Commentary Editor's Pick PHL Vote 2022

Horse trading time

Communication specialist Jose Bayani D. Baylon, is a keen observer of Philippine politics. Beginning today, he will be sharing with VERA Files readers his reading of political movements, obvious and not-so-obvious, leading up to the elections in May 2022.

“One lesson I learned from 2004 is never to run as an orphan”.

So intoned Sen. Panfilo Lacson in response to a question asked during a Wilson Lee Flores’ “Pandesal Forum” held earlier on Thursday, Oct. 14, via Zoom.

“I had no Vice President and only one Senator”, the repeat presidentiable added, hinting that he is better off this year with no less than Senate President Vicente Sotto III, more popularly known as “TitoSen”, as his running mate.

Last I checked the Lacson-Sotto ticket have three senatorial each at the moment: actor-sportsman-politician Monsour del Rosario, eye doctor Minguita Padilla, and Paulo Capino, with a fourth, former Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, reportedly joining the list soon.

That’s a sizeable growth from having one nearly 18 years ago, but is still only 1/3 of the full ticket of 12 senatoriables.

The same can be said of everyone else: The Bato-Go tandem for PDP (Cusi) have former secretaries Panelo, Bello, Villar and Roque on its slate, plus Rep. Marcoleta, Lucy Gomez and actor Robin Padilla – of whom only Villar, Panelo and Padilla have filed, as far as I know. For its part, the Leni-Kiko tandem have the following: Sens. Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros, Rep.Teddy Baguilat, former senator Antonio Trillanes IV and lawyer Chel Diokno. Isko Moreno and physician Willy Ong also have a limited cast, with former vice president Noli de Castro backing out. Bongbong Marcos is no different.

No one has put up a full Senate slate – heck Marcos doesn’t even have a VP – and this just be a source of wonder for those not attuned to Philippine politics.

The door is open to horse trading.

The VP, or at least her camp, has opened the door for the entry of the Makabayan bloc into her slate – which already has Akbayan. This is an interesting development given that it is a well -known secret that the two “factions” of the Philippine political left, the so-called RAs (Reaffirm) and the RJs (Reject) detest each other like a first wife detests a mistress. Can she pull this off, can she put up a Big Tent campaign team tried so many times in other countries to varying degrees of success?

The administration camp also must be engaged in horse trading by now. And not just on the senatoriable level. The fact that Bongbong Marcos has a slot open for a VP is a bargaining chip. The fact that neither his Partido Federal nor the PDP Cusi faction have firmed up 12 senatoriables is also a bargaining chip. But the fact that until November 16 is upon us, everyone is uncertain about the ultimate moves of Davao Mayor Sara Duterte is also in itself a bargaining chip.

We have a month to go before the deadline for substitution passes and everything becomes really final. Till then we are sure to be tantalized by leaks here, fake news there and trial balloons everyone as every political faction jockeys for what it feels is the best if not perfect combination for 2022.

But one thing is clear: that nothing is clear at this point. If Sara runs and Bongbong still runs then Leni could be the principal beneficiary. If Sara doesn’t run but Isko is seen as the “kinder, gentler face” of a post-Duterte extension of the Duterte years then Bongbong may be damaged and Leni could benefit. If Leni’s gamble to bring together the two halves of the Left blows up in her face, then Isko could benefit if the only other choice is a Marcos. If Pacquiao stays in the game and gets hold of the hearts of the marginalized, then who knows?

Lacson, with whom we began this piece, has made it clear that he is not going to engage in horse trading with anyone. That could mean at the very least that Cavite is no longer in play. But who stands to lose the most with Ping in the game till the end? The one I suppose who will be most intent to urge him to step aside!