Another Doy to another Cory

READER’S VIEWS - The Freeman

When I think of the George Santayana quote “Those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it” I think of partiality; I always see it as a breakaway piece from a two-part whole. The quote, by itself, suggests that history is nothing but a sewer of the shortcomings of man --which is not true. It is partial because what if we want to repeat something from the past: Should we unlearn the blessings of antiquity? Certainly not. Learning the past goes both ways. That is why to that I say: Learn the past so you can know what and what not to repeat.

The iconic Cory-Doy tandem of Cory Aquino and Doy Laurel is etched in the annals of history for many reasons --some might be antithetical to the word “tandem”. But it is mostly remembered as the tandem that, finally, ousted Ferdinand Marcos from the presidency during the 1986 snap elections. And it was no secret that the tandem would not have happened had Laurel not given way to the obstinate Aquino --setting aside his ambitions for the sake of a unified opposition. Unified opposition. Now where have I recently heard that one?

Fast forward to 2022: Another Marcos is shooting for the presidency. The latest Pulse Asia survey results still show Bongbong Marcos Jr. as the constant frontrunner for the presidency. Following him, by a large margin --to put it optimistically-- are Vice President Leni Robredo, Manila Mayor Isko Domagoso, and senators Manny Pacquiao and Ping Lacson. Each of the four was once considered as the “potential prospects” of a promising united opposition. And profoundly enough, like that of the Cory-Doy tandem, the aim of this united opposition was to deprive a Marcos of power.

Before the filing of the COCs, with the buzz of Bongbong’s presidential bid going around, Robredo --deemed as the de facto leader of the opposition--reached out to Domagoso, Pacquiao, and Lacson in a series of “unity talks.” One of the most promising mechanisms proposed was Lacson’s “sure-win” unification formula; basically, it suggests all of them file their candidacies and later withdraw in favor of the one who ranks higher in the surveys. Unsurprisingly, Robredo resisted Lacson’s proposal. Needless to say, judging from the current state of the presidential race, without any of the four showing signs of withdrawing, plans for a unified opposition were botched.

However, unity talks continue to linger less than a month before the polls. The call for Domagoso to withdraw which he claimed to have been instituted by a “hostile candidate” and Pacquiao and Lacson expressing their grievances about Rebredo’s emissaries “convincing” them to withdraw in favor of the vice president; spanning from twitter mobbing, hand gestures, and backdoor talks: At this point, this is more of an “indecent proposal” rather than a “talk”.

Robredo’s camp denied instituting the said “talks” but said that they are open to the idea of reviving Lacson’s unification formula. Perhaps, this is because the circumstances are convenient to Rebrodo given that she sits higher in the surveys. With her momentum and a last-minute merger with any of the three, the “opposition” might be able to pull off a Hail Mary to upset Marcos. But would the withdrawals of Moreno, Pacquiao, and Lacson really favor the opposition? No. There is a high possibility that the majority, if not all, of the votes that each of them would have garnered, will be absorbed by Marcos.

To start with Domagoso: Isko’s popularity is somehow reminiscent of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s populist rhetoric during the 2016 elections. Domagoso even said it himself that his supporters are substantially composed of DDS and even went as far as rebranding “DDS” to Domagoso Diehard Supporters. Considering this, in the event that Isko withdraws, even if he were to endorse Robredo it is unlikely that all of his supporters would transfer to her.

With regards to Pacquiao, although he has built a popularity of his own, his withdrawal would not simply guarantee that his supporters go to Robredo. Pacquiao’s popularity is based on Visayas and Mindanao; although Robredo might fare well in absorbing the majority of those from Visayas, it is unlikely that it would be the same in the case of those from Mindano given that Marcos has already established his popularity there --partly thanks to his running mate Sara Duterte Carpio.

Lacson’s withdrawal might not result in a boost in Marcos’ numbers but I doubt that it would be of significant help to Robredo. Though his economic agenda somehow intertwines with that of hers, Ping’s hard-line policies, let alone, him being the author of the Anti-Terror Act --which she partly opposed--are just contradictory to her “motherly” rhetoric. To argue on the absurd, even if she is to convince Ping to withdraw and welcome his endorsement pursuant to her realpolitik approach, Ping’s numbers would barely help hers amount to that of Marcos --assuming that she will get all of his supporters.

Now, if we are to look back on the epoch of the 1986 snap elections, what must be done? Well, in order to prevent another Marcos from returning to power --the holy grail of the opposition-- another Doy must give way to another Cory. Albeit having the mechanism, albeit having the better chance, albeit being the “most qualified”. And since neither of Domagoso, Pacquiao, or Lacson has the means to make a sacrifice as substantial as that of Doy’s, it is a choice that I think Robredo should take.

Which begs the question: Who should be the “Cory” to her “Doy”? Now, this argument is only as good as the assumption that the other three would cooperate, but Domagoso would make a better choice. Not only does he have better numbers and machinery than the other two, Domagoso’s man-of-the-people approach --among his other idiosyncrasies-- would give him better chances of absorbing their supporters (including Robredo’s) than the other way around. Rumors about him being the incumbent president’s “secret candidate” is also a factor worth batting an eye for.

But who gets to be the “Cory” is only incidental; the fate of the opposition relies mainly on Robredo’s hands. In order to pull off that much-needed Hail Mary, she must swallow --with a pinch of practicality-- the possibility that her momentum will not be enough to catch up with Marcos in time for the polls and, instead, rally her supporters behind a single candidate --she must become the Doy that the opposition needs. Robredo must learn the past in order to repeat it.

Joshua Mata Tiongzon


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