As Election Day approaches, Marcos Jr. maintains big lead in presidential race

Camille Elemia
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As Election Day approaches, Marcos Jr. maintains big lead in presidential race Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. flashes his fist during a campaign rally in Santa Rosa, a suburb of Manila, March 11, 2022.
Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews

With about three weeks to go until millions of Filipinos elect a successor to President Rodrigo Duterte, polls show the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos remains well out in front of nine other candidates vying to become the next Philippine leader.

While Vice President Leni Robredo is polling second behind Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and has been drawing thousands to campaign rallies, three other candidates who trail them called on Robredo to drop out as they vowed to stay in the race through the May 9 vote.

Panfilo Lacson, a senator and former police chief, Francisco Domagoso, a former action film star who is the current Manila mayor, and Norberto Gonzales, a former defense chief, complained during a joint press conference that representatives of Robredo had approached them to back down and instead support her candidacy in a show of unity. Boxing icon and fellow presidential contender Manny Pacquiao was supposed to join them, but did not attend the press conference. 

“I’m calling for Leni to withdraw because whatever [she is] doing is not effective against Marcos. Withdraw, come and join us,” said Domagoso, who ranks third in polls leading up to the vote. 

Lacson said their campaigns should not be overlooked because they were “offering options.”

“The intention was not to unite the so-called opposition, but to unite under one candidate,” he said, referring to the overtures made to them by Robredo’s camp.

Philippine presidential candidates (from left to right) Francisco Domagoso, Norberto Gonzales and Panfilo Lacson show their joint statement that they will remain in the race leading up to the May 9 vote, during a news conference in Manila, April 17, 2022. [BenarNews]

A joint statement issued after the hastily called Easter Sunday news conference said the candidates would “join forces to fight any attempts to bend the will of the people through moves that will limit their choices. We will never back down from the campaign.”

Lacson said some people were backing Marcos Jr. because they are against the Liberal Party, Robredo’s former political party that has faced false claims and attacks since 2016. 

Local election fact-checker, reported that data showed Marcos Jr. was the top beneficiary of “positive” disinformation, while Robredo is “reeling from preponderantly negative messages.”  

Robredo has admitted that countering false claims can be difficult. In discussions with Catholic priests and clergy, she sought help to counter lies and help in voters’ “discernment.”

Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo attends a private church gathering in Antipolo, a Catholic pilgrimage site east of Manila, April 5, 2022. [Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews]

Bruised egos 

Some voters saw the trio’s news conference as a public display of machismo and act of “desperation,” said Aries Arugay, a political analyst from the University of the Philippines. 

“It revealed a lot of things. Where will you have lower-ranked candidates who have the audacity to make demands despite their lack of leverage?” Arugay told BenarNews. 

It was also an apparent attempt to disrupt Leni Robredo’s momentum, whose political rallies have drawn the largest crowds, he said. Despite those turnouts, polls show her lagging behind Marcos Jr.

In a March survey by independent pollster Pulse Asia Research Inc., Marcos Jr. drew support among 56 percent of those polled, Robredo trailed with 24 percent while Domagoso, Pacquiao and Lacson garnered a combined 16 percent and Gonzales scored zero. The other candidates include a labor leader, a former presidential spokesman and a doctor.

Marcos Jr., also known as Bongbong, is the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who led the country under martial law for two decades before being ousted in 1986 during a peaceful, people’s power uprising. 

More than 30 years later and despite corruption and tax-related cases against the family, Marcos Jr. is topping pre-election surveys. 

But Arugay argued that surveys only show the “quantity, not the quality of support,” referring to the grassroots campaign for Robredo.

Marcos, who hails from the northern Philippines, is running with vice presidential candidate Sara Duterte-Carpio, Duterte’s daughter who serves as Davao city mayor on the southern island of Mindanao, in a move analysts see as an effort to consolidate their support

Barry Gutierrez, a Robredo spokesman, criticized the rivals’ news conference, saying “silence would have had more depth.” 

“Must this assertion be made through bluster and falsehood? Who benefits from such theatrics?” Gutierrez said in a statement on Sunday. 

“With three weeks to go before Election Day, we are at a time of great momentum for our People’s Campaign, and increasing clarity as regard to which candidates can count on the people’s support when they enter voting booths on May 9,” he said, noting every candidate has a prerogative to go on with their campaign, regardless of poll standings.


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