The corruption he erased at the highest level of the military. Then there was the Manila Water issue. ABS-CBN. The decades-long telco duopoly. Meralco. Philippine Airlines. He even got Obama to play ball and pull back before retiring. These are some extremely powerful entities.
A staggering display of political capital from the President.
Now this — like many things I’ve already said here — is going to sound ambitious, but in order for Isko to have even just a puncher’s chance at defeating the loved behemoth that is Sara Duterte, he’ll need the deck stacked monumentally in his favor when it comes to these three things:
1. An unprecedented war chest funded by a conglomerate of billionaires that have an axe to grind with the sitting Commander-In-Chief.
2. A tangible bias from 85% of mainstream media.
3. A tangible bias from Big Tech — mostly from having two ultra-aggrressive, locally-based Facebook fact checkers meant to target and censor the DDS, the Marcos Loyalists, and even the supporters of Pacquiao.
If one of the three is lacking, Isko has no chance.
Lastly, I think the LP should stay out of his way. Who knows — the party may rise from its coma years from now, but any association with the color yellow at this point would be detrimental to anyone. I mean that objectively.
Now remember I said earlier that even if Isko checks all the boxes (and that’s if he even wants to run at all), he STILL needs to get lucky when it comes to a few things?
Put a pin in that, too, and we’ll circle back later.
The biggest piece of the puzzle: Bongbong Marcos
Of all five frontrunners, I still think BBM would make the best President in terms of foreign affairs and the agricultural sector — both of which, if executed well, would bring the country great prosperity. I think what BBM’s detractors will keep failing to know is how deeply intelligent the man is, mostly because of the multi-generational hate machine on the other side of the aisle that was built to encapsulate his characterization.
And again, it’s inherently unfair when people insinuate that the sins of the father should be carried by the son.
Imagine an insane situation where your offspring was required to pay for every mistake you made in your life. Far worse, imagine your son or daughter needing to pay for even just the alleged mistakes of your life, too, all the while not once recognizing any of the good you ever did. How is that just?
But when it comes to the Marcoses — in the exact same way it comes to the Aquinos — it is rage season against them everyday of the week; the fury almost always in full swing. You’d think people on both sides would be looking for a champion, yet they are not. When anger and fear are all that’s felt, no one is looking for a hero insomuch as they’re looking for a villain.
Now I think the Bongbong Marcos candidacy can be broken down this way:
1. Would it be prudent to run for President now and risk not being in office for another three years — nine straight to be precise — when a Senate seat is not just on the table. BBM can file again for Senator in October, put his legs up and literally not campaign at all, and still finish in the top five. That’s how potent the Solid North+Marcos Loyalists are…theirs is an amalgamation that comprises the second largest base in the country after the DDS. Based on the impressive turnout for Senator Imee R. Marcos in 2019, they’re even bigger than Iglesia Ni Cristo.
And if BBM runs a solid, thoughtful Senatorial campaign, the bright and likable Chiz Escudero may have competition for the #1 spot.
2. More conclusively, the Marcos camp announced approximately a month ago that BBM would drop out if Sara decides to run for President.
This is why he’s the biggest piece of the puzzle.
Let’s all be honest, where do you think the Solid North and the Loyalists would ship their votes if Bongbong chooses the Senate or takes another crack at the Vice Presidency? Sure, not all 13 of his points would go to Sara. A few of them may go to Manny and Isko but the vast majority will unquestionably be absorbed by the Presidential Daughter, dwarfing any quixotic scenario where Isko absorbs 75% of Grace’s votes and 95% of Leni’s.
To drive the point even harder, as mentioned earlier, if Grace somehow finds herself as Sara’s VP, it’s game over for Isko and Manny. But if BBM simply just drops out and makes no commitment to anyone, that is the sound of an immutable campaign apocalypse for Isko and Manny raining fire from the sky.
To drive the point home with pristine finality, let’s not forget that there’s a zero point zero percent chance that Bong Go and Sara will run against each other. If Sara drops out, not all of her votes will be transferred to BG; if BG drops out, 99% of his votes will be transferred — without question — to Sara.
Weave together the numbers of BG and a portion of the numbers of the highly savvy Alan Cayetano and that’s another 8-ish points for Sara along with maybe 9 out of 13 from BBM’s tally.
Do you know what this specific scenario spells?
An epic, clear-cut, quantitatively unstoppable landslide.
Again, this is all data-driven and objective. This is accurately and indisputably how the landscape of the Philippines looks right now.
One more thing: Keep in mind that SmartMatic is now the great equalizer against the censorship of the Facebook fact checkers. SmartMatic — which was famously used by the Aquino administration in 2016 across all positions, most notably in the heavily contested recount between Leni and BBM — was also used by the Duterte administration in 2019, completely shutting down the Otso Diretso Party as they went zero for eight on their Senate slate, assuring the current administration control of the majority of the Senate and the supermajority of Congress, alongside the highest approval rating of any Filipino President in recorded history.
Remember, SmartMatic has no emotions. It’s a business that is open to everyone, but it will always involuntarily favor whoever is in power.
I’m quite intrigued to hear how all those people who passionately shouted from their rooftops that BBM wasn’t cheated in 2016 are going to react the very moment SmartMatic is once again deployed unfavorably towards them in 2022, as it was in 2019. If not anything else, that scenario alone is going to be both ironic and entertaining.
Sidenote: Perhaps the stars will one day align and the country somehow gives BBM an opportunity to surpass his dad and make his mom proud.
Pin removed, dialed back: Let’s talk about Manny Pacquiao.
Does the Pacman currently have a pathway towards the Presidency? I’m not sure.
Timing is everything in elections and I’ve never been a fan of announcing early, particularly because it puts a giant target on your back, your forehead and your kneecaps. Plus it makes it considerably/disproportionately more challenging to peak at the right time — which is exactly what happened to the failed Presidential campaigns of the late great John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and probably the best example for this: Jojo Binay.
Manny’s had some shining moments recently — his recent alpha-aggressive push against the prevailing threat of Asian hate in the US (“Fight Me Instead”) was his best news cycle of 2021, and I greatly commend his team for it. But apart from that, his Presidential bid thus far has felt cluttered and objectively lacking in both foresight and experience.
A vital strategic misestimination — at least in as far as I can tell — is that Manny laid out his Presidential platform in one interview, which was then followed by nothing electorally substantial (just charity work and Covid stuff). There was no follow up, no emphasis, and no remphasis in the media on what Manny stands for — and, more importantly, why voters should believe in him.
This is absolutely pivotal because Manny’s base is a lot like Grace’s base in that it’s very large in size but not rabid. Try saying anything negative about Sara, BBM, Leni or Isko and you will feel true passion and grit from a significant section of their bases willing to take a bullet for them.
Manny doesn’t have this just yet, at least not in terms of his enterprise for Malacañang. (Although, to be fair, I think he eventually will.)
But the crux of the matter here is that without excitedly and relentlessly pushing a platform to the general public, how does Team Pacquiao build a large, enthusiastic and faithful base for the Champ? Moreover, at the peak of Covid, how does Manny even start politicking for the Presidency?
He can’t. The optics would be troublesome.
Which is why I think it was a mistake to announce his Presidential aspirations within the first quarter of 2021. This campaign — which is run by personal friends of mine, all of whom I respect — needs better foresight. Good foresight will help save any candidate from a barrage of unnecessary attacks.
Pros and cons:
I think it’s important to address that if Manny’s foes intend on hitting him for the gambling and womanizing in his past life, these are issues that will not (and should not) matter; yes, even if we’re talking about the election of a world leader. He was once very poor and then he got very rich — so there were gambling bets made, along with other private occurrences along his personal journey. SO WHAT. Who cares about any of that stuff. He’s clearly past all that, his heart is in the right place, and is now obviously a principled human being with strong values and is indisputably a net positive for the world.
The compelling things that I think the good Senator will be hit for by his enemies are the following:
The vast rumors of his “unconventional” wealth management; the constant fighting within his camp over the last decade; his notorious lack of punctuality; and that he’s viewed not just as a Christian but as a radical one.
1. How will he handle the national economy when there are alleged issues regarding how he manages his own money?
2. How will he command the military when he allegedly can’t get his own people to stop fighting each other?
3. How will he get started on foreign affairs when he’s been known to rarely honor other people’s time?
4. Lastly (and above all), do you see any possible instance where his administration would respect the separation of church and state?
Pro tip: If Manny’s camp can front-run these issues and clear them ahead of time in a clever+subtle manner, the attacks will not stick when thrown his way by other candidates or their supporters.
For example: Some weeks ago, after Manny declared his candidacy, his camp released a simple infographic showing that he and Jack Ma had already dispersed over a billion pesos worth of Covid supplies to the Philippines. Suddenly, a large section of the DDS began attacking him because of the apparent “tastelessness” of Team Pacquiao publishing their charity.
I felt those criticisms were silly and undeserved.
Manny has the right to release whatever he wants. That’s entirely his choice — it doesn’t make his efforts any less sincere. In fact, posts like that have the capacity to influence others in positions similar to his to be more philanthropic.
The point is this: Manny front-ran these issues ahead of time by very publicly being one of the three or four greatest Filipino philanthropists of this generation. Everyone knew this long before the hits were hurled his way — THAT’S why this smear fizzled out so quickly. Majority of people understood that publishing the Jack Ma infographic had little to do with tact and tastelessness.
The truth is that many belittle the good that other candidates do simply because they feel that anything that serves as self-promotion also acts as an attack against the candidate they support — whoever it may be. Yet if that factor is removed from the equation, so goes the threat that they feel, and, subsequently, so goes their criticism.
Sidenote: The social media superstars and personalities attacking Manny are all real, unpaid, highly talented political influencers — it really is where the strength of the DDS emanates from. But I’ve also heard reliable whispers that there’s now a small group of Congressmen who are paying online armies to destroy the Pacman campaign. This is just one of a thousand examples of the level of preparation and grit a campaign needs to be willing to put in if the maximum objective is the highest Office in the land.
Sidenote: The sincere criticisms enumerated above are why I published a post back in October of last year that the perfect Vice President for a Pacquiao push is Ramon S. Ang; not Grace.
Final input regarding Manny:
I had a private meeting with him some months ago and was shocked at how intelligent he is. I recall playing high stakes poker with him several times 15 or so years ago and this wasn’t the same man. This version of Manny had gravitas, eloquence, confidence, wisdom and what I’ll describe as the swag of a leader who’s certain he’s found his calling and knows his morals are incorruptible.
His economic platform made perfect sense to me and his plan for peace and order was inspired.
Yet over and above anything else, the apex allure of Manny from the lens of a national strategist comes not from the abovementioned.
His allure comes from the incomparable purity of the narrative of the man’s entire life.
This was a 90-pound kid who came from the dirtiest of the dirt poor in General Santos City. He had to lie about his age and put rocks in his pockets just to make the minimum weight requirement of his first fight. By 21, he was a world champion — the best on the planet at what he did. Then he became a member of the House of Representatives as a Congressman of the Republic of the Philippines. Then an 8-division world champion — which is a feat immeasurably more compelling than anything Floyd Mayweather has ever done. (In fact, Floyd isn’t the first fighter to go 50-0, and he won’t be the last, but NO ONE will ever win eight world titles in eight weight classes again. You will literally need the miracle of another generational genetic freak of nature.) He then earned the honor of being the most famous and loved Filipino in the world. Followed by the unbelievable distinction of being the greatest Asian athlete of this millennium.
And then, of course, he became a Philippine Senator.
The only thing missing in this powerful, cinematic narrative is the Presidency.
For a child who came from impossible squalor to live the life he has and then to possibly take Malacañang…
In the same way Bongbong Marcos may have the perfect setup for the greatest redemption story ever, Manny Pacquiao’s setup — in my opinion — could lead to the single greatest and most beautiful rags-to-richest success story, not just in our country, not only in the world, but in all of documented modern history. I don’t think it’s hyperbole in even the slightest to suggest that.
Politics aside, hard not to root for someone so inspiring.
Will I ever outright campaign for Manny as President? Probably not. The separation of church and state is a fundamental non-negotiable to my personal politics. And I’ve already committed to not publicly campaigning for any Presidentiable this cycle as I’m already in good terms with (mostly) everyone.
But one day, when we’re all much older, what I will do is propose to have the Champ’s face placed on the new P2,000 or P5,000 bill — and then ultimately lobby to make the man exactly what he’s earned, precisely what he is: a National Hero.
The (very, very) likely next President of the Republic of the Philippines: Mayor Sara Duterte
Here we go.
Before we dive deep, I think it’s crucial to understand why Sara is now in the position she’s in.
Sara’s obviously always been quite the private individual. She doesn’t partake in Facebook and Twitter and is rarely ever on Instagram — which is unusual and somewhat charming for a politician of her stature. That said, I think it’s safe to say that majority of her supporters (even the rabid ones) don’t know where she stands on many social and political issues — specifically because she’s so private.
So why is it then that she’s THIS stratospherically popular?
Easy answer for an easy question.
It’s because her dad is the most loved Philippine President of all time. And — regardless of how much the haters hate — he also may very well be the most quantifiably popular world leader of the last five or so years.
Remember when President Duterte, smack in the middle of last year’s lockdown, had his approval rating peak at an all-time high of 91%? Well, from the beginning of his term in 2016 all the way till today, the only time I ever recall his approval rating drop below 74% was in 2017 when #JusticeForKian was the top trending tag in the nation.
Apart from that, it seems that Rody has consistently kept his popularity — and the staggering political capital that comes with it — within a range of 75% TO 91% ACROSS FIVE FULL YEARS. If you understand politics in even the slightest, these numbers are magical. These numbers shock the spine.
Biden, Trump, Obama, Bush, Bolsonaro, Netanyahu, Putin, Trudeau, Xi, Abe, Merkel — all of them, on a GOOD month, would be super lucky to snatch a 65% approval rating and would kill to even just approach 70%, as these sort of numbers are commonly unreachable for them, to say the least.
In fact, in the United States, it almost never happens anymore because they’ve devolved into such horrible, disunited partisanship. Every smart and stupid thing ends up boiling down to Left vs Right. Democrat vs Republican. Liberal vs Conservative. What is America today but an incidental assembly of differently sized bubbles, each built on the backs of the confirmation bias of echo chambers populated by Yes Men and Yes Women, all hindered by blinders and covered in bubble wrap.
This is why I don’t see an American leader hitting 70% again. They’re too divided. For the next several decades, all US Presidents may end up having to settle for being somewhat satisfied if they get 51% of Americans to approve of their monthly mandates.
And yet here in the Philippines, regardless of what the Opposition has done to invalidate Rody’s popularity, our Commander-In-Chief has maintained his bulletproof influence on the overwhelming majority of the citizenry. This is all factual; not conjecture.
One of my favorite quotes from my friend, the great Juan Ponce Enrile, goes something like this (apologies for paraphrasing):
“Franco, I’ve seen every President from Aguinaldo to Duterte (). Once they reach their third year in office, their grip on power begins to wane. This happens to every President — regardless of year, decade or generation.”
Well, when PRRD hit his midterm mark, not only did his popularity not wane, not only did it not stay the same —
— it went even higher.
Mind you, this is both within government and throughout the masses. It’s a phenomenon in politics none of us have ever seen.
Now what does this entail for the Presidential Daughter AKA the Presidential Frontrunner? Why is she so loved across the Philippines when most people still have yet to know what her politics are all about?
It’s because most people see glimpses of Rody Duterte in Pulong and Sebastian Duterte, and perhaps a small trace of him in Bong Go, but they see ABSOLUTELY ALL OF HIM in Mayor Sara.
This is the quintessential advantage that Sara Duterte has over the pack. She isn’t starting the race from the starting line. She’s already so far ahead because of the never-before-seen mass adoration for her father.
Now let’s talk about Sara herself.
Recently I heard a story from people close to Sara about how former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was so impressed with how she handled and facilitated the transition of the Speakership in 2019. It gave me a new dimension for how shrewd and prolific Sara can be.
This also brought to mind how basically everyone in Congress felt that House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco had no chance against a well-liked Alan Peter Cayetano last year if the Speakership went to a vote. Yet overnight Sara lobbied all the essential Congressmen and single-handedly got the vote to flip in Velasco’s favor.
Sara Duterte flexed and the House folded. It was prodigious.
It illustrated quite clearly what it is exactly she’s evolved into: A highly capable human and now the second most powerful person in Philippine politics after her dad.
This gave me pause for a moment as one of my biggest worries last year was finding a candidate who could stand next to world alphas like then-President Donald J. Trump, Putin, Xi and Netanyahu — as PRRD did — and ascertain that he/she also had their respect and favor. For the first time, instead of viewing Sara as an “extension candidate” who would complete the remaining incredible infrastructure projects that this administration has put together so well, I started to consider the possibility of her being a better President than her father.
And this is where the factor of Sara’s management of Covid comes in.
National Covid cases may very well end up being the biggest issue in the coming elections and Mayor Sara has ran Davao with an uncompromising strictness to heights of great success. While the NCR has been putting up daily numbers like 6,000, 8,000 and 10,000 new positive cases, Davao has had recent tallies of zero, zero and three — and they test A LOT over there.
Sure, their strain may not be as contagious, or the fact that Davao City is smaller than Luzon, or they may have gotten lucky in this way or that, but purely on the merit of Covid safety and city management, the executive job #Daughterte has done has been exceptional. She hasn’t just flattened the Davao curve; she’s rendered the graph obsolete.
So what if she does make a better President than her dad? What if her youth allows for a more open-minded and progressive governance when it comes to things like the Drug War or hiring a Secretary of Health with a conscience, while her DNA assures us all that we’re being led by the spirit of a fighter?
I don’t know the answers to these questions.
But I’ll be paying close attention — as I’m sure the rest of you will — as the months continue to unravel.
The only two ways Sara loses:
OPTION A (all items need to be checked; if one item lacks, Sara wins)
1. Isko decides to run
2. Leni drops out; endorses Isko
3. War chest funded by the billionaire foes of PRRD
4. Tangible bias from 85% of MSM
5. Tangible bias from two of Facebook’s fact checkers
6. Grace doesn’t side with Sara
7. BBM stays in the race to split the vote
8. Isko somehow peels a few points away from Sara, Manny, BBM and Cayetano
9. Ping Lacson endorses Isko
If all of the above miraculously manifest, Isko might (miiiiiiight) squeeze out the tiniest of margins and take the Presidency from Sara. I give the entire enterprise a 4% chance of success.
Sidenote: As someone who thinks highly of Isko, this also makes me quite sad — considering the vast and inevitable damage he’ll take over the next 12 months if he decides this is the right move for him. I’ve always said that a 10-month campaign takes three years off my life (and I’m just a strategist and operator). Imagine being the subject matter, the inspiration, and the target.
I would say the same thing if it was Sara, BBM, Grace or Manny hypothetically playing the Opposition role of big underdog against a mega-popular favorite — I just don’t like seeing good people get tarnished.
OPTION B (spoiler: this is insanity haha)
There’s one scenario that could make Isko the favorite over Sara as early as today — and by a substantial amount, too.
How, you ask?
It’s crazy in theory, but mathematically sound.
It involves BBM flipping to Isko’s side as his Vice President.
I’ve a full analysis for this seemingly absurd proposal, but I’ll keep it to myself for now.
If you’re a DDS from Mindanao and your ultimate issue is Federalism, your candidate isn’t Sara. It’s Manny Pacquiao.
If you’re a Yellow from Luzon and your ultimate issue is Covid safety, your candidate isn’t Leni. It’s Sara Duterte.
If you’re a Loyalist from the Solid North and your ultimate issue is to pull away from China and reestablish with the US, your candidate isn’t BBM. It’s Leni Robredo.
If you’re a Yorme supporter from Manila who ultimately sees the importance of maintaining strong relations with China, or a thriving agricultural sector, your candidate isn’t Isko. It’s BBM.
And if you’re a huge fan of Manny’s boxing career but your ultimate issue is progressive social inclusiveness, your candidate isn’t the champ. It’s Isko Moreno.
Remember that people in politics are the only ones who need to show unending loyalty to politicians.
You — as voters — need to learn to stop picking a side and planting yourself like a tree.
You need to start studying policy, who stands for what, and give your loyalty to that.
Stay safe and healthy, my friends. Take it from me, getting Covid isn’t fun at all. So be smart about it. And stop giving importance to the little things that make you fight each other.
See you guys,
You can also read his other related article here: Everything You Need To Know (For Now) About The 2022 Philippine Presidential Elections: PART 1
By Franco Mabanta, published October 2020
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication. Examples of analysis within this article are only examples. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of this publication.