COVER STORY

2022 polls: Possible contenders, alliances and their prospects of winning, according to experts

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — With a little over two weeks left before the filing of certificate of candidacy begins, several of those floated as contenders in the 2022 elections have yet to officially announce their plans.

The upcoming polls are expected to be markedly different from the usual as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on. Still, familiar names remain, although some alliances may have shifted.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' Politics As Usual, three political experts shared their forecasts on those reported or rumored to run, including their prospects of winning.

President Duterte, Senator Go

A faction within the ruling party PDP-Laban has endorsed Senator Bong Go as its standard-bearer, with President Rodrigo Duterte as his running mate.

Go has turned down the candidacy, while Duterte has confirmed he is running for vice president. But Duterte added he will give way if his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, seeks the highest office.

Political consultant Greg Garcia and campaign strategist Alan German, however, believe Duterte will ultimately not join the race.

READ: Duterte unlikely to push through with VP bid, experts say

They also think the proposed Go-Duterte tandem will fall through, with German noting the senator's numbers have "consistently been low" despite launching political advertisement, including online, "in full speed."

"Definitely, he's got the machinery," German said of Duterte's long-time aide. "I think he has the resources, but I'm not sure if that's enough to carry the man and the message."

The tandem also "does not make sense" given the less-than-ideal reception by the public, according to Garcia, who suggested it could be nothing more than a case of pre-election posturing.

Vice President Robredo

On the side of the opposition, Vice President Leni Robredo is among those eyed to succeed Duterte. While confirming a presidential bid is possible, she also listed other options, including vying for a local seat in Camarines Sur or quitting politics altogether.

For Garcia, national numbers currently show no promise for Robredo.

He said this is probably due in no small part to her image as one of the fiercest critics of Duterte, who seems to continue to enjoy significant support. Going local, he added, may be the better option for the vice president.

German, meanwhile, said she may be "more effective" as an alliance builder.

Robredo earlier told CNN Philippines that she is mulling over bigger factors besides just numbers in deciding on her 2022 plans. She has also been in talks with other potential candidates in a bid to forge unity among the opposition.

READ: Robredo 'way past' numbers, personal convenience' in 2022 plans

Senators Lacson, Sotto

Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson and Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III have officially declared their tandem and candidacy for president and vice president, respectively.

According to political strategist Lito Banayo, Sotto has a good fighting chance, but that the same cannot be said so far for his running mate.

Still, the experts agree Lacson is not one to back out of the race or slide down to a vice presidential run. If victory continues to appear murky for Lacson, the more likely alternative would either be another go at the Senate or retirement, they added.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte

Also among the expected presidential bets is the First Daughter, Sara Duterte, who has topped a number of election surveys.

The incumbent Davao City mayor earlier said she will not gun for a national seat next year if her father decides to do the same.

READ: Sara Duterte says she won't run for president after her father officially accepts VP nomination

This appears to rule out a Duterte-Duterte tandem, which the experts predict would ultimately not fly. The two highest government posts ending up in the hands of family is fraught with danger and would likely be rejected by Filipino voters, they said.

What could work and is "highly" possible, according to the experts, is a team-up with another political brand, particularly one that holds power in the other side of the country — former Senator Bongbong Marcos.

Former Senator Marcos, Former Defense Chief Teodoro

Marcos said he will definitely run for a national post, although specifics remain unclear.

According to German, an alliance between Sara and the son of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos can be seen as a powerhouse, as the two are cemented brands in the country's southern and northern parts, respectively.

READ: Bongbong Marcos: Tandem with Sara Duterte? Everything is possible

"I think that will happen," Garcia also said. "I see (it) based on the numbers and historically on the way candidates behave. I think there will be a Bongbong-Sara tandem."

Despite the horrors of martial law, he added the Marcoses continue to hold sway in politics, evidenced by Imee winning a Senate seat and Bongbong coming in a close second to Robredo in the 2016 vice presidential race.

Another rumored potential running mate of Sara is former Defense chief Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro, who flew to Davao City to meet the mayor earlier this year. Teodoro ran for president in the 2010 elections. He returned to private life after placing fourth in the race.

Should he vie for a national post, Banayo and Garcia said over a decade away from the public eye would be disadvantageous for Teodoro. "Twelve years is a long time in politics. Out of sight, out of mind," Banayo said.

Manila Mayor Moreno

Emerging as one of the top public bets in national surveys, the numbers are in favor of Manila City Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso, Garcia said.

"I think this is Isko's moment, based on the numbers again…I've always maintained that Duterte was the everyman 1.0. People are looking for the everyman 2.0, and right now, he fits the bill," the political consultant added.

German and Banayo also think the presidency is the mayor's next step, if not local re-election.

Moreno was appointed party president of Aksyon Demokratiko last month, although he appears to continue to weigh his options for next year.

Other incumbent and former lawmakers

Other lawmakers have also indicated their intent to run for higher office.

For one, Senator Manny Pacquiao is eyed as the standard-bearer of the group he leads within PDP-Laban. He is expected to announce his decision this month.

But experts think his prospects of becoming president are slim.

"Because of the pandemic and because of the economic problems we have...I think this is one election where people will weigh competence much more than popularity or anything else," Banayo said. "With that as a premise, I don't think Senator Manny, even if he runs, will win."

Another member of the Congress, Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, is eyeing the top government post.

In 2016, he lost in the vice presidential race, with Duterte as his running mate. For Garcia and Banayo, Cayetano is already doing well in Congress, numbers-wise, and that trying again for a higher post could be a risky leap.

The same applies to Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who is seeking a tandem with Sara Duterte, the experts said. They believe it might be best for Gatchalian to stay in the Senate for now, where he's "a cinch for re-election."

Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe, who is rumored to be considering the vice presidency, would be a strong contender, according to Banayo and Garcia.

"That's what I'm seeing, and the fact that she's come up with television ads lately seems to show she's trying to test the waters whether a vice presidential run is possible or likely," Banayo added.

Asked about former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, German thinks it could be difficult for him to secure allies.

"First, he was a staunchly anti-Duterte figure. Unfortunately, towards the latter part of his pronouncements, even the Liberal Party, he was already scratching them the wrong way," he said. "Even his erstwhile allies are now looking at him with maybe two or three question marks right now."

Return to Senate

Banayo, Garcia, and German also shared their thoughts on some politicians' reported plans of a Senate comeback.

Among others, the list includes former Senators Loren Legarda, who is now House Deputy Speaker and representative of the lone district of Antique; Francis "Chiz" Escudero, the current governor of Sorsogon; and JV Ejercito.

Legarda and Escudero both confirmed their Senate bids. The experts believe both have a high chance of returning, as they are already established personalities in the upper chamber.

Ejercito, meanwhile, would have his chances reduced if his half-brother former Senator Jinggoy Estrada runs for the same post, as they would cancel each other out, they noted.

READ: Senate race shaping up as 'veterans' eye comeback

'Pandemic, youth to define elections'

The health crisis has given weight to the value of competent government officials, the experts said, adding this will hopefully reflect in the votes.

They urged the public to carefully review candidates' track records instead of simply putting trust in surnames.

"This is one election where people, especially the young people...will look very closely at the accomplishments, the qualifications of the candidates, as well as of course, the character," Banayo said.

"I think that if more young voters go to the polls, that could be a defining moment for Philippine elections," he added.

RELATED: Young Filipinos comprise 52% of total registered voters for 2022 polls so far — Comelec