MANILA–The pandemonium of the election season begins for national candidates on Tuesday, Feb. 9. From the daily battles in the social media, word war and seesawing polls, this time the candidates will go from one city to another, one province to another, to hold a“variety show-like” campaign with dancing and singing celebrities to entice voter support.
Candidates will have three months to convince over 54 million voters all over the Philippines that they deserve to succeed President Benigno Aquino III who was catapulted into the presidency in 2010 by a vote of over 15 million vs. former President Joseph Estrada who got around nine million votes.
The election will be held on May 9. There are now five people aspiring to be president. Some analysts say charisma and name recognition will be the deciding factor in who wins.
Each candidate has already set the stage for their respective proclamation rallies. The basis for their choice of venue? Bailiwicks and stressing the importance of eradicating poverty.
Vice President Jejomar Binay
The vice president has chosen Mandaluyong City for his proclamation rally. Formerly the “Housing Czar” of the Aquino administration, the vice president’s choice of venue is strategic not only because the city’s mayor is his campaign manager but also because over 3,000 families in the area were left homeless after a fire broke out hours before the new year throwing a local focus on his candidacy.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte
Duterte will hold his proclamation rally in Tondo, in the Capital City of Manila. Similar activities will also be conducted in other citites like his hometown in Davao, Tacloban, Cebu.
Tondo is the most densely populated place in Manila, the home of the country’s largest dumpsite — the Smokey Mountain.
Duterte’s camp said they have chosen Tondo to stress the need to effect real change and end the country’s disorder.
Senator Grace Poe
The controversial senator, who is facing disqualification cases for her citizenship and residency will hold her proclamation campaign at the historical Plaza Miranda, in Quiapo, also in Manila.
Plaza Miranda is the same venue where she launched her senatorial campaign in 2013 and the same venue where her father, the late Fernando Poe Jr. launched his presidential bid in 2004.
Both father and daughter’s citizenship were questioned before the Philippine Supreme Court. The Senator’s father won his case after the Supreme Court ruled that he was a natural-born Filipino citizen. The Senator’s case, on the other hand, is still being heard by the Supreme Court.
Poe said she also chose the venue because she is a Black Nazarene devotee (the Black Nazarene is in Quiapo Church).
“I used to go there to pray, to help me overcome the challenges of life,” Poe said.
“After praying, there is that voice at the back of your head telling you not to give up … I hope our countrymen would join me in praying for our country,” she added.
Former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas
Roxas, the standard bearer of the Aquino administration’s Liberal Party will be in Capiz and Iloilo.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said the Western Visayas which included both Capiz and Iloilo is the bailiwick of the Liberal Party.
President Aquino will join Roxas in the proclamation rallies, throwing his weight behind the candidate.
Roxas is considered the “anointed one” who vowed to continue Aquino’s “Daang Matuwid” (Straight Path) of governance which has focused on fighting graft and corruption and boosting the economy.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago
The feisty Senator will be joined by her running mate, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos in Ilocos Norte, the bailiwick of the Marcoses. This will be the first time the duo will be seen together.
Santiago, a former judge is popular among the youth. Her running mate is the son of a former dictator, the late President Ferdinand Marcos, who was thrown out of power in 1986.
Currently, Poe topped the latest Pulse Asia survey on the presidential choice of voters despite questions on her residency and citizenship.
Poe received a 30% voter preference. The other three – Binay, Roxas and Duterte shared second and third place with 23%, 20%, and 20%, respectively.
Binay has a string of graft cases waiting for him once his term as vice-president ends in June, unless he wins the presidential race, which will make him immune from suits.
There are diverse characters in the Philippine elections—former Military General Jovito Palparan who is tagged by militant groups as responsible for extra-judicial killings is running for the Senate. He is currently detained in a military camp facing charges for kidnapping and torturing two college students.
Another is Getulio Napeñas, former head of the police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF) where 44 of his member were killed in a botched commando operation to capture a notorious Islamic militant in the Philippines last year.
Also running for the Senate is boxing champion Manny Pacquiao under the ticket of VP Binay.
Aside from them, there are a wide variety of aspirants for the Philippines Senate. They include a former congressman, mayors, vice mayors and a former showbiz personality.
In the local scene, former President Joseph Estrada who was removed from office in early 2000 is gunning for re-election as mayor of Manila. He is running against former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.
Estrada is not the only former president running for a local post. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is also seeking reelection as a congresswoman in her hometown, Pampanga. She is currently under hospital arrest for plunder.
Critics have characterized the Philippines election as an unruly circus. But from Roxas and Duterte’s word war and challenges for gun duels to the senate investigation against the vice president’s alleged corrupt activities and other capers, citizens have accepted that this outlandish style of campaigning is the “normal way” in Philippine politics.