Poe loses, but wins
GRACE POE lost the presidential election, but she has won a place in the history of Philippine elections. As a graceful loser, she made “a first” happen since the first election under the Commonwealth government in 1935.
At 12:03 a.m. on May 10, or seven hours after the voting closed, Poe conceded defeat to Rodrigo Duterte. At that time, returns from 81.18 percent of the precincts nationwide had been reported in the unofficial count and Duterte was leading her (at third place) and Mar Roxas (at second place), by more than 6 million votes.
Soon after voting closed at 5 p.m. on May 9, Duterte called a press conference at Royal Mandaya Hotel Davao where he called on his opponents to start the “healing process.” He described the “past few days” as “quite virulent for all of us,” recounting “the black propaganda and the false accusation exchange between two sides” as “really part of a day’s work in elections.”
Then his message, as reported by the media: “Let us begin the healing now… Let us be friends. Forget the travails of the elections. When I offer [peace], that’s without exemption, but if they don’t accept my goodwill, fine; then I will accept it. I always [have a] deep abiding faith in God.”
What the mayor of Davao City was saying was “Take it or leave it,” or, in the language of the common Filipino, “Believe me, I’m sincere,” implying that he would be most disappointed should his goodwill be rejected.
Did Poe concede—the first ever, in the American tradition—in response to Duterte’s call? Her message, spoken in Filipino, was:
“As a sincere advocate of electoral reforms, I firmly believe the voice and will of the people. I respect the results of the election. I congratulate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and I pledge to help heal our country and cooperate with the people toward its progress.”
The senator’s gesture touched off a series of concessions and conciliatory statements that bode well for the incoming administration.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, without actually conceding on May 10, issued a statement in which he repeated his call “for respecting institutions and the democratic process.” He continued: “Once the process is completed, we should always respect the outcome. We should all move towards healing and unity for our divided land.”
On May 12, with 96 percent of the returns reported, he phoned Duterte at 5:40 p.m. to extend his congratulations.
Only Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, the tail-ender with 1.4 million votes, has yet to concede to Duterte.
Roxas conceded at 1 p.m. on May 10. Speaking in Filipino at a press conference and referring to Duterte by his nickname, Roxas said: “Let’s respect and accept the will of the people. By the unofficial count, Digong is the next president. Digong, I wish you success. Your success is the success of the nation.”
Even presumptive senator Leila de Lima, an archcritic of Duterte over suspected human right violations who even called him a “monster” at one time, told reporters in an interview on May 11: “Since he appears to be the winner based on quick counts, let me congratulate Mayor Duterte for winning the presidential race.”
Of the six vice presidential candidates, four have conceded defeat: Senators Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Gregorio Honasan. Rep. Leni Robredo continues to lead Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. by at least 200,000 votes as of this writing.
Trillanes, who had earlier accused Duterte of plunder, took a conciliatory tone. He admitted that the people want “Mayor Duterte to be our next president,” and added: “I assure the mayor and our countrymen that I will not be a hindrance to the reform initiatives he intends to push in our government.”
Defeated Filipino candidates very rarely concede defeat, and never mere hours after voting had closed. This was true before and after Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship. For instance, Sergio Osmeña Jr. did not concede to Marcos in the 1969 presidential election. Santiago never conceded defeat to Fidel V. Ramos in the 1992 presidential election. Roxas’ protest against Binay in the 2010 vice presidential contest still stands at the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.
A precedent has been set in this presidential election, hopefully to be followed in succeeding elections. Soon after voting had closed, Duterte called out to his opponents to forget the “travails” of the “quite virulent” election and to “begin the healing process.” His offer of “goodwill” was accepted. Within three days, all but one of his four opponents have conceded. The last, Santiago, may concede any time.
The interesting question is: Had Poe not started the ball rolling seven hours after the voting had closed, could this “first” in the history of Philippine elections have happened?
The answer is anybody’s guess. But for making the move no losing presidential candidate has ever done before, Poe has notched a significant victory.
Presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte now has a clear path toward the “change” he envisions for the Philippines. More so now that President Aquino, his fears for a Duterte presidency notwithstanding, has personally congratulated the winner and offered a smooth transition and cooperation.
The ball is now fully in Duterte’s court.
Patricio P. Diaz ([email protected]) is a retired professor of Notre Dame University and former editor of the Mindanao Cross in Cotabato City and later the Mindanao Kris.
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