A Duterte victory is not a cinch. The odds are suddenly even. The presidential race is a close fight.

Based on my analysis of the situation so far, these are the emerging presidential-vice presidential tandems for the May 2022 elections:

1. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte;

2. Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto;

3. Senator Emmanuel “PacMan” Pacquiao and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno;

4. Vice President Leni Robredo and former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. 

The Leni team could be a non-starter.  It lacks a viable party, it lacks a lineup, it lacks money, it lacks a machinery, it lacks a strong branding—all fatal inadequacies.  Of course, miracles do happen in politics.  It could come from God or be man- or machine-made.

5.These three senators can also throw their hats into the ring and run for either president or vice president in any of comfortable combinations – Grace Poe and Richard Gordon, Grace Poe and Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon and Grace Poe. House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez also wants to be VP.

So it seems, you will have four to five presidential candidates and four to six vice presidential candidates.

Bongbong and Sara the team to beat

At the starting gate, the team of Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte looks like the coalition to beat, for these reasons:

One, they will benefit immensely from the awesome popularity of Rodrigo Roa Duterte, by now, the most popular Philippine president ever. His December 2020 91% job approval and trust rating is unmatched in world history.

Two, they combine the formidable voting power of clannish Solid North (the 6.54 million votes of Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and the Cordillera) of Marcos and Solid South (15 million votes) of Duterte, in addition to Bongbong grabbing easily 90% of the 3.0 million votes of Eastern Visayas (Samar and Leyte), the bailiwick of Imelda Romualdez Marcos, the most popular First Lady ever.  That’s 24.54 million votes to start with.

Three, they represent a strong law and order team, or strongman rule, if you will.

Four, they run on a platform of continuity, of a presidency that is the best in infrastructure, the best in transportation modernization, the best in free college education, the best in relations with China, and as it is now appearing to be, an administration with better than average success in vaccination rollout to neutralize COVID-19’s murderous onslaught.

Five, the team is loaded. 

The fabulous Marcos wealth, once estimated at $10 billion, remains to be unlocked.

Anti-COVID money unspent

The administration political war chest  is prodigious.  Huge chunks of taxpayers’ money originally intended for COVID response, were unspent and could now be diverted for political objectives.

Sneered the Inquirer editorial July 6:

“After Sen. Francis Pangilinan first disclosed that P18.4 billion remained unspent after the Bayanihan 2 law lapsed on June 30, it turned out that an even bigger amount — P173 billion — that had been allocated for critical programs meant to combat the crippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people and the economy had not been used.”

Remember, it takes only P5 billion to run a viable presidential bid.

Six, one company that follows the money is SmartMatic, which will again manage our elections. 

Ours is not a genuine democracy.  It is computerized democracy (“demo” as in demonstration or demon, and “cracy” as in crazy), one managed and messed up  by robots and trolls. No matter how popular you are or how many votes you garner in pre-poll surveys, if the gods of algorithm do not favor you are, well, out of luck.  Ask Bongbong Marcos.

Despite above factors, a Sara Duterte victory is not a cinch.

Viable presidential candidates

On the other hand, Ping Lacson and Pacquiao are certainly viable presidential candidates.

Lacson’s integrity is intact and has not been known to help himself with senatorial pork barrel which is P200 million a year or P1.2 billion in six years. 

Our indigenous Chinese taipans like Ping because as a law enforcer and former chief of the Philippine National Police, he eliminated kidnappers specializing in victimizing the rich Chinese Filipinos. 

Lacson comes from Cavite, a vote-rich province with the fastest-growing population growth.  Cavite is part of the five provinces of Calabarzon which has 14%, or 8.7 million votes, the largest voting region.

You may want to add to that the 1.85 million votes of Mimaropa—Mindoro, Marinduque, and Palawan, which are actually Tagalog provinces, to make it 10.55 million votes as Ping’s bailiwick votes.

Tito is a Manilan and a Cebuano

For his part, Tito Sotto reckons Metro Manila (which has 11.4%, 7.1 million, of all votes) as his bailiwick.  His political lineage originates from Cebu, the No. 1 province in terms of votes (over 3 million), or 5% of total Philippines. As a region, Central Visayas, where Cebu is, is the fourth largest voting region, 8% of total votes or 5 million.

Tito’s granduncles, brothers Filemon Sotto and Vicente Sotto were both 1934 Constitutional Convention delegates, lawyers, senators, and Cebu’s political kingpins. 

Tito Sotto is both a Manilan (the first Sotto, Marcelino, came from Binondo) and a Cebuano.  There is of  course, the pulling power and mass appeal of Eat Bulaga, one of the longest-running tv shows in the Philippines. 

Of course, Sotto’s mother, a Castelo, is from Nueva Ecija, a major province in Central Luzon which has 6.82 million voters. 

The Senate president should be able to grab half of CL’s 6.82 million votes.

In Lacson and Tito Sotto, you have a bailiwick to pluck of 22.5 million votes—7.1 million NCR, 8.67 million Calabarzon, 1.83 million Mimaropa, and 4.94 million Central Visayas, 37% of total votes in the Philippines. Plus at least half of Tito’s Central Luzon’s 6.82 million votes, to make the bailiwick votes closer to 26 million.

Manny Pacquiao

Out of a dark corner of the  Senate ring is Pacquiao.  His is the most prominent Filipino name abroad, eclipsing that of Marcos or Romulo. 

In 25 years, Pacquiao demolished 25 world boxing champions in eight divisions, the only boxer to do so.  I rate him the greatest boxer of all time, ahead of Floyd Mayweather Jr., Muhammad Ali, and Sugar Ray Leonard.  Pacman’s is a compelling rags-to-success story, the street brawler turned Forbes Park denizen.

The ring warrior from GenSan will cannibalize Sara Duterte’s 15-million-strong Mindanao bailiwick, of which 60% (9 million votes) are currently hers.

PacMan could cannibalize Sara votes

If Pacquiao gets half of Sara’s 9 million votes, or 4.5 million, the boxing champ knocks out her presidential or vice presidential bid outright.

Because Sara’s remaining 4.5 million votes if added to Bongbong’s 5.85 million (assuming Marcos Jr. grabs 90% of the 6.5-million-strong Ilocano vote) would amount to just 10.35 million—not enough to thwart the bid of Lacson and Sotto who should get at least 60% or 13.5 million of their 22.5 million bailiwick votes (NCR, Calabarzon, Mimaropa and Central Visayas).

A possibility: Lacson and Sotto will beat the Marcos-Duterte duo by 5 million votes, a landslide margin by any measure, posing a severe challenge to Sara Duterte’s campaign machinery.

No wonder the Duterte camp’s anti-Pacquiao propaganda is firing on all cylinders.   The world’s greatest boxing champion may yet score the greatest victory of all—write finis to the  strongman rule of Duterte and Marcos families.

So voters, place your bets.  The odds are suddenly even. And the presidential race could be a tie.