MANILA – A week-long registration for election opened in the Philippines on Friday (Oct 1), which will end months of speculation over who will vie to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte when his term ends next year.

For now, all eyes are on these five people:

Ms Sara Duterte-Carpio

The 43-year-old Davao city mayor is the chosen political heir of Mr Duterte. She and her father have been swopping control of Davao as either mayor or vice-mayor since 2007.

Like her father, she styles herself as a populist, opting to be called “Inday”, a way of letting everyone know that while she comes from a privileged, powerful family, she is essentially a provincial lass with roots planted firmly in the mean streets of her city.

She also has a mean streak. She once punched a court sheriff in the face four times for refusing her request to stop evicting a community of squatters.

Ms Duterte-Carpio has publicly quarrelled with her father. In 2016, she confessed to having been raped when she was much younger amid a torrent of rape jokes her father had made. Mr Duterte brushed off the revelation, and called her a “drama queen”.

She is a formidable politician in her own right. She successfully steered a loose coalition of seven political parties allied with her father to a landslide victory in the closely watched Senate race in 2019.

Ms Duterte-Carpio remains the odds-on favourite to win if elections are held today, but she has been playing coy about her plans.

She has said she will not run if her father insists on gunning for the vice-presidency. But pundits say that may just be a ploy to appeal to Filipinos’ penchant for backing a reluctant candidate.

Mr Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

PHOTO: FERDINAND BONGBONG MARCOS JR/FACEBOOK
PHOTO: FERDINAND BONGBONG MARCOS JR/FACEBOOK

Few believed that Mr Marcos would amount to anything much without his father and namesake, the dictator who ruled the Philippines for 21 years.

Back in 1986, when his family fled to Hawaii after a “people power” uprising toppled the Marcos regime, he was a lanky, long-haired, 28-year-old playboy with the wild yacht parties.

Yet, 35 years on, Mr Marcos, nicknamed “Bongbong” and now 64, is on the cusp of becoming the next president.

A poll by survey firm Pulse Asia shows him just 5 percentage points behind Ms Duterte-Carpio. A separate internal, privately funded survey has him already taking the lead.

He has broadened his support among those who are breaking off from Mr Duterte, while keeping the solid block of voters in the northern parts of the Philippines that has always been loyal to his family.

Mr Marcos had been both a congressman and a senator. He had also been governor of Ilocos Norte province, the Marcos’ bailiwick.

In 2016, he ran for vice-president but lost to Ms Leni Robredo, widow of a popular politician. He later waged a long, bitter but ultimately unsuccessful campaign to reverse his loss.

Mr Isko Moreno

PHOTO: REUTERS
PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr Moreno’s political star soared after he became mayor of Manila in 2019, beating a formidable politician, former president Joseph Estrada.

His response to the pandemic has made him very popular among those living in the capital. But a compelling backstory is reeling in a much broader support.

Mr Moreno, 46, grew up dirt poor in a slum in Tondo, Manila’s largest but poorest district with a murder rate of one a day. As a child, he scavenged for scraps in landfills and collected old newspapers to help his family make ends meet.

A talent scout spotted him during a wake in 1993 when he was 18. He later appeared in a popular variety show, moving soon to TV dramas and movies.

While still working as an actor, and still a youthful 23, he was elected to the Manila City Council. He served as deputy to Mayor Alfredo Lim and then Mr Estrada, who went on to become president from 2007 to 2016. He ran for a seat in the Senate in 2016, but lost.

Mr Moreno is styling himself as a centrist candidate. He has avoided criticising Mr Duterte himself or indicting the Marcos family for trying to whitewash the brutal rule under martial law of Mr Marcos. He has been distancing himself from the main opposition party.

Pundits say while his campaign tactic seeks to reel in defectors and the undecided, it may ultimately backfire, as he may be seen instead as indecisive and an opportunist.

Mr Manny Pacquiao

PHOTO: EPA-EFE
PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The 42-year-old superstar boxer announced earlier this week his retirement from the sport. He was first off the blocks to file his candidacy on the first day of registration.

He finished his 26-year, 72-fight career with 62 wins, eight losses and two draws. He is the only fighter in history to win 12 world titles in eight different weight classes.

Along the way, he won thrilling fights against the world’s top boxers, all future Hall of Famers, to cement his reputation as a boxing legend while earning hundreds of millions of dollars along the way.

Like Mr Moreno, Mr Pacquiao has also been leaning on his past to burnish his reputation as a “man of the people”.

He was born dirt poor in 1978 in Kibawe town, in the southern province of Bukidnon. He once recalled sleeping on flattened cardboard boxes stacked together just high enough to provide some cushion from the hard floor.

He said he was always in rags, and his mother’s shack was the only one in his village that did not have a TV. He had to quit school when he was 10, after his father, who was never around, left for good. He flitted from one odd job to another, hawking bread or helping unload tuna at a wharf, to help his mother make ends meet.

But the fame and the backstory may not be enough to net him the presidency.

Political analysts say his recent poll ratings shows that while Filipinos worship him as a boxer, they are less than impressed with him as a politician.

His ongoing quarrel with the still formidable Mr Dutete for control of the ruling political party has been a costly distraction.

Ms Leni Robredo

PHOTO: LENI ROBREDO/Twitter
PHOTO: LENI ROBREDO/Twitter

The 56-year-old current Vice-President had in the past left politics in the hands of her husband, Mr Jesse Robredo. But when he died in a plane crash in August 2012, she set off on her own run as a politician.

A lawyer and economist, she defeated the patriarch of a powerful political clan to win a seat in Congress in 2013.

In 2016, President Benigno Aquino convinced her to run as vice-president to foil Mr Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s own bid for the country’s No. 2 post.

She won by a narrow margin over Mr Marcos, who demanded a recount. That election protest dogged her vice-presidency for years, till the Supreme Court finally ruled in her favour.

She has also had to deal with being an outcast in Mr Duterte’s government. The president and vice-president are elected separately in the Philippines.

Mr Duterte appointed her twice to key positions, first as housing minister and then “anti-drug czar”, but quickly changed his mind, insisting that she has been secretly working to unseat him.

Without Mr Duterte’s support, she has been using whatever funding she can get as vice-president to provide aid during calamities, housing for some 40,000 families, and livelihood for grassroots communities.

She has been distributing protective equipment to health workers and providing vaccines in poor, under-served districts.

But as head of the Liberal Party, identified with the Aquino family, she has had to parry accusations that she represents everything that went wrong in the Philippines since the 1986 People Power revolt that ended the Marcos regime.

That is probably the main reason why she is bringing up the rear in the polls.

She has yet to decide if she will run for president, despite an endorsement from a broad coalition of civil society groups and businessmen opposed to Mr Duterte.

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