In the United States the race for Vice President always takes a back seat to the Presidential elections. This is because the top posts are elected as a tandem. This ensures that there is continuity in governance should anything untoward happen to the top guy. Thus, from campaign to elections to the actual presidency, the American VP is just a spare tire – seemingly unimportant, but not until you need it.
It’s different for us in the Philippines. We elect our VP directly and separately from the president. And this makes the VP race both interesting and as crucial as electing the president.
The latest pre-election surveys by pollsters PulseAsia, Social Weather Stations (SWS), DZRH and The Standard’s Laylo have reported Francis “Chiz” Escudero leading the pack, followed by Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., Leni Robredo and Alan Peter Cayetano. Without going into the numbers (you can see their tabulations in this blog) it’s interesting to note why their positions are what they are, and if ever the final tally will be the same as what they are now.
From where I sit the key factor for their positions is baggage, how much it is weighing them down, preventing them from surging forward. Take Marcos for instance. His numbers have consistently grown and his public image has capitalized on the poor historical background of the youth, the longing for a sense of peace and order of the older generation who not negatively affected by Martial Law, and his rockstar looks, image and packaging.
Furthermore, Marcos’s campaign took off early (unofficially, of course) and wheelings and dealings with political leaders – local and national – have been ongoing. Whether money is indeed no object for this candidate, it helps that a the free-flowing money myth is actually being perpetuated, first by the actual multi-million official SALN he and his family have filed and second by the billions more in news reports and rumors that they are said to possess.
What has kept Marcos’ pre-election numbers in check is the baggage of Martial law atrocities. This is what cost him his first run for national office – the Senate in 1992 – when an all out campaign “Never Again” against him was waged by Cory Aquino’s Yellow Army. He then backed off and slowly built himself up for the next 18 or so years in local politics where he has full control and positive imaging, namely Marcos’ country in Ilocos as Governor then as its Representative in the House.
Marcos’ latest senate run was more successful. And here he gained insight on how he was ready for national office. The voter profiles had changed. The anti-Marcos sentiment was no longer an issue with a great number of younger voters unaware of the country’s history.
But an election for a Senate seat is not the same as for a VP. There are 12 Senators to be chosen to win, while the VP post is a single office. It’s easier to slide into one of 12 slots, especially when it comes to the political deals. Not with a single slot.
And this is where the baggage of his father’s Martial Law history becomes a burden. Those who are against Marcos are actively campaigning against him – those human rights victims, their kin and whoever they can organize. It isn’t enough that they register their sentiments. They move forward as a force to stop him, stop the return of the Marcoses in the top positions of the land.
So while Marcos’ numbers have grown, it is still being weighed down by this baggage, keeping him still lower than Escudero. The question is whether Marcos has peaked early – if the deals he has made and the voter support he has gained have reached their limits. If he has then he will remain stagnant at best or be pulled down by his baggage.
Robredo, too, has her baggage. Her association with the President Noynoy Aquino, the Liberal Party and its standard bearer Mar Roxas just weighs her down like three big rocks in the deep blue ocean. The public image of the current administration is just so bad that it has taken a well crafted and best meaning program of governance –Daang Matuwid – and destroyed it altogether.
Yes, the anti-corruption campaign stance was laudable and built a lot of goodwill here and abroad. But now, the Roxas-Robredo campaign to continue Daang Matuwid sends chills down voters’ spines. Another six years of the same government and governance.
So while Robredo’s campaign has indeed grown – and they have mobilized the advantages such as equity of the incumbent and massive resources of those in power and access to the national coffers – the baggage she carries is just too heavy. Her good looks and cute campaign may not be able to carry the load.
Cayetano? Well, Robredo beat him, and as far as the numbers go he’s in a downward spiral. His baggage is himself, so much so that his standard bearer, Rody Duterte, is himself being weighed down by his VP partner.
Escudero, on the other hand, remains on top and he has not yet pulled any deals with political leaders. His steam is pure voter support as of late. This is the prudent card he is drawing: with less financial muscle he is waiting for the right time to make the deals. His ace is the top slot and big numbers which he will be able to sue as leverage for more financial and political support when the time comes.
Escudero’s baggage seems his strong point, too. Trapo (traditional politician) some say, which makes them wary of him. This, on the other hand, is what makes him attractive to political backers. Being a political animal who knows the ins and outs of that world, Escudero would be one they relate and talk to. One who would listen and one who would seek a workable solution to benefit all.
Former House Speaker Jose de Venecia used to constantly say: “Let’s find a win-win solution to this.” Some call that “trapo,” others call it “consensus building.” For Escudero, this is not baggage.
The official campaign season has started. Let’s see which baggage weighs the most.