THAT the administration party is forming a senatorial slate only means that, unlike what House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez may have wanted, the 2019 midterm elections is a go. Another sign is that all the federalism talks have screeched to a halt and legislators are focusing on other sordid issues, like the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. The federalism train won’t derail the elections.
Actually, the problem with being with the Partido Democratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) in a midterm election is overconfidence. The danger is in being drowned in the belief the party’s advantage in logistics and in President Rodrigo Duterte’s popularity would guarantee a landslide win for everyone in the slate.
That overconfidence shows in the naming by Alvarez of eight possible senatorial bets of the ruling party. Those named were Senate President Aquilino Pimental III, former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Francis Tolentino, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, Davao Rep. Karlo Nograles, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go.
Can those personalities win a nationwide election propped up solely by PDP-Laban’s advantage in logistics and the President’s support? If the administration puts up a lightweight slate, even its army of trolls could not make them win. That is why I think that lineup would change once reality bites. Surveys by the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia, plus those commissioned privately will guide the party’s choice.
The President may have gotten the most number of votes in the 2016 elections but those weren’t the majority. He won because those that didn’t like him split their votes in support of the candidacies of Mar Roxas, Grace Poe, Jejomar Binay and Miriam Defensor-Santiago. We don’t know where those voters will gravitate to in the senatorial race. But if we use past senatorial polls as gauge, they will mostly gravitate to old names.
In past senatorial jousts, the reelectionists carried the slates put up by political parties. I think most of the senators who ran higher posts in 2016 would be up for reelection, like Grace Poe and Antonio Trillanes IV. Senators first elected in 2013 would also be up for reelection like JV Ejercito, Nancy Binay, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, etc. I think PDP-Laban will eventually include some of them in its slate.
Of the eight that Alvarez named, only Pimentel is an incumbent and it would be interesting to find out if he is eligible to run for reelection. Note that when he assumed his post in 2011 it was for winning the 2007 senatorial race. When he ran for senator in 2016 he was basically a reelectionist already. Can he run for a third term?
As for the other names, the more noticeable would be Bong Go and Roque being the ones closely identified with the President. But that could also be their undoing. If they decide to go all the way and run, their candidacies would test the translatability of the President’s popularity to votes. Or wouldn’t the President’s critics be ganging on them?