7 Philippine presidential hopefuls to watch, from 'Bongbong' Marcos to Leni Robredo and Manny Pacquiao

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
PHOTO: Reuters

Ninety-seven candidates have filed to run for the presidency, but when the election commission prunes the list by mid-December, rejecting nuisance candidates and those not capable of running a national campaign, there will probably be seven left.

Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Pacquiao

Bailiwick: Sarangani | Age: 42

Party and positions: Running under PROMDI (Progressive Movement for the Devolution of Initiatives). Thanks to his stellar boxing career, Pacquiao is one of the wealthiest candidates. He is also one of the youngest. Pacquiao is a senator, yet has rarely attended legislative sessions despite promising to do so. He is hoping to turn his popularity as one of the world’s greatest boxers into political capital, as are various members of his family who are also running for office.

Platform: Wants to be “friends” with China but at the same time wants to protect the Philippines’ rights in the South China Sea. Duterte has accused him of having a “very shallow knowledge” of the South China Sea issue. Pacquiao has vowed to fight corruption and poverty and stop the brutal war on drugs.

Running mate: Jose “Lito” Atienza Jnr (Bailiwick: Manila | Age: 80). Also running under PROMDI, former House deputy speaker Atienza is against the death penalty and birth control. When he was the mayor of Manila, the capital in 2005 signed a sister-city agreement with Beijing. Advocates closer relations with China.

ALSO READ: Philippines' Duterte challenges Pacquiao to expose corruption

Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jnr

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son of late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, poses for pictures after filing his certificate of candidacy for president in the 2022 national election, in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, on Oct 6, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

Bailiwick: Ilocos | Age: 64

Positions and party: Former member of the Nacionalista Party who has filed as a candidate under Partido Federal Pilipinas, a party founded by a former Duterte ally, Pantaleon Alvarez. Marcos, or Bongbong as he is commonly known, is the son of Ferdinand Marcos Snr, who ruled the country as a dictator and is accused of killing thousands in anti-communist purges and embezzling billions of pesos. Marcos Jnr never finished college, but has a special diploma from Oxford University.

He also claims to have a master’s degree in Business Administration from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, but admitted in 2015 he had never finished his dissertation. After being convicted of tax evasion in 2001, he served as governor of Ilocos Norte, then as a congressman and a senator, but failed in a bid to become vice-president in 2016, losing to Leni Robredo.

He demanded a recount but lost that too in February this year. He’s currently facing a case before the Commission on Elections, in which petitioners say he should be disqualified from the race due to his tax conviction.

Platform: Still formulating his foreign-policy agenda, but said this September he would continue President Rodrigo Duterte’s “policy of engagement” with China because “although it is criticised, it is the right way to go because whatever we do, we cannot go to war against China”. In 2016, he called Americans “our friends” but said the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement with the US should be reviewed.

He has promised to undertake a “massive” job creation programme in his first 100 days and to continue Duterte’s war on drugs. He says his government would not cooperate with the International Criminal Court investigation of Duterte’s drug war but that investigators would be allowed to enter the country as “visitors”.

Running mate: Sara Duterte-Carpio (Bailiwick: Davao | Age: 43). Banking on her father’s political alliances, Duterte-Carpio abandoned Hugpong ng Pagbabago (Faction for Change) – a regional party she formed to support her father’s 2019 senatorial and local candidates – to join the Lakas Christian Muslim Democrat Party of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which has now elected her as chairperson.

She served as vice-mayor of Davao City in 2007 while her father was mayor, then they switched places and won in 2010. As mayor, she punched a court sheriff and had to go on a short period of leave. She is a lawyer and is married to another lawyer, Manases Carpio.

Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso

Bailiwick: Manila | Age: 47

Party and positions: Running under the Aksyon Demokratiko (Democratic Action) party, Domagoso is an actor, politician and son of a stevedore who grew up in the slums of Tondo, Manila.

He was discovered by showbusiness impresario German “Kuya Germs” Moreno, won a seat on the Manila council in 1998, became vice-mayor in 2007 and in 2019 became vice-mayor for the second time. A team sent by former US President Donald Trump to Manila identified Domagoso as a potential presidential contender for 2022.

Platform: He has promised to be a “healing president” working with “all shades of the political spectrum”. He says he will pursue joint oil exploration of the West Philippine Sea, but only under a Philippine government service contract. He will use The Hague arbitral ruling on the South China Sea dispute as a bargaining chip with China.

While he says he “cannot blame” Chinese President Xi Jinping for claiming the sea for Beijing, he has expressed hope that China will respect the Philippine position “that we believe is ours”. Domagoso has dismissed labour contractualisation as the “least of his problems”. He says he will initially focus on reviving the economy and pruning down the bureaucracy.

Running mate: Willie Ong (Age: 58). A cardiologist with 16 million Facebook followers due to his online medical advice, Ong ran for senator in 2019 but lost. Ong advocates cheaper medical treatment and medicines, as well as the return of the death penalty for heinous crimes.

Leni Robredo

Bailiwick: Manila | Age: 56

Positions and party: Chairperson of the opposition Liberal Party, but is running as an independent. Robredo is a human-rights lawyer and economist who served three years in Congress. She is the widow of Jesse Robredo, a former local government secretary and winner of the Ramon Magsaysay award for public service.

Platform: On foreign policy, Robredo has said she is open to collaborating with China “in areas where we have no conflicts”. However, regarding the South China Sea territorial dispute, she has said that “we cannot deal with them” without China recognising the 2016 arbitral ruling by an international court in The Hague that sided with Manila over Beijing.

She has also said she is open to working with every country “as opposed to one that favours certain countries”. Robredo has promised to address the Covid-19 pandemic, the food crisis and job losses in her first 100 days.

Running mate: Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan (Bailiwick: Quezon City | Age: 58). Pangilinan is president of the Liberal Party, a lawyer with a BA in Comparative Literature from the University of the Philippines and a postgraduate degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Pangilinan started his political career as the youngest-elected councillor of the fourth district of Quezon City, but lost an election as congressman. He first won a senate seat in 2001.

Pangilinan is married to the actress Sharon Cuneta. One of Pangilinan’s big concerns is food security; he runs and owns a 1.7-hectare experimental organic farm growing vegetables and herbs, and once served as presidential assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernisation under the late president Benigno Aquino III.

Leodigario ‘Ka Leody’ de Guzman

A handout photo. Leodigario de Guzman wants to repeal Panfilo Lacson’s anti-terrorism act and abolish Duterte’s anti-terrorism law.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Bailiwick: Part of Oriental Mindoro province and his labour party | Age: 62

Party and positions: Representing the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (Solidarity of Filipino Workers) party, which split from Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Labor Movement). A graduate of the Philippine Maritime Institute and former factory worker, union organiser since 1984.

Platform: De Guzman advocates raising the minimum wage and banning labour practices in which workers remain as temporary hires, supports same-sex marriage and the legalisation of medical marijuana. He wants to repeal Panfilo Lacson’s anti-terrorism act and abolish Duterte’s anti-drug law. He also wants to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and opposes the death penalty.

Running mate: Walden Bello ( Age: 76). Running under the Laban Ng Masa (Fight of the Masses) coalition, Bello was formerly affiliated with the Communist Party of the Philippines and was former congressman of the party-list Akbayan. He has a PhD in Sociology from Princeton University, and once stole and published 3,000 pages of confidential World Bank documents on the Philippines. Has written and edited 10 books including Paper Dragons: China and the Next Crash (2019).

Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson

Bailiwick: Cavite | Age: 73

Party and positions: Lacson is running for president for the second time. His first run was as an independent, now he is under the Partido para sa Demokratikong Reporma (Party for Democratic Reforms), banking on his long experience in crime-busting as a former military officer and the Philippine National Police director general, as well as his legislative work as a senator.

He has a controversial human-rights record and has been accused of both a massacre (all charges were dropped) and of a high-profile murder (which remains unsolved). He is the architect of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act, which Duterte has used to arrest left-wing activists and threaten critics with. It is the subject of an ongoing petition to repeal it before the Supreme Court.

Platform: Lacson is open to joint exploration of the West Philippine Sea with China, and the use of a “balance of power” strategy involving the US, Australia and Japan in the South China Sea dispute. He has vowed to continue Duterte’s war on drugs with “tweaks” and to pursue a “science-driven” pandemic response.

Running mate: Vicente “Tito” Sotto III (Bailiwick: Metro Manila | Age: 73). He’s the Senate president and chairman of the Nationalist People’s Coalition founded by the late tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jnr. Sotto started out as a comedian and musician then won election as vice-mayor of Quezon City. This is his second time running for vice-president. He aborted his first run in 1998 after being implicated in a scandal involving suspected drug lord Alfredo Tiongco.

Christopher ‘Bong’ Go

PHOTO: Facebook/Bong Go

Bailiwick: Mindanao, particularly Davao Region | Age: 47

Party and positions: Senator Go is running for president under the Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (Federalism of the Association of the Noble Blood, or PDDS), a party founded in 2018 by Greco Belgica, a Duterte appointee. He initially filed to run for vice-president under the ruling party PDP-Laban but withdrew the bid on Duterte’s orders.

He’s a surprise candidate, substituting for an unknown PDDS presidential candidate. Go is very loyal to Duterte, having worked as his right-hand man in Davao City since 1998. Lately been accused of “controlling” access to Duterte and forming a “cordon sanitaire” around him.

Platform: Go has not spelt this out. But he is known to adopt Duterte’s position on issues and do his bidding.

Running mate: Has not appointed one yet.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.