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SITUATIONER: Philippines concludes 2022 General Election, Marcos and Duterte win big

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The Filipinos wanted change – just not from the new breed.

The entrenchment of political dynasties nationwide has been confirmed by the results of the election, with the children of the two biggest families of our time on the verge of winning the presidency and vice presidency.

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of the late ousted dictator, and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of the incumbent chief executive, will be swept into office in a landslide victory as 31 million voters pinned their hopes on them. The ‘UniTeam’ tandem is set to claim a strong mandate for mustering the majority of the votes, a first in the post-Edsa era.

Marcos Jr. has begun coordinating with Malacañang for the peaceful transfer of power. On Wednesday night, May 11, he announced that Duterte-Carpio had agreed to lead the Department of Education (DepEd), even as her spokesperson revealed she is interested in heading the Department of National Defense (DND).

Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, saw no indications of rampant cheating but urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to investigate the defective vote-counting machines (VCMs) that marred voting in some precincts. Voters on Election Day, May 9, stayed until early morning to wait for the replacement VCMs to arrive. Though they have an option to sign a waiver and let the teachers feed their ballots into the machine, they opted not to leave over fears of tampering.

As the partial and unofficial count began trickling in half an hour after the polls closed, some were in disbelief that the results were quickly known that after midnight, more than 90 percent of the clustered precincts had already electronically transmitted votes. The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), an accredited citizens’ arm entitled to the fourth copy of election returns (ERs) per precinct, is conducting an unofficial parallel count at the University of Santo Tomas that may last ten days. Volunteers are currently swarming the Quadricentennial Pavilion to help encode the results.

Marcos Jr. and Duterte-Carpio held a commanding lead that they never lost throughout. Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, the opposition standard-bearers, placed a far second.

The late dictator’s son flipped three vote-rich provinces that Robredo won in the 2016 vice-presidential race: Cebu, Batangas and Tarlac. In other areas, he either tripled his votes than in 2016 or narrowed the gap in those he lost, including Iloilo and Negros Occidental.

Robredo eked out a narrow victory back then, leading by more than 230,000 votes. Marcos Jr. contested the results to the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), but his protest was dismissed in a unanimous decision in 2021.

This year, there is no indication that the outgoing vice president will protest the results, though she’s not saying “we will not pay attention to the problems being relayed to us.” Some of her supporters have demanded that Comelec explain the irregularities hounding the elections.

The poll body, along with PPCRV, has so far not seen any manipulation in the results, debunking claims on social media about the 47-percent ratio that remained unchanged between votes for the top two presidential bets. Though Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said that if some insist, “then pwede naman nating i-check ‘yung each election returns in each province.”

The eight remaining presidential bets have already conceded the race, with Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso calling for all Filipinos to “support the new leadership,” “do our part as citizens” and not engage in any unrest anymore. During the campaign, he painted himself as an alternative candidate who would put an end to the rivalry between the reds and yellows. After a promising start, his quest for the presidency floundered, settling in fourth place as Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao overtook him.

For his part, the one-term senator said that as a professional boxer, “I know how to accept defeat. I hope that even though I lost this fight, the Filipino people, especially the poor, will win.” Pacquiao only won his home province of Sarangani. He lost badly in Mindanao.

While Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, who failed in his second bid for the presidency, will “go home” and “serve my family” after five decades in public service. He was part of the MetroCom Intelligence and Security Group in 1971 before landing the top post at the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 1999. He went on to become a senator in 2001, winning his third term in 2016 after spending the first half of the 2010s hiding as a fugitive and serving as a rehabilitation czar for the victims of Typhoon “Yolanda.” He ran in 2004 against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Fernando Poe Jr., ending up in third place.

Faisal Mangondato, Ernesto “Ernie” Abella, Ka Leody de Guzman, Norberto Gonzales and Jose “Joey” Montemayor Jr. each issued statements of concession.

Marcos Jr. successfully vindicated his family’s tarnished name 36 years after they went into exile in Hawaii, United States, following the Edsa People Power Revolution. He was 27 years old when the four-day bloodless event occurred that saw Filipinos standing up for freedoms taken away during the two-decade dictatorial rule of his father. Human rights violations marked Martial Law, which saw dissenting voices either killed, tortured or abducted.

This dark chapter of history was whitewashed with the advent of social media. Disinformation campaigns flourished on Facebook, YouTube and TikTok, hindering the young generation from learning about the atrocities under Marcos Sr.’s administration. Tsek.Ph, a fact-checking collaborative group, found that Marcos Jr. largely benefited from all the fake news circulating online.

Vloggers have become an alternative source of information among the “UniTeam” supporters, inculcating wild conspiracy theories and false claims about the nation’s history that have taken root in their minds. A supporter told Rappler’s Rambo Talabong that she was once an activist fighting Marcos Sr.’s dictatorship, only to support his son because of YouTube influencers. “The Marcoses did no wrong,” she said. Another believed that the Marcoses were the ones robbed of their properties, even though the Presidential Commission on Good Governance (PCGG) recovered millions of ill-gotten wealth they accumulated and the Supreme Court (SC) ruled that the “magnitude of the Marcos regime’s ‘organized pillage’ and the ingenuity of the plunderers and pillagers with the assistance of the experts and best legal minds available in the market.”

The large-scale rehabilitation of the Marcos family began when former President Corazon Aquino permitted them to go back to the Philippines in 1991. Marcos Jr. then slowly crawled up from the local to the national level, even as his mother, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, gunned for the presidency twice. He was elected senator in 2010, placing seventh, wherein of the 52 laws he pushed, nearly 70 percent were to rename highways, designate holidays and reapportion cities and provinces, according to a review by The New York Times. After his doomed vice-presidential bid, he focused on rebranding his image on social media to appeal to the younger generation.

“He bided his time. Remember he first ran in 1995 for senator at natalo siya at malakas pa ang naratibo ng EDSA noon,” Julio Teehankee, a political science professor at the De La Salle University, said. “Ironically nanalo siyang senador nung nanalong presidente si Noynoy Aquino. At nu’ng mga panahong ‘yun, a year after that pinakikita sa social media lalo na sa YouTube itong napakagandang animation tungkol sa the ‘real story’ behind EDSA. So as early as 2010, binabago na nila ang kuwento. Kumbaga, natisod nila ang perfect vehicle for changing the narrative. So, they seeded it, even until 2016 nung tumakbo siyang vice president.”

For Duterte-Carpio, the vice-presidential position was not her first choice, filing her papers for a third term as Davao City mayor first. Duterte and his allies prodded her to run for president as part of the incumbent’s post-succession plans. But Duterte-Carpio didn’t nudge, having other plans in her mind.

Reports claimed that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo brokered the deal between Marcos Jr. and Duterte-Carpio to team up for this election. As the late dictator’s son was weak electorally in Visayas and Mindanao, the president’s daughter slid to No. 2 and shed her popularity with him, forming a formidable tandem that polled well above the majority in pre-election surveys that never collapsed during the 90-day campaign period.

“Ang kalakihang porsiyento ng boto na nakuha ni Bongbong Marcos ay galing sa mga supporters ni Inday Sara at ‘yung boto ni Inday Sara ay galing sa continuing popularity ni President (Rodrigo) Duterte,” Teehankee observed.

The “UniTeam” tandem ignored nearly all debates and forums dedicated to examining the candidates’ platforms, except for Marcos Jr., who attended the SMNI debate, a network founded by FBI-wanted church leader Apollo Quiboloy, who openly supported them. It is known for attacking perceived political opponents and the mainstream media.

“These results actually reinforced continuity rather than change. Mukhang it reinforces everything that’s traditional about Philippine politics: political families, political machines, importance of bailiwicks, vote by ethnicity. Identity is still a very strong force and factor in Philippine politics. When I say identity, hindi lang ito ‘yung Ilokano at Bisaya. Ito ang pro-Marcos, pro-Duterte,” Ranjit Rye, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines and a fellow at the Octa Research Group, said.

“Interesting to understand, the Marcos-Duterte tandem wasn’t just a set of candidates [or] set of political families coming together, it was a whole movement po eh. May kilusan na po siya, hindi lang sila kandidato, kilusan na rin sila. Ganun rin kay VP Leni, but it came in quite late. May kilusan na rin around her,” he added.

“UniTeam” centered their campaign on unity. That the country’s longstanding problems would be resolved if the people would be unified first. Jean Encinas-Franco, political science professor at the University of the Philippines, when asked about her expectations to a Marcos Jr. presidency, said she doesn’t know, noting, “Hindi naman natin masyadong nakitang dinetalye nila nitong kampanya [‘yung kanilang plataporma]. Good luck na lang talaga sa Pilipinas. Good luck!”

Marcos Jr., in fact, laid out some platforms for the nation’s pressing issues, including strengthening the healthcare system by increasing the salaries of medical workers; modernizing seaports, airports and railways; shifting the focus of the drug war to prevention and rehabilitation; seeking bilateral consensus on the West Philippine Sea; establishing water impounding facilities to cover all irrigation areas; and ending contractualization; among others.

A fractured opposition caused the dominance of “UniTeam” in Monday’s polls, with Robredo failing to unite other candidates expressing their intent to run for the presidency back then. As the campaign period began on February 8, and the surveys started to frame the race as a rematch between Marcos Jr. and Robredo, feelers from the opposition convinced camps to withdraw. But, feeling insulted, they refused, culminating in an explosive press conference on Easter Sunday in which Moreno surprisingly asked the vice president to back out from the race instead.

Campaign rallies between the two leading candidates transformed into a battle of optics. In their Miting de Avance on May 7, Marcos Jr.’s camp claimed that more than 1 million supporters flocked to Paranaque City to hear out the “UniTeam” one last time, while Robredo’s estimated more than 780,000 filled the two-kilometer stretch of Ayala Avenue, the landmark of anti-Marcos Sr. protests that sprouted in 1983 following the assassination of former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. Richard Heydarian, a political science professor and columnist at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, said that while Robredo’s base was more passionate, it was much narrower than that of Marcos Jr. The excitement inside the opposition’s rallies, it turned out, didn’t translate into actual votes.

Still, Rye predicted that the opposition may have birthed a new movement, one that would serve as a check on the incoming administration. Analysts warned Marcos Jr. and Duterte-Carpio of ignoring or delegitimizing the political opposition even if more than 31 million voters backed them since a considerable chunk of the electorate – 15 million – didn’t want them to win the presidency and vice-presidency.

In the Senate, the action star Robin Padilla is on the verge of being this year’s topnotcher, winning more than 26 million votes, joining an elite group that included Jovito Salonga, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Noli De Castro, Loren Legarda, Ramon “Bong” Revilla and Franklin Drilon. Padilla’s surprising showing stunned netizens and analysts, who estimated that he might only land in the Top 5. Political heavyweights dominated the “Magic 12,” denying two reelectionists – Senators Richard Gordon and Leila De Lima – a second term. Only one opposition candidate, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, landed a winning spot in the upper chamber, placing eleventh.

Anti-Crime and Terrorism Community Involvement and Support Partylist (ACT-CIS) is the party-list topnotcher anew, garnering more than 5 percent of the vote. They will be the only group to qualify for three seats. While 1-Rider, Tingog, 4PS, Ako Bicol and Sagip will each get two seats for winning 2 percent of the vote each. The progressive Makabayan Bloc, a frequent target of red-tagging by the current administration, is in danger of losing Bayan Muna, which placed second in 2019. Other party-lists like Buhay, represented by vice-presidential candidate Lito Atienza, are also in a perilous state due to the low number of votes.

Proclamation of winning senators and party-list groups may be set early next week, while the joint session of Congress aims to proclaim the 17th president and 15th vice president before the month ends.

All elected officials will be sworn in at noon on June 30, 2022.

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