Philippine Elections 2022: Why Leni's Fifteen Million Votes Were Not Enough.

AuthorMccargo, Duncan

Fifteen million votes should have been enough to clinch the Philippine presidency. In 2016, Rodrigo Duterte won the presidential election with 16.6 million votes, while in 2010, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino secured 15.2 million votes to achieve victory. Both men won by large margins over their nearest rivals. In 2004, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo achieved a narrow victory with just under 13 million votes. But in 2022, Leni Robredo's total of 15,035,773 votes brought her nowhere near Malacanang Palace, after her rival Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. (popularly known as BBM, short for Bongbong Marcos) received an astounding 31,629,783 votes. Marcos Jr.'s 2022 tally was very close to the combined sum of the votes that he won in his unsuccessful 2016 vice-presidential race and the number of votes that Rodrigo Duterte secured in the presidential race that year. The winning "UniTeam" of Marcos Jr. and his vice-presidential running mate Sara Duterte, daughter of the incumbent president, successfully pooled support from the largely pro-Marcos "solid North" and the Duterte heartlands of Mindanao--as well as the populous Metro Manila region. Only in parts of the Visayas and in the Bicol peninsula did Leni dominate. (1)

How to explain these numbers? Many more people voted in 2022 than in previous elections: 83 per cent of the electorate cast their votes in 2022, compared with 80.67 per cent in 2016 and only 72 per cent in 2010. Most importantly, in 2022 the secondary candidates collapsed. There were 11 candidates on the ballot, but after Marcos Jr. and Leni Robredo, only boxing legend Manny Pacquiao managed a respectable showing with 3.6 million votes. Manila mayor Isko Moreno, once touted as a serious contender, gained less than two million votes, while the rest of the field, including former police chief Ping Lacson, failed to reach one million votes. In the past, presidential votes were usually split between a range of notable candidates, with the eventual victor rarely commanding a majority. In 2016, Duterte had faced serious challenges from three strong opponents: Mar Roxas, Grace Poe and Jeojamar Binay--the combined forces of Roxas and Poe alone could have defeated him. Rodrigo Duterte won in 2016 with 39 per cent of the vote, Noynoy Aquino in 2010 with 42 per cent, both Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2004 and Joseph Estrada in 1998 with 40 per cent, and Fidel Ramos in 1992 with just 23.57 per cent. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s 58.77 per cent was the highest vote share gained by any presidential candidate since his father's 1969 re-election. (2)

Scholars and commentators will be debating for years to come the reasons why Bongbong Marcos won the 2022 election by such a landslide. On the face of it, the result was shocking: Bongbong's father and namesake, Ferdinand E. Marcos, who was ousted from office by the People Power movement in February 1986 and later died in exile, has gone down in history as a kleptocratic ruler who presided over the theft of billions of dollars from Philippine state coffers. Marcos Sr. was also responsible for a wide range of human rights abuses during the martial law period from 1972 to 1981, his widow Imelda is out on bail while she appeals a 42-year jail sentence, and Bongbong himself stands accused of large-scale tax evasion. Not only was the Marcos family notoriously corrupt and abusive, but Bongbong had reached the age of 64 without accomplishing anything of note: despite attending both Oxford University and the Wharton School, he had never obtained a degree. A lightweight with a fondness for West End London musicals, he had been a largely absentee governor of Ilocos Norte, and a legislator--in both Congress and the Senate--with no discernable legislative legacy. Bongbong bore his father's name, but had clearly inherited neither his abilities nor his work ethic.

So why...

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