The Race for the Philippine Presidency Has Begun

Recent Features


The Race for the Philippine Presidency Has Begun

A closer look at the four major candidates ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

According to the Philippine Commission on Elections, 130 persons have applied to run for president in next year’s election. The majority are unknown aspirants who will likely be disqualified for lacking the means to mount a nationwide campaign. The election itself is set for May 9.

There are four major candidates with both strong party backing and large public following. The administration candidate is former interior secretary Mar Roxas. Opposition leader and incumbent vice president Jejomar Binay also formally registered his bid for the presidency. Neophyte Grace Poe, a senator and the leading candidate based on several surveys, also submitted her certificate of candidacy this week. But the surprise candidate is Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who declared her intention to run for president only a few days ago.

Roxas is the grandson of a former president and son of a former senator. He topped the Senate race in 2004 and became the leader of Liberal Party, one of the country’s oldest and biggest political parties. He ran unsuccessfully for vice president in 2010.

Binay was a longtime mayor of Makati City, the country’s premier business and financial hub, prior to his election as vice president. Poe is the daughter of Fernando Poe Jr, an actor who ran for president in 2004. Santiago placed second in the 1992 presidential election before becoming senator in 1995.

Roxas has the edge in terms of election machinery, since he is the candidate of the ruling party. President Benigno Aquino III, who enjoys high public confidence based on opinion polls, has also committed to actively campaign for Roxas. But Aquino’s endorsement can also hurt Roxas by turning away voters who are disappointed with the performance of the president.

Binay claims he has the support of the poor, overseas Filipinos, and local government leaders. But his numbers went down after he was accused of being involved in various corruption scandals. Though he insists that these were all politically-motivated, his reputation has already been tarnished.

Poe presents herself as an alternative candidate who has a clean record as a public servant. Tired of the antics of traditional politicians and political dynasties, many urged her to run for higher office. Though she has decided to run, her previous American citizenship was immediately questioned in the court.

Santiago is also seen as an outsider, even though she has been a politician for more than two decades. She is admired by many people – especially the young – who are looking for intelligent and articulate leaders. Santiago’s candidacy was not expected because she has only recently recovered from cancer.

Turning to their running mates, Roxas has teamed up with Leni Robredo, the widow of a respected politician. Binay’s vice presidential candidate is Senator Gringo Honasan. Poe, meanwhile, chose her mentor, Senator Chiz Escudero, to be her vice president. Santiago has reportedly endorsed the vice presidential candidacy of Senator Bongbong Marcos. Marcos is the son of the country’s former strongman, Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the country for two decades before he was ousted by a popular uprising in 1986.

Campaigning will officially begin next year. But since the candidates are already known, political realignments across the country are expected to reshape the electoral landscape. Political bickering between candidates and parties is also anticipated to intensify.