The Senate and the House of Representatives, acting as the National Board of Canvassers, has finally finished counting the votes cast for president and vice president Friday night.
While the landslide victory of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the presidential race has been clear since the moment the polls closed, the vice presidential race proved to be a lot more exciting. Senator Bongbong Marcos led by as much as a million votes in the first hours of counting but Robredo overtook him the morning after the elections. She went on to maintain a small-but-persistent 200,000 vote lead over him up until the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and the Kapisanan ng Brodkaster ng Pilipinas ended their unofficial tally.
It would be good to look back at how the vice presidential ended. Early surveys indicated that the front runner was Senator Francis Escudero with Marcos significantly behind. However, The Filipino Scribe pointed out that Marcos can ultimately emerge victorious over Escudero because apart from enjoying the backing of long-time Marcos loyalists, he has a solid geographic base of support: the Solid North, Metro Manila, as well as Eastern Visayas. Escudero for his part cannot claim Bicol region as a bailiwick because three other VP contenders came from it – Robredo, as well as Senators Gregorio Honasan and Antonio Trillanes IV.
There was a strong push for a formal alliance between Duterte and Marcos. That would have been understandable especially given their similar style of governance and common base of supporters including millenials and overseas Filipinos. However, Duterte was initially non-committal about running in the beginning. And while he was dilly-dallying, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano presented himself to Duterte as a running-mate. Marcos then aligned himself with Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Duterte decided to formalize his presidential bid by December.
Now, it can be reasonably believed that more Duterte supporters prefer Marcos as the vice president over Cayetano, who is viewed by many as a Johnny-come-lately opportunist. With just a month to go before the elections, Duterte released a television ad where he appealed to his supporters to support Cayetano and not anybody else. “Kung hindi ninyo iboboto si Alan, wag niyo na ako botohin,” (“If you won’t vote for Alan, don’t vote for me as well.”) he memorably said.
Meanwhile during the first VP debate last April 10, Cayetano threw frontal attacks against Marcos. He repeatedly hammered his party mate at Nacionalista Party over the crimes committed by his father and namesake during his dictatorship from 1965 to 1986.
Duterte’s strong appeal to his supporters to vote for Cayetano no doubt propelled his running-mate to a third place finish, surpassing Escudero. Although it’s not enough to make Cayetano win the VP race, he siphoned enough votes that might have otherwise went to Marcos. And knowing how close he lost to Robredo, it can be said that Duterte contributed to his defeat.
1) Marcos’ loss in the VP race is very good news for Cayetano. It means his group won’t have to compete for influence against the Marcos camp inside the Duterte administration.
2) Questions had been raised as to how Marcos can possibly lose the VP race narrowly even after receiving the endorsement of the influential sect Iglesia ni Cristo (INC). Here’s my take: Perhaps, it didn’t really give him a big boost since INC members were already inclined to vote for him in the first place given his family’s decades-long ties to the group.