By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter
MANILA City Mayor Francisco “Isko” M. Domagoso would use the rest of his campaign period to present himself as an alternative to the top two presidential poll frontrunners, his spokesman said on Wednesday.
“We are focusing on the message that Mayor Isko is the alternative to the perceived frontrunners,” Ernest M. Ramel, Jr., who heads the mayor’s political party, said in a Viber message.
Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. has dominated opinion polls, with Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo a distant second. Mr. Domagoso is a distant third.
“We are spreading his accomplishments and his generosity and more importantly, his platforms for all the challenges that ordinary Filipino families struggle with every day,” he said. “It is possible for Mayor Isko to offer real solutions and fast action.”
Mr. Domagoso has been aiming for the endorsement of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who on Tuesday joined a campaign rally for the ruling party’s senatorial candidates.
The mayor’s claim to be an alternative candidate “remains a claim,” said Jan Robert Go, an assistant political science professor from the University of the Philippines.
“Isko’s statements betray his supposed alternative politics narrative,” he said in a Messenger chat. He noted that the former matinee idol whose rags-to-riches story has captivated many Filipinos “actively engages in name-calling, particularly against the supporters of Robredo.”
“He does not even engage them at the level of agenda or issues,” he added.
Ms. Robredo attracted 65,000 supporters at a grand rally on Tuesday night in Bataan province in northern Philippines. The province’s powerful political clan, the Romans, has backed the candidacy of Mr. Marcos.
Mr. Go said the Manila mayor had not tried to engage the camp of the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos on issues that hound his candidacy, except for his estate’s unpaid taxes worth more than P200 billion.
“On a more substantive plane, there is not much discussion — not exactly the alternative that we would expect.”
Mr. Domagoso on Wednesday asked Ms. Robredo to speak for herself instead of letting her spokesman do the talking for her.
At a press conference on Sunday, the mayor and other presidential poll laggards urged Ms. Robredo to withdraw from the presidential race, after calls by some sectors for them to back her instead to prevent another Marcos presidency.
He called the vice-president’s supporters “yellow,” a derogatory term used against the political supporters of the late President Benigno S.C. Aquino III.
His mother, the late President Corazon C. Aquino, led a popular street uprising that toppled the late dictator’s regime and forced him and his family into exile in the United States in 1986.
Some candidates always end up claiming to be an alternative because there are efforts to undermine the system established after the people-led uprising that toppled the late dictator’s martial rule, said Arjan P. Aguirre, a political science lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University.
“The ‘alternative candidate’ claim is deployed to frame the current electoral cycle as something that involves the decades-old rivalry between the two factions or families and narratives of the post-EDSA era,” he said in an e-mail.
“It presents Manila Mayor Isko Moreno as someone who can offer something new in terms of governance, motivation and leadership to this post-EDSA politics.”
He said Mr. Domagoso, who has flip-flopped on his support for the Duterte administration, might be replicating the brand of politics of Mr. Duterte, who had vowed to dismantle the country’s elite-dominated system.
“We see Isko trying to replicate that, in a way, but it does not mean that the alternative should be the option now, given the quality of the alternative being presented to us.”
“He was projecting himself quite well as a politician who was not part of the Yellow-Red binary, although the fact is he was already shifting allegiances within these two sides during his storied political career,” Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a research fellow at the Ateneo Policy Center, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.
Marcos loyalists and populist politicians have blamed the Aquino clan for the failures in the post-EDSA system.
Mr. Yusingco said Sunday’s news briefing by Mr. Domagoso and two other presidential bets might be an open declaration of war against Ms. Robredo.
He said the event did not go as planned “because his potential image as the most viable alternative candidate is now being buried by criticisms of misogyny, political sourgraping and hypocrisy.” “It unfortunately has unmasked him to be still a member of and standing in the same old personality-based and patronage-driven politics,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senator and boxing champ Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao said the call for Ms. Robredo to quit the presidential race had not been agreed upon by the presidential bets who attended the briefing.
“That press conference was not for attacking other candidates,” he told reporters in Filipino. It was meant for them to unite for clean and honest elections.
Mr. Pacquiao, who did not make it to the briefing due to a scheduling conflict, said he was surprised by what happened.
“It was not in the discussion to discredit another person there and to tell them to withdraw,” he said. “What I am expecting is that everyone will continue the run. Nobody will withdraw and what was said was unexpected.” —with Alyssa Nicole O. Tan