VP Leni holds the scales
Many people expect Vice President Leni Robredo to announce her presidential candidacy based on the expected results of the “internal investigation” carried out by 1Sambayan from September 12-25. Ping Lacson, Manny Pacquiao and Isko Moreno, all declared presidential candidates, are among the choices of the 1Sambayan survey alongside Vice-President Leni and former Senator Antonio Trillanes. The results of the survey of 3 million members of 1Sambayan, registered by 126 organizations and many foreign chapters, are now available.
The 1Sambayan process is problematic. It morphed into a mechanism to create the lens of a wave of opinion for VP Leni. Even if Moreno, Lacson, Pacquiao or Trillanes win this internal poll, 1Sambayan will still choose Vice President Leni as the only opposition candidate. The internal investigation is only “recommendable” to two other stages of verification, the general assembly of 1Sambayan and the group of convenors. 1Sambayan will only conclude with one result, the approval of VP Leni as the “sole opposition candidate”.
The electoral landscape has not improved significantly for VP Leni. The recent Pulse Asia poll from September 6 to 11 provides up-to-date information on candidates’ comparative voting performance. Sara Duterte-Carpio leads the way with 20 percent. Former Senator Bongbong Marcos has 15 percent, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno 13 percent, Senator Manny Pacquiao 12 percent, Vice President Leni 8 percent and Senator Ping Lacson 6 percent.
If Vice President Leni heeded the 1Sambayan clamor and added to the three declared candidates, she would further fragment rather than unify the field of candidates challenging President Duterte’s anointed. None of the declared candidates will withdraw their candidacy for the moment.
Given the sincerity and consistency of VP Leni’s desire to unite rather than fragment the challengers to Mr Duterte’s anointed, it is more likely that VP Leni will now transition to the strategic role of president-manufacturer. She will support Duterte’s challenger who comes closest to his vision and governance platform for 2022-2028 and best placed for electoral success.
Vice-President Leni will consolidate and engage her political support to strengthen indigenous support for the candidate meeting her endorsement. His candidacy may be insufficient to win the presidency, but his political backing could tip any of the challengers to victory. Such a coalition will lead the other two candidates, now relatively much weaker, to withdraw their candidacy in favor of the single candidate supported by VP Leni. This is in line with the idea of fairness of the top candidate Ping Lacson proposed to Vice President Leni the first time they met.
This scenario will only work, however, if the players are all open to the possibility of merging at the right time in the still seven-month-long anti-Duterte election campaign. This is what I think is the importance of VP Leni speaking to all declared presidential candidates. Many people imagine that in these talks, Vice President Leni is asking everyone to step aside in his favor. On the contrary, these talks, without a real agenda, could be confidence-building and confidence-building processes. They keep the lines of communication open for future decisive situations.
The existence of this strategic opening between the suitors was recently demonstrated by Isko Moreno. Two days before declaring his candidacy last week, Moreno paid a courtesy visit to Vice President Leni at his New Manila office to inform her that he was declaring his candidacy for the presidency, with Willie Ong as running mate. It was a gesture that VP Leni appreciated.
By choosing not to be a player, VP Leni would be more like a coach who guides players to victory. She will have more influence in shaping the eventual government platform. To support their vision, she and her supporters will have time to assess which of the candidates vying for Mr. Duterte’s anointed are most receptive and receptive to their vision of a government dedicated to truth, the justice, peace, inclusiveness, and development. As the campaign intensifies, the running candidates will be able to define themselves more clearly in terms of their government agenda, as well as the task of dealing with the excesses and injustices of the past.
If the choice is between a losing player and a winning coach, my fearless prediction is that VP Leni will not run in the May 2022 presidential election.
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