On May 9, 2016, a total of 18,069 national and local positions will be decided at elections in the Philippines. The run up to the elections witnessed the five-day candidacy registration at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) between October 12 and October 16, 2015, where a total of 130 filed for certificates of candidacy for the presidential race, and 19 for the vice-presidency. Voters have a vote each for the presidential and vice-presidential races; still, the discrepancy between the top and penultimate offices is instructive about the relative desirability of the respective offices. By way of comparison, 172 candidates are registered to run for the 12 senator seats up for contention, and 192 for the 58 party-list seats in the House. The campaign period for the president, vice-president, senator, and party-list representatives is slated for February 9 to May 7, 2016; for members of the House and other local offices, the campaign period will run from March 25 to May 7.
Clearly, not all 130 candidates who filed as candidates for the presidential race will be eligible to run; the Comelec will rule out “nuisance candidates” so that a final list of about five eligible candidates is expected to be announced around December 10, 2015.[i] The Comelec has also targeted December 10 as the deadline for substitutions, where a candidate substitutes for one that withdraws – such as occurred when LP Manuel Roxas II, the original candidate-elect for the Liberal Party in 2010 stepped aside for Aquino III to run as presidential nominee for the party – or is disqualified. This article surveys the backgrounds of likely candidates to emerge in that final tally for the presidential race, with their running mates, in alphabetical order:
Vice-president Jejomar Binay made clear his interest in the Presidency early on, resigning from his party of 30 years – the Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) – in April 2014 in order to launch his bid. Binay had enjoyed a significant run in the opinion polls – his approval ratings hit a high of 80 percent in Jaunary 2014 – but his ongoing struggles against corruption raps have taken a toll in the polls. Perhaps because of the falling numbers, Binay appeared to have trouble with a vice-presidential candidate: before formally announcing the Binay-Honasan ticket, Binay had wooed former president and current Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada, while Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. – son of former strongman-president Ferdinand Marcos – reportedly turned down Binay’s vice-presidential candidate offer.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was a presidential candidate in 1992, but lost the race to Fidel Ramos by less than 900,000 votes, and also in 1998. The Senator – who is on her last term in the Senate – made her name as a young judge who ruled against President Marcos’ martial law in 1985. Her latest victory is over lung cancer: the senator has been cancer-free since June 2015.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte had repeatedly denied interest in the presidency, despite equally persistent rumours of the possibility of his presidential run. Indeed, the mayor did not file a certificate of candidacy by the Comelec deadline. Still, on November 22, 2015, Duterte officially declared his candidacy for the president, because he was “terribly disappointed” with the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s (SET) ruling to dismiss the disqualification case against Senator Grace Poe, currently the front-runner in presidential polls. The official candidate from his political party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, Martin Dino, withdrew his candidacy for Duterte.
If the public opinion polls provide any insights, Senator Grace Poe is the candidate to beat in the presidential race: she has been the most popular of the potential presidential candidates since June 2015. Poe is the actor-turned-politician adopted daughter of Fernando Poe, also an actor who ran for the presidency in 2004 but lost to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Poe was elected to the senate in 2013 under Team PNoy, and was actively courted by Mar Roxas to be his vice-presidential running mate. Senator Poe’s candidacy has been challenged on the grounds that she is not a natural-born Filipino, so that the recent SET’s ruling is a major victory against her challengers. Poe has submitted to a DNA test to establish lineage with possible Filipino relatives.
Former Interior Secretary, Manuel Roxas II, was endorsed by President Aquino III for the 2016 race. Roxas was original candidate-elect for the LP in 2010, who stepped aside for Aquino III to run as presidential nominee for the party. While earlier polls had a poor showing for Roxas, the candidate’s standing has since improved to overtake VP Binay as the second most popular presidential candidate.
Clearly, the election news out of the Philippines promises to be abundant, if not interesting, given the total of 18,069 national and local positions in the elections that comprises 235 district congressmen; 81 governors; 81 vice governors; 772 members of Sangguniang Panlalawigan; 144 city mayors; 144 city vice mayors; 1,610 city councilors; 1,490 municipal mayors; 1,490 municipal vice mayors; 11,924 municipal councilors; one ARMM governor; ARMM vice governor; and 24 ARMM assemblymen.
[i] Those who make a mockery of the election system; those who seek to confuse voters through similarity of names between candidates; and those who have no bona fide or good faith in running for office.