Emerging alternative leaders
While the Marcoses and Dutertes are locked in conflict, who are the emerging alternate leaders outside of these two political dynasties? How will the reconfiguration of alliances between these two families, affect political personalities who are either opposed to them or independent of them? It’s still more than four years away from the 2028 presidential elections, but it’s worthwhile observing how the political horizon is fast shaping up this early.
Three women stand out as leading figures of the mainstream opposition at this point.
There’s obviously former vice president Leni Robredo whose electoral support of 15 million voters in the last elections will constitute a formidable force if the split between the Marcoses and the Dutertes results in the fielding of separate candidates in 2028. From all indications, Robredo’s support base remains intact because its members still hold on to the belief that she’s the best president our country could have had. It’s a potent support base because it’s a sizeable group of citizens who will not only vote, but who are willing to spend to convince others to vote like them. The second emergent torch bearer from the opposition ranks is former senator Leila de Lima. Imprisoned for six years on fabricated charges, De Lima is the most high-profile victim of the Duterte administration’s assault on our constitutional liberties. In the more upright world of the past, she would have generated massive sympathy and support approximating those experienced by the late senator Ninoy Aquino when the latter was incarcerated by the Marcos dictatorship equally on trumped up charges. In other countries, the release from prison of a persecuted leader like De Lima would have been greeted with confetti parades and multiple rallies. But we currently live in a world turned upside down, and De Lima’s liberation has met lukewarm reception from a public overfed with fake news. She has firm support, however, from hardened anti-Duterte and anti-Marcos constituents.
The third political figure evolving outside of the Marcos-Duterte axis, is Sen. Risa Hontiveros. Of the three women, she’s the only one holding a public post as senator. Hontiveros has been a genuine fiscalizer, not hesitating to call out shenanigans committed by the Marcoses and Dutertes. In a bygone era, she would be generating tremendous political goodwill from a grateful citizenry. But in our morally bankrupt contemporary era, Hontiveros’ support base remains confined to the same groups that support Robredo and De Lima.
Based on their personalities, these three women will rally behind whoever will have better chances at breaking the reign of the Marcoses and the Dutertes. But even if they rally behind one among them, their success will depend on pirating disillusioned supporters of the Marcos and Duterte camps, as these two engage in mutual destruction.
Apart from the three women, two others are emerging in the horizon as candidate-considerations for 2028. These are Sen. Raffy Tulfo and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong. The presidential potentials of these two stem from two factors. They are perceived as independent from both the Marcos-Duterte groups and the mainstream opposition, so they are immune from the disappointment or stain associated with those political forces. They will benefit from voters’ continuing intoxication with, and unsatisfied yearning, for a strongman leader. Tulfo has cultivated a reputation of being a deliverer of swift justice against abusive private and public citizens. With his military background, Magalong fits the mold of the late former president Fidel Ramos.
President Marcos and Vice President Sara Duterte both garnered more than 30 million votes in the last elections. The ambitions of both their families are now on a head-on collision. Where will the 30 million UniTeam supporters go as the two camps attempt to demolish each other?
Disillusionment with the Marcoses will be caused by the faltering economy, Mr. Marcos’ failure to live up to being a strongman, and his administration’s inability to deliver on its promise to be a virtual welfare state to the masses. The disgruntlement with the Dutertes will be caused by the many skeletons that will be exposed from their closet. The Duterte support base will also be greatly diluted by these factors: if the Duterte patriarch is sent to the International Criminal Court for trial; if the media mouthpiece of the Dutertes, Sonshine Media Network International, is given the fate suffered by ABS-CBN, and; if VP Duterte’s indiscretions as Davao City mayor and vice president are exposed and made the basis of prosecution.
It’s too early for predictions and bets, but the elements that will greatly influence the direction of political currents are already visible on the horizon.
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