Defections towards unity

THE CORNER ORACLE - Andrew J. Masigan - The Philippine Star

The Visayas chapter of the Ikaw Muna Pilipinas Group (IM Pilipinas) formally announced their shift of support from Isko Moreno to VP Leni Robredo. This follows a spate of defections towards VP Leni’s camp by a growing number of local government officials and civic society groups.

IM Pilipinas Visayan Chapter head, Nick Malasarte, clarifies that his group’s decision to support the presidential bid of VP Leni is not due to a rift or misunderstanding with Moreno’s camp. Rather, it was done to prevent a Marcos Jr. presidency.

Following Malasarte’s announcement, I had a one-on-one meeting with former MMDA chairman Tim Orbos, who is also the founder of IM Pilipinas. Orbos too is calling for unity among all political parties to consolidate their forces behind the candidate with the greatest probability of defeating Marcos Jr.

If election polls, Google Trends and on-the-ground volunteer support provide any indication, VP Leni is in the strongest position to defeat the son of the former dictator.

That said, Orbos is appealing to presidential candidates Moreno, Pacquiao, Lacson, De Guzman, Mangondato, Abella, Gonzales, Montemayor and their followers to unite behind VP Leni. He beseeches all to put aside pride and prejudice if only to save the nation from the specter of a Marcos Jr. presidency. The threat we face, at this juncture, is far greater than anyone’s political ambition, declared Orbos. What is at stake are the lives of 112 million Filipinos and future generations to come.

IM Pilipinas has a membership base of 400,000 that spans the entire archipelago. It counts several governors, mayors and congressmen in its ranks, the majority of whom witnessed the atrocities and failures of Marcos’ 21-year rule.

With Marcos Junior professing to carry the torch of the father whilst being a self-confessed Machiavellian, the folks at IM Pilipinas fear the demise of our democratic institutions should he become president. They fear a collapse of the economy due to the absence of a roadmap for economic development. They fear the return of unabashed corruption and the consolidation of power among political dynasties. They fear a comeback of crony capitalism. They fear the deeper abasement of human rights.

They fear that government’s claims over Marcos’ stolen wealth and tax liabilities will be dropped and the loot will be made legitimate. Worse, they fear that since Marcos maintains cozy relations with the Chinese, our claims to the West Philippine Sea will be rendered benign and our foreign policies will be made to bend to China’s will. These fears are echoed by all other presidential candidates.

Marcos loyalists may not share the same views – which we respect. In the same manner, we must not minimize the worries of IM Pilipinas and all those burnt by Marcos Senior’s presidency.

I stand with Orbos in his call for unity. We must not take risks with the fate of the nation. It is more prudent to veer to the safe side and support the candidate who is proven honest, without criminal convictions and who is most prepared academically and experientially.

To this, I appeal to the trailing presidential candidates to do the heroic act of giving way to the strongest Marcos opponent. After all, the nation has already bestowed upon you untold fame, influence, respect and a good livelihood for decades. You’ve had a good run – now it’s time to take one for Team Philippines.

The consolidation of forces that Orbos proposes is nothing new. It will be recalled that in September 2021, Panfilo Lacson proposed a formula whereby candidates check the survey results at the later end of the campaign to see which candidate has the best chances of defeating Marcos. He suggested that the rest of the candidates withdraw in favor of the strongest candidate.

We are at that point today, says Orbos. Now is the time to rally behind Marcos Junior’s challenger. Not to do so will only work to his favor.

Even now, hundreds of governors, mayors, congressmen and sectoral leaders have expressed their intention to defect to VP Leni’s camp, disclosed Orbos. The only concession they are asking is a safe space within Robredo’s sphere. Many are concerned that should they defect, they may be treated as outsiders, second-class citizens or even persecuted for having supported another candidate at the onset. These concerns are understandable.

Although VP Leni has said it before, I suggest that the camp of the Vice President reiterate that all defecting parties are welcome. That no one will be discriminated nor disrespected but treated as equals. And, depending on their competencies, all will be given a fair opportunity to contribute to nation building when the new government is formed. A reassurance of this kind is necessary to allay hesitancies.

Most seasoned politicians already have inroads to VP Leni’s core group. However, many neophytes and civil society groups may not have such contacts. To this, I was told that a senior member of VP Leni’s team was designated to receive and, if necessary, negotiate the terms of defection. It is a “defector fast track lane,” if you will. This is important to ensure that defections are processed expeditiously and that conditions of defections remain binding.

The last Pulse Asia survey covering March 17-21 shows Marcos leading with a 56 percent voter share, down four points from 60 percent last February. VP Leni, on the other hand, surged nine points from 15 percent in February to 24 percent in March.

Marcos is trending downwards while Robredo is gaining momentum at twice the rate. On the other hand, the TruthWatch and Mobilis Research survey results put Marcos at 52 percent and Robredo at 30 percent.

Will the rankings intersect before May 9? It all depends on the velocity of trajectory of both candidates. One thing is for sure, if the rest of the presidential candidates and their supporters unite behind VP Leni, the probability of intersection increases in quantum.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @aj_masigan


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