By Perry Diaz
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Francis “Chiz” Escudero are not related by blood or political affiliation, but their provenance – Bongbong’s biological roots and Chiz’s political roots — comes from the same person: Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. Bongbong is the biological son of the late dictator and the Escudero political clan was deeply associated with the Marcoses during the martial law years. Chiz’s father, the late Sorsogon Representative Salvador “Sonny” Escudero III was the last agriculture minister of the Marcos regime.
But while Bongbong and Chiz belong to opposing political parties, their personal relationship seems to be more professional if not impersonal. Indeed, there is no reason why the two political “gladiators” would end up fighting each other to death… that is, politically speaking.
However, the intensity of their rivalry, which is now warming up, would increase in crescendo over the next few weeks, as the May 9th election gets nearer. The question is: Who will fire the first salvo? Heck, who cares? But once the shooting starts, all hell is going to break loose!
Right now, Chiz and Bongbong are probably sizing each other up, probing the other’s weaknesses, particularly their Achilles’ heels. And both of them know that their current popularity ratings are at a statistical dead heat, in which case they have to go negative and pierce the other’s armor to gain advantage. It wouldn’t be surprising if, at this very moment, their “black op” squads were busy digging up dirt in the other’s backyard hoping to uncover some skeletons.
Ghost of Machiavelli
Am I beginning to sound like it’s war out there? Hell, yes! And it’s a war where not only the strong survives, it’s also survival of the cheatest! As someone once said, “In Philippine elections, there are no losers, only the winners and those who were cheated.” Can we then say that for a candidate to win he has to resort to cheating? Clearly, it all comes down to using the Machiavellian mantra “The end justifies the means.”
Indeed, the ghost of Machiavelli seems to play a role in every ambitious politician’s game plan these days. In the case of Bongbong and Chiz, one wonders that while they’re both considered formidable presidential timbers with strong political pedigrees, why didn’t they run for president instead of playing second fiddle to two presidential candidates who may not even be around or disqualified to run for president?
Bongbong vs. Chiz
In the case of Bongbong, his presidential running mate is Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, one of the fightingest politicians who came close to winning the presidential election in 1992. Yes, Miriam is a good – nay, fantastic! – choice to run under as her vice presidential running mate. However, she is fighting the greatest battle of her life – stage 4 lung cancer, which she claims is now controlled. However, at their kickoff campaign last February 9 in Batac, Ilocos Norte, Miriam told the crowd that Bongbong is the “best person” to succeed her potential position as president “if something happens to her.” Indeed, the odds are great that Bongbong would ascend to the presidency byway of presidential succession.
In the case of Chiz, his presidential running mate, Sen. Grace Poe, is facing disqualification charges against her before the Supreme Court in regard to her citizenship status and residency. If Grace were disqualified from running, then Chiz would end up without a standard bearer. He would be like the Japanese “ronin” of old, a samurai whose master had died. And he’d be campaigning solo for the rest of the campaign season. Is it good or bad? I’d say neither. Actually, Chiz could turn the situation around into a winning strategy. Being a “ronin,” he can find a “master” in any of the top three presidential candidates: Jejomar Binay, Mar Roxas or Rodrigo Duterte. They all have the potential of winning but their respective vice presidential running mates – Gregorio Honasan, Leni Robredo, and Alan Peter Cayetano – are no match against Chiz… or Bongbong, who, like Chiz, could also end up a masterless “ronin.”
But regardless of whether Chiz and Bongbong become a “ronin,” it shouldn’t make a lot of difference; that is, either one could win the vice presidency on their own strengths and resources. And whoever wins would become a strong candidate for president in 2022.
Taste for power
In my article, “The 2022 presidential derby is on” (October 16, 2015), I wrote: “As I have postulated earlier, whoever wins the vice presidency in 2016 would be the next president in 2022, which begs the question: Of the six [only five left now] vice presidential candidates in 2016 – Robredo, Escudero, Trillanes [he’s out], Cayetano, Marcos, and Honasan — who wouldn’t want to run for president in 2022 if he or she were elected vice president in 2016? What I am seeing in my crystal ball is that all of them, with the exception of Honasan, will run for president in 2022. But Honasan, who might not have any inclination to seek the presidency at this time, might have a change of heart midway through his term in 2019 and decide to run for president in 2022. Once he tastes power, he can get used to it. Indeed, power is aphrodisiac: you taste it once; you’d want more… and more.
“With all six [only five left] vice presidential candidates who harbor a desire to seek the presidency in 2022, you’d expect each and every one of them to use all resources they have at their disposal to win – by all means — the vice presidency in 2016. It would be shooting two birds with one stone; whoever we elect vice president in 2016, we’re also electing president in 2022.”
Three-way battle royale
The latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey conducted last February 5-7 showed Chiz and Bongbong tied in first place with 26% ratings. What is interesting is that Bongbong overcame Chiz’s three-point lead in the SWS survey conducted on January 8-10, 2016. But this is a small gap compared to the SWS survey on December 12-14, 2015 that showed Chiz at 30% and Bongbong at 19%, a whopping 11-point difference. That was the biggest gap between Chiz and Bongbong since March 20-23, 2015 when Chiz’s popularity rating was at 6% and Bongbong at 3%.
Interestingly, Leni Robredo at 19% is not too far behind Bongbong in the latest SWS survey. Can Leni catch up with either Chiz or Bongbong? With President Aquino’s support and the Liberal Party’s huge war chest, she can prevail over Chiz and Bongbong. What’s going for her is she’s untainted and the wife of the popular late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo. Indeed, what we’re seeing here is a three-way battle royale.
But barring a bloody and dirty battle between the two ronin – Chiz and Bongbong – that could end up with both of them losing out to Leni, these two heirs to two powerful dynasties – the Marcoses of Ilocandia and the Escuderos of Bicolandia – would put all their resources to use to win – by all means – the vice presidency. And this is where Bongbong might have an edge because of the Marcoses’ reputedly amassed wealth, which, if true, could make a lot of difference.
Both Chiz and Bongbong have one shot at the vice presidency. And as I said before, it would be like shooting two birds with one stone; whoever is elected vice president in 2016, would be elected president in 2022.
Yes, the battle for the 2022 presidency has begun!