FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

Our electoral politics this season is quickly turning from the comical to the absurd.

Last Thursday, supporters of Bong Go’s candidacy for president gathered at the Comelec headquarters, threatening to erect barricades to physically prevent the senator from formally filing his withdrawal from the race. They might have named their bizarre mobilization “Stop Go!”

When Go did not materialize that day, the head of that nondescript political party the senator filed his candidacy under claimed this happened because of his presence in the building. Is he telling us he might have bullied a senator of the Republic from doing the most ministerial of things?

The PDP-Laban, the party that distinguished itself for issuing statements when it does not need to do so, declared it was waiting for a “miracle.” The “miracle” involves Go changing his mind about quitting the race. However, Go is not running under PDP-Laban, so this should not matter to them.

PDP-Laban, or whatever is left of it, is merely echoing the despair of one Rodrigo Duterte who seems to be hoping his loyal aide will defy the laws of political gravity and levitate over the other candidates in this multi-sided race. It is wrong to await a “miracle.” What they really need is magic.

Bong Go bides his time. All he really wants to do is run across the barricades of those who profess to love him so that he can perform the menial chore of formally withdrawing his name from the ballot.

Those who profess to love him want to torture him by having him remain in his unsustainable candidacy. He should really return to the job taxpayers are paying him for: that of legislator.

There are enough quixotic candidacies afield. There are enough presidential pretenders pushing rocks up a steep slope. Bong Go will not be missed.

Meanwhile, the Comelec is accumulating petitions seeking the disqualification of Bongbong Marcos. The possibility of Marcos being disqualified is the only potion that keeps the quixotic candidacies alive.

The leftist groups have this annoying habit of filing numerous repetitive petitions. See what they have done against the Anti-Terror Law.

This habit puzzles me. Do repetitive petitions strengthen the case? Are they trying to make a mass movement out of filing petitions? Do they think that by clamoring in large numbers, the walls of Jericho might crumble? Or are they firing a shotgun, hoping one pellet might hit the target?

I know the Left, as a subculture, delights in repetition. For over five decades, they have repeated the same slogans, hoping that someday heaven on earth might happen.

Not being a lawyer, I abstain from commenting on the legal merits of these petitions. But as a political scientist, this is clear to me: the petitioners want to settle this contest extra-electorally.

This is not the most democratic of inspirations. But the people behind these petitions would rather scuttle our electoral politics than see democratically elected a candidate they have decided to hate. The end justifies every means.

One needs to have a tunnel vision to want to see a free electoral contest settled by non-electoral means. That tunnel vision prevents us from seeing the profound consequences of settling this vital contest extra-electorally. Disqualifying the leading candidate will polarize our politics for many years to come, dividing the nation and sinking our economy.

In 1997-1998, Joseph Estrada was leading the preference surveys by nearly 20 points over his nearest rivals. The prospect of him winning the presidency terrified the business community, the high priests at the temple, the “disente” middle class and all the elitist factions. Catholics listened to pastoral letters that pictured the elections as a battle between good and evil.

But no one tried to have him disqualified. There was enough respect for the voice of the people. No one tried to have lawyers rather than voters settle the most important democratic question of who should lead the nation.

From all the preference surveys available, Estrada’s lead over two decades ago pales in comparison to the lead Bongbong Marcos is building up at this stage. In the SWS survey, he leads his closest rival by over 30 points. In the Publicus survey, his lead balloons to over 40 points.

There are other surveys that give him a larger lead. But those surveys do not conform to the random sampling and stratification methods. One survey, currently embargoed, does meet the statistical requirements and gives Marcos a truly fabulous lead.

In 1998, every possible command vote constituency was arrayed to stop Estrada. Today, the command votes fused with the market votes favoring Marcos.

Bongbong Marcos is on course to be the first majority president after Edsa. The only way to stop him is to have him disqualified.

Those hoping against the facts refer to the 2016 campaign where Rodrigo Duterte rose from having just 2 percent of the vote to winning the elections eventually by a historic margin. But Duterte had a 2 percent share before he declared. The parallelism some may want to draw is imperfect.

Bong Go, by contrast, has a 2 percent share after he declared. His loyalists will bleed their knees dry praying for a miracle.

But that mob assembled before the Comelec, threatening to physically prevent him from withdrawing his candidacy, is only a minor absurdity. The bigger absurdity is the number of otherwise respectable individuals seeking to circumvent a democratic electoral contest by means of lawyers splitting hairs.

They should take pause and examine the possible blowback this could cause. It is a blowback that could scuttle our democracy.


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