MANILA - Is there still a way for other candidates in the 2022 presidential elections to beat the frontrunner former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.?
In an interview with ANC, former Senator Sergio "Serge" Osmeña III said it's still possible to catch up despite Marcos' huge lead in the latest Pulse Asia survey, but his rivals should not go after him directly, but instead assail his father and namesake's legacy.
"You should hit the father [Ferdinand Sr.], and when that comes out, Bongbong will naturally slide," Osmeña said. He is one of four former senators who recently pledged support for Vice President Leni Robredo in the May 9 polls.
Marcos was ahead of second-placer Robredo by 44 points in the January 19-24, 2022 Pulse Asia survey or around 2-3 weeks before the start of the national campaign period on February 8.
Osmeña said Marcos' camp has been promoting positive news about his father on social media over the past decade, which has affected "a lot of people, particularly the young."
"We have to get to those people, and tell them 'no, that's not true', and this is what happened during martial law. Never mind Bongbong. Let's leave Bongbong aside for a while," Osmeña said. "Let us just point out what happened during martial law. And when they realize that, then they might change their minds."
Osmeña, a political detainee under the Marcos dictatorship, cited the human rights violations and economic downturn during that era, the latter caused partly by corruption and "cronyism" leading to high poverty rates.
According to Amnesty International (AI), some 70,000 people were imprisoned and 34,000 were tortured, while over 3,200 people were killed between 1972 and January 17, 1981, when martial law was officially lifted.
In a recent interview with television and online host Boy Abunda, Marcos said he did not know how AI came up with these numbers, and called on the human rights group to share its information because "maybe it will help us make sure that the system works and what alleged abuses occurred should not occur again."
After the interview, AI said it would send Marcos copies of its reports on martial law in the 70s and 80s.
"Tallano Gold" and other myths
Lito Banayo, campaign manager of presidential bet and Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso, told ANC that Marcos' popularity was a "puzzlement".
Banayo claimed Marcos supporters did not "think or contemplate on their choices as much as they did before." He added that the supporters supposedly believed the Philippines would become rich once the Marcos family distributed their "Tallano Gold" in case Bongbong won. The former senator has publicly denied the myth's existence.
"Naniniwala sa fake na ginto. Naniniwala (na) ibabalik daw iyong yaman na ninakaw. Ang masakit doon, inaamin nila na magnanakaw iyong pamilya (ni Marcos) pero basta ibabalik sa kanila," Banayo said, referring to the politician's family's ill-gotten wealth when the late dictator was in power.
(They believe in fake gold. They believe that they would return the wealth they stole. What hurts is that they admit that the [Marcos] family are thieves, but they expect them to give back what they took.)
At least one farmer in Ilocos Norte told ABS-CBN News he believed in the Tallano Gold myth, with the hope that the Marcoses would use the supposed riches to help people.
According to Banayo, the myths Marcos' camp has supposedly promoted over several years should be punctured like a balloon.
"Lobo lang 'yan e, it's just hot air and nothing else," Banayo said.
(It's just a balloon; it's just hot air and nothing else.)
According to Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda, Marcos can still be defeated if it's a "one on one" race, as he stressed the need for the non-administration candidates for president to unite.
Salceda said on ABS-CBN's Teleradyo on Wednesday that out of Marcos' 60 percent voter preference in Pulse Asia's latest survey on preferred presidential candidates, 15 percent came from voters who had already "surrendered" because his rivals were divided.
"Sabi ko you better work on a unity among candidates, or some candidates have to make that supreme sacrifice," Salceda said, referring to a conversation between him and the camp of Robredo.
(I said you better work on a unity among candidates, or some candidates have to make that supreme sacrifice.)
The Albay lawmaker has declared support for Robredo's candidacy, along with that of Marcos' running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
"Meron pang oras before March 24 ng local campaigning. So, I think the timeline is they need to unite at least before the local campaign kicks in," he said.
(There is still time before March 24, or the start of the local campaigning [period].)
When asked whether it was still possible for other candidates to step aside to make way for a single candidate against Marcos, Salceda said it can be done because they all have similar positions on certain issues like foreign investments, oil prices, and the war on drugs.
He also noted that other major political parties like the Nacionalista Party, the National Unity Party, the Nationalist People's Coalition, and the PDP-Laban have yet to endorse a presidential candidate.
Salceda added that the only other way for other candidates to beat Marcos was for a "national trauma" to occur that would disrupt what he called a "fascination" for strong leaders like Bongbong's father.
"Kumbaga, there are two ways. One is if the non-admin [candidates] unite, and second if there's a national trauma that will essentially disrupt what I call the Nuremburg [Syndrome]," Salceda said, referring to the nostalgia felt by many Filipinos for the elder Marcos' roughly 20-year rule from 1965 to 1986.