The LP ‘options’

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation No. 1179 in which he declared there are now 109.035 million Filipinos living in the Philippines. The newly signed presidential proclamation adopted this official population count of Filipinos all over the country as of May 2020.

According to the Chief Executive, the official count of how many Filipinos there are now was done by province/city/municipality and barangay based on the 2020 census of population and housing conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority. Presumably, this was also the basis of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) estimates that as many as 13 million Filipinos nationwide remain unregistered voters.

Citing this purported official figure by the Comelec, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan added his voice in calling upon these 13 million Filipinos to register before the Comelec winds down the national registration on Sept. 30.

As the president of the Liberal Party (LP), Pangilinan made this call at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay Zoom Webinar last Wednesday. As the country prepares to hold its next presidential elections on May 9, 2022, Pangilinan noted with concern in particular these 13 million Filipino still unregistered are ostensibly mostly youths who just met the minimum age requirement of 18 years old.

Pangilinan fears many of these first-time voters will lose their chance to exercise their democratic rights to elect the next rightful leader who could lead our country out the woes wrought upon by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) contagion. Such huge number, he warned, could spell the difference. This is crucial especially if there is a tight race to win the highest elected office in the land to succeed the sitting President who steps down from Malacañang at noon of June 30, 2022.

Or, the 13 million still unregistered voters can also un-make the chances of any “ambitious” but unqualified presidential wannabe.

As far as LP is concerned, Pangilinan identifed Vice President Leni Robredo as LP presidential standard bearer who could offer a better future for all Filipino. Speaking for LP, Pangilinan cited VP Robredo as embodying the best qualifications and experience for the past five years serving as the second highest elected official of the land. Alongside with carrying out the stimulus package to revive the country’s pandemic-ravaged economy, Pangilinan attested to the fitness, sincerity and honesty of VP Robredo to wage a top-to-bottom campaign in getting rid of corruption wherever they may be in any government offices.

As the nominal chieftain of the ruling administration party PDP-Laban, President Duterte though has yet to officially pick his anointed presidential candidate. In his latest public pronouncements, President Duterte though strongly indicated his desire to run for Vice President while still holding office at Malacañang.

On the other hand, VP Robredo is the acknowledged nominal chieftain of LP. But as the LP president, Pangilinan echoed the hopes and sentiments of their partymates for VP Robredo herself to aspire for the presidency amid the posturing and jockeying of other presidential wannabes.

The Comelec earlier set the filing of certificates of candidacy from Oct. 1 to 8 this year. Pangilinan averred their party is not rushing VP Robredo to make up her mind at any time sooner than she wishes to. He swears though LP is ready with its full bench of candidates who are also most qualified and most capable “options” should VP Robredo decides otherwise.

At the outset, Pangilinan counted himself out of contention in the presidential nomination at LP. He would not even dare include himself as the probable vice presidential runningmate of Mrs. Robredo. As of this point, the 54-year old Pangilinan confessed he is up for re-election for a second term at the Senate.

From the ranks of his Senate colleagues, Pangilinan identified as the LP “options” to nominate either as presidential or vice presidential candidate. He fielded the names of Senate president Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Panfilo Lacson, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, Ralph Recto, and Nancy Binay. These are the same personalities, Pangilinan admitted, with whom LP “emissaries” have been holding talks. Their objective, he cited, is to form a unified broad coalition of like-minded political parties to match the administration-backed political machinery juggernaut in next year’s national and local elections.

Naturally, Pangilinan skipped the name of Sen. Manny Pacquiao who is the “acting” president of PDP-Laban. Touted to run as a presidential candidate, Pacquiao is currently embroiled with intramurals with certain PDP-Laban leaders. During the PDP-Laban national council meeting held last Tuesday night, excerpts of which were aired the next day over state-run PTV-4, the President played again the PDP-Laban card on their Resolution approved last May in Cebu where his possible VP run was first publicly launched.

Down to his last 360 days in office, the 75-year old Chief Executive claims this stance is to show strength and that he won’t be a “lameduck” President to the very end of his term.

Not convinced, Pangilinan believes the likelihood of the scenario of Davao City politics to play out again in the coming elections. He particularly recalled then Mayor Duterte slid down as Vice Mayor to his daughter, now Mayor Inday Sara. This enabled the Dutertes’ to hold onto power through these years in Davao City.

Pangilinan noted the build up of Davao City Mayor Sara as topnotcher in mock presidential polls in various opinion surveys. However, Pangilinan counts upon again from lessons of recent history in the Philippine elections. The “frontliner” in mock polls and surveys, he noted, did not end up as the winner in elections. He recalled the case of then survey frontrunner Senate president Manny Villar before the May, 2010 elections. In the end, it was won by the late president Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.

But can LP redeem itself as the better “option” for Filipinos to face the future after the COVID pandemic?

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