Commentary Editor's Pick PHL Vote 2022

Is Bongbong Marcos peaking too early?

Latest election surveys showed that if elections were held today, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. would be the 17th president of the Republic of the Philippines.

It’s a nightmare in the making for those who have experienced the horrors of martial law and those who know how democracy was distorted and crushed during the Marcos authoritarian regime. Will the 50th year of the declaration of martial law on Sept. 21, 2022 be declared a national holiday by the Philippine president by then, the son and namesake of the man who signed Proclamation 1081 two days prior to its announcement, asked JB Baylon, columnist of Malaya Business Insight and VERA Files.

Pulse Asia’s December 2021 nationwide survey showed Marcos Jr.was the choice of 53% of Filipinos if elections were held now. Other candidates trail behind, with Leni Robredo, the political opposition’s muse, as the choice of 20% of the respondents; Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, 8%; boxing legend and Sen. Manny Pacquiao, 8%; and, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, 6%.

Never has a candidate in the post-1986 people power revolution elections reached that high number consistently in pre-election surveys. Not even Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who was catapulted into the 2010 presidential race by the massive public sympathy over his mother’s death a few months earlier. He led in all the poll surveys at 40-plus percent, never reaching 50%.

A favorite elections poll story is the come-from-behind feat of then-mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte, who was No. 4 among presidential aspirants five months before D-Day.The SWS December 2009 survey had then-vice president Jejomar Binay and Sen. Grace Poe preferred by 26% of the respondents, followed by Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas with 22%. Duterte had 20% support and then-senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, 4%.

Duterte’s national popularity manifested only in the April 2015 surveys. Pulse Asia’s polling sponsored by broadcast giant ABS-CBN two weeks before the May 9, 2016 elections had Duterte on top with 33%.He went on to win the elections with 16,601,997 (39.2% of votes cast).

The vice-presidential race was also a come-from-behind story with Robredo winning over Marcos Jr. by 263, 473 votes.

The come-from-behind stories are reminders that many things can happen between now and May 9, 2022. Can Bongbong Marcos continue expanding his numbers and convert them successfully to actual votes come Election Day? Or has he peaked this early and go downhill from now?

Bongbong Marcos’ advisers, having their bitter lesson in the 2016 elections experience, may be doing everything to make sure that their candidate maintains the lead.

There are calls for the opposition to unite behind Robredo against Marcos Jr. Maybe because his running mate is President Duterte’s daughter, Bongbong is identified with the current administration and his victory would be a continuation of Duterte’s policies: pro-China, low on human rights, etc.

Duterte’s badmouthing of Bongbong Marcos didn’t seem to have affected the latter’s popularity. This confirms two things: Duterte’s lame duck status (who gives importance to someone who will be out of power in a few months?) and that more than 50% of Duterte’s social media warriors, credited for his 2016 election domination, belongs to the Marcos online army.

It is doubtful, however, if Moreno, Pacquiao and Lacson would withdraw from the race. And granting they would, it is doubtful if the votes would go to Robredo, especially Moreno’s and Pacquiao’s supporters. They could even be won over by Marcos Jr.

This is one situation where Robredo’s strategists should think of the divide and conquer strategy -encourage Pacquiao to stay in the race to deprive the Bongbong-Sara tandem full dominance of Mindanao. Marcos has the edge in Metro Manila over other candidates with 61% (Pulse Asia survey). If Moreno withdraws, his 17% might even go to Marcos.

The next surveys should be interesting. Leni’s graph has been a steady upward climb. Bongbong is clearly on top now. Where does he go from there?

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.