Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno formalized his much-speculated candidacy for the presidency this week. However, what no one saw coming was his announcement of Doctor Willie Ong as his nominee for vice president after Senator Grace Poe declined to join him on the ticket.
Ong, a cardiologist and specialist in internal medicine, is best known for his frequent appearances in medical television programs and for dispensing health advice through his newspaper columns and social media platforms. He and his wife Lisa has over 15 million followers on Facebook and 6 million YouTube subscribers. He placed 18th out of 62 candidates during the 2019 senatorial elections with 7.6 million votes.
Moreno’s decision to tap Ong as his running-mate is understandably bringing to light parts of his record that are rather unsavory. For example, his pronouncements against the Dengvaxia is bringing scrutiny, as well as his past association with social media blowhards Mocha Uson and Banat By.
His fellow doctors, meanwhile, are pointing out that he has given dubious medical advice on certain instances. Apart from that, Ong does not have any substantive experience in government service.
It is likely that Moreno offered Ong the #2 slot because he is a political outsider – something that will reinforce his image as a young reformer. However, the Manila mayor seems to have overlooked the fact that he needs to appeal primarily to opposition voters. He should be strengthening his acceptability to opposition-leaning and Duterte-disaffected voters especially in the event that Vice President Leni Robredo opts not to run.
Given his tirades against President Rodrigo Duterte, it is highly unlikely that he will be able to get support from from Duterte supporters as well as the loyalists of the Marcos family. Why will they settle for a “lite” version of Duterte and Marcos when they have the originals?
A wiser approach for Moreno would have been for him to declare his candidacy without announcing a running-mate just like what Manny Pacquiao did. The #2 position in his ticket could have been his way of unifying the opposition by offering it to Robredo or maybe even former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
By naming Ong as his running-mate, Moreno seems to have closed his doors on that, although the deadline for the filing of candidacies is still on October 8. A lot can still happen.