He was the rising star in the presidential race as recent as a few weeks ago. He was the main darling of voters who wanted change from the madness in the methods of the current administration. He embodied the aspirations of the poor for a better life. Then all of a sudden, the rise in his popularity stalled and he’s fizzling out quickly from the race.
What is happening to Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno and his dream of becoming our country’s next president?
In the Sept. 6-11, 2021 Pulse Asia survey on potential presidential candidates, Moreno was ahead of all the other names touted as being preferred by opposition groups. With 13 percent of the votes in his favor, Moreno was comfortably ahead of Vice President Leni Robredo who obtained 8 percent. The results of the survey were also reflected in anecdotal tales going around civil society circles then, pointing to Moreno as the candidate who had better chances of beating a Sara Duterte or a Marcos Jr. juggernaut.
A month later, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey conducted on Oct. 20-23, 2021 showed that Moreno’s numbers had plateaued at 13 percent. In glaring contrast, Robredo’s numbers rose to 18 percent, a huge 10 percent jump in merely a month.
In both surveys, candidates who espouse a continuation of the Duterte administration were frontrunners. Sara Duterte led in the Pulse Asia September survey at 20 percent. Marcos led in the SWS October survey at 47 percent, with Sara Duterte out of the picture.
Both Pulse Asia and SWS have not released more recent survey results, but from the optics of supporters’ rallies and caravans, the extent of media coverage, the noise in online platforms, and the buzz in opposition circles, it has become clear that Robredo has now emerged as the opposition candidate, with better chances of beating Marcos Jr.
The results of the two surveys, and preferences expressed on the ground, may be viewed by some as providing premature and still unreliable results because the campaign season is yet to officially start on Feb. 8, 2022. The Moreno camp, however, sees the writing on the wall. It’s been prompted to make a huge turnaround by now targeting a completely different class of voters.
After Moreno filed his certificate of candidacy last October, he took pains to disassociate himself from the Duterte administration. “I am not a candidate of President Duterte (b)ecause I disagree with (him),” Moreno said in response to allegations that he’s a secret candidate of the incumbent president. Aksyon Demokratiko chair Ernest Ramel branded the allegations as black propaganda. “(W)hy would a young politician with a greater year ahead of himself … destroy (his) political career and reputation” by being a secret candidate of Mr. Duterte? asked Ramel.
However, when Sen. Bong Go announced his withdrawal from the presidential race a few days ago, Moreno made a complete about-face. He openly declared that he would not refuse Mr. Duterte’s endorsement should the President give him his support. While he previously criticized the ruling government’s COVID-19 pandemic response, he now said that the Duterte administration’s pandemic response was “worth commending.” Moreno also declared that Mr. Duterte was right when the President said that he was able to deliver on his promises.
By now actively soliciting the endorsement of Mr. Duterte, Moreno has revealed that his campaign for the presidency is not animated by principles. It’s a pure desire for power, not tempered by any moral or ethical belief. At a time when pro- and anti- Duterte forces are poles apart in their philosophies, Moreno has swung from one pole to the opposite pole.
One wonders what the personalities who got onboard Moreno’s bandwagon—convinced that he would be an agent of change and not a proxy for continuity—must be feeling now. One wonders if the Aksyon Demokratiko party of the late Sen. Raul Roco will suffer the same fate that befell the PDP-Laban party of the late Sen. Aquilino Pimentel II.
Moreno has unraveled. Tragically, not to reveal nobility, but to expose a most glaring display of ignobility in our political leaders.