The 2022 presidential election could be the "dirtiest and most vicious" yet in the history of the country, according to former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, with the winner deciding if the Philippines will continue the present policies of the Duterte administration.
Speaking to ANC's "Matters of Fact", Trillanes, a former vice-presidential candidate, said running for president in the next election is practically going to war, considering what is at stake amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"2022 would be probably one of the dirtiest, most vicious elections we will ever have because the other side, the Duterte camp, will be fighting for their physical freedom because they know that if the opposition wins -- and again we will win -- he is going straight to prison along with his cohorts," Trillanes said.
"That is what's at stake for them. For the opposition, what is at stake is the survival of the country," he added.
A February 22 to March 3 survey by Pulse Asia earlier showed Sara Duterte, daughter of President Duterte, leading the race with 27 percent voter preference more than a year before the 2022 elections.
Other candidates in the survey were former senator Bongbong Marcos (13 percent), Sen. Grace Poe and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno (12 percent), Sen. Manny Pacquiao (11 percent), Vice President Leni Robredo (7 percent), Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go (5 percent), former Vice President Jejomar Binay (3 percent), Sen. Panfilo Lacson (2 percent) and Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano (2 percent).
In the interview, Trillanes questioned the timing of the release of the survey, saying the poll was conducted 2 months ago.
"So many big, significant events have happened that could affect the results by now. A nationwide survey is only valid for only a month. During the campaign, it is even shorter, say, a week," he said.
He added: "The numbers that they are seeing for Sara Duterte and those aligned with Duterte may look high at this point but you have to look at where they came from."
He said that while Vice-President Leni Robredo has yet to decide whether or not she is running in the next election, there is still time to catch up with the survey frontrunners.
The former senator noted that the next election would have a polarized campaign between those aligned with Duterte and those who are not.
Trillanes said any Duterte-aligned candidate would have to defend the present administration's policies, including the president's decision not to oppose Chinese intrusion in the West Philippine Sea.
"A Duterte-aligned candidate would basically be a continuation of the present policy, not only the West Philippine Sea but the domestic policies. They will have to defend everything about Duterte. If you are aligned with him, the media, the electorate would ask them if you are supportive of the policies of Duterte. If you say no, they will say why are you aligned with him? Where were you during the times when these issues were being discussed?" he said.
Ultimately, however, he said corruption would still be top of mind in the next poll.
"While the issue of the West Philippine Sea is a very serious matter, a very sensitive matter and it resonates a lot of the electorate, the gut issues would still be at the forefront in 2022 and the cause of that is corruption. They saw how corruption has eroded the trust in government and affected the lives of so many people," he said.
"A lot of people are out of work and are dependent on the subsidies of the government, which they cannot give because of corruption. It would be the primary issue in 2022."