Registration for the election that may determine who will succeed President Rodrigo Duterte next year and steer the Philippines through a post-Covid-19 world began on Friday (Oct 1), with boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao first the blocks to file his candidacy.
For subsequent seven days, politicians, activists, advocates of all stripes, businessmen pivoting to politics, and a bizarre Everyman seeking to push Beijing out of the South China Sea with a Gundam super robot are expected to go to a sprawling polling center found out at a hotel in Manila to file their papers.
Most will be culled as “nuisance candidates”. But not Mr. Pacquiao, the 42-year-old multi-millionaire, superstar athlete who in the week retired from boxing to focus on running for president.
“This run isn’t for myself or my family, but for the Filipino people, to offer them a far better future amid the hardship they need enduring for therefore long,” he said at a brief press conference after he filed his certificate of candidacy.
He quickly rattled off key points of his political platform: better Internet access, lower electric bills.
But he reserved his sharpest dagger for President Rodrigo Duterte, his former ally whom he’s now sparring with for control of his party.
“To those that are stealing from the people, your days are numbered… you’ll all share a jail cell,” he said.
Mr. Duterte has lately been dogged by allegations that his supposed cronies profited from many united states dollars worth of face masks, shields, and other supplies meant for the government’s Covid-19 pandemic response.
Pundits say a Senate investigation uncovering sensational details into these charges is taking the sheen off of Mr. Duterte.
He is also being dogged by growing public discontent over his government’s seemingly lackadaisical handling of the pandemic and an economy on a downward spiral.
At 76, Mr. Duterte is running for vice-president next year. But his polling numbers are slipping.
His missteps have also been rubbing off on his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, 43.
She continues to be the odds-on favorite to win if the polls are held today, but her lead has been whittled down by a surge in support for former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son, and namesake of the late dictator.
A poll by survey firm Pulse Asia showed her rating dropping 8 percentage points to twenty percent, narrowing her lead over Mr. Marcos, who now has 15 percent.
An internal survey by another polling company seen by The Straits Times showed Mr. Marcos already overtaking Ms. Duterte.
Mr. Marcos, 64, has yet to say whether he’s running for president, but he’s widely expected to file his candidacy within the week.
Manila’s popular mayor Isko Moreno, 46, who is tied statistically with Mr. Marcos, also will be filing in the week.
A coalition of civil society groups and activists against Mr. Duterte has urged Vice-President Leni Robredo to also throw her hat within the ring.
Bringing up the rear in recent surveys, she has been reluctant to point out her cards. She said she was grateful for the endorsement, but she was still praying for guidance.
Candidates in next year’s elections are going to be contesting 77 national positions, including the presidency, vice-presidency, and 12 seats within the Senate.
In all, about 18,000 posts for governors, mayors, vice-mayors, congressmen, also as city council and provincial board members are up for grabs across the Philippines.
“It may be a circus,” political analyst Tony La Vina told Agence France-Presse. “People have a way that during this brief moment, they’re the boss, to be wooed by suitors whom they demand to sing, dance, act as clowns.”
A still-raging coronavirus outbreak across the Philippines, though, may temper the usually festive and rowdy campaign season, which can last till May 9 next year, when the elections are held.