SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

For both the administration and opposition, a one-on-one battle for the presidency in 2022 will buck the post-EDSA election trend.

Big egos and ambitions always get in the way of unification efforts. Also, perhaps Filipinos have this unshakeable belief, reinforced by previous elections, that the presidency is a matter of fate, and coalitions and party machineries don’t really matter. So presidential hopefuls go it alone, and we get multiple candidates. The same goes for the vice presidency.

In 1998, there were 10 aspirants for the presidency and nine for vice president. In 2004, five ran for president and four for VP; in 2010, there were nine and eight, respectively; and in 2016, five bets for president and six for VP.

The ruling PDP-Laban appears headed for a showdown next month, when the party will elect a president – and it doesn’t look like it will be Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who has been holding the post in an acting capacity. He was appointed to the post by his predecessor, Sen. Koko Pimentel III, who moved up to executive vice chairman.

Now the same groups that have launched attacks on Pacquiao in recent weeks have included Koko Pimentel, whose father founded the PDP-Laban. Will the two join forces and claim the party as their own? Or will Pacquiao bolt the party and set up his own machinery for a presidential run?

The other likely administration presidential bet isn’t even a member of PDP-Laban. And Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio’s camp has said she sees no need to join her father’s party since she already has her own, the Hugpong ng Pagbabago.

While Mayor Sara has also declined to publicly proclaim any intention to replace her father, certain politicians from Luzon appear interested to become her running mate. Former defense chief Gilbert Teodoro has announced his interest in running as her VP. Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian is also projecting himself for a possible partnership.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of concern among members that the PDP-Laban might get eviscerated. I guess members can simply flit to Hugpong if Sara decides to run without bothering to join the PDP-Laban, while Pacquiao’s supporters can join him in forming their own party.

*      *      *

Across the political fence, uniting behind a common candidate is also proving to be a challenge.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson has said he is not interested in a nomination from the nascent 1Sambayan opposition coalition. This was after 1Sambayan lead convenor Antonio Carpio said it would be “inconsistent” and “incongruous” for the group to even be identified with an author of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Lacson, who has also faced criminal charges related to summary executions when he was a police officer, is in fact the person who can promise continuity in Rodrigo Duterte’s strong approach to law enforcement. Not a replication of tokhang and double barrel, but a presentation of the problem as one of peace and order rather than human rights. Previous elections have indicated that Filipino voters are willing to curtail certain civil liberties in the name of public safety. This approach to criminality is something that the opposition should consider in the 2022 campaign.

On One News’ “The Chiefs” last week, former senator Antonio Trillanes III sniffed that Lacson can’t even be counted as an opposition personality in this administration.

Trillanes believes the 1Sambayan presidential nominee intrinsically will have to be anti-Duterte. What does this make of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, one of five persons named by Malacañang who are reportedly being considered by President Duterte as his replacement?

Moreno is also among the persons being considered by 1Sambayan.

Carpio had told us on The Chiefs that 1Sambayan nominees would be selected based on character (including unquestionable integrity and sound physical and mental health), competence (including vision, dynamism and a viable platform) and track record.

*      *      *

It’s early days yet, there’s plenty of time for people to change their minds. And I’m sure the initiators of the 1Sambayan coalition have no illusions that fielding a single opposition candidate is going to be easy.

Of the six persons named by 1Sambayan as its potential standard bearer last Saturday, three quickly declined. Sen. Grace Poe said she wouldn’t make a second stab at the presidency. Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said he’s not interested in the post. Neither is Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto.

Sen. Nancy Binay was excluded from the nominees together with Isko Moreno upon their request. Binay said she’s not running for president while Moreno said he wanted to focus on the pandemic response.

That left Vice President Leni Robredo, Trillanes and CIBAC party list Rep. Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus Is Lord movement.

The coalition plans to announce its candidates for president and vice president by the end of July, according to Trillanes, who has expressed readiness to be fielded as presidential candidate – but only if Robredo declines the nomination.

*      *      *

Robredo has welcomed her inclusion by 1Sambayan, but it looks like she intends to announce her final plan for the 2022 elections much later – not during the deadline for candidate substitution, as Rodrigo Duterte did in November 2015, but as late as possible.

Trillanes thinks this is a bad strategy. He told The Chiefs last week that even if the official announcement is made at the eleventh hour a la Duterte, Robredo should already make up her mind and tell at least the people closest to her in private about her decision so they can begin preparations.

Instead, Trillanes and certain prominent Bicolano politicians are seeing what look like preparations for Robredo to run for governor of Camarines Sur.

Maybe it’s part of a strategy to keep rivals off-guard and confuse the enemy. But even supporters are confused, and are hoping for clarity soon about Robredo’s plans.

Robredo’s camp points to the administration being in no rush either to reveal solid plans for the 2022 race. Duterte has taken the lead in coyness, whether about his running for vice president or Mayor Sara seeking his post.

Last Saturday’s 1Sambayan launch had for its title “Isang Boto, 1Sambayan: Piliin ang Ating Pambato.”

Selecting a single opposition candidate is going to be a rough slog.

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