Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — Issue #10 (How Do You Solve a Problem Like BBM?)

Manuel L. Quezon III
9 min readJun 23, 2021


My column today take a cue from Monday’s Electoral Merry-Go-Round Newsletter. Check it out if you haven’t already, because it provides much of the context for my column today.

This week’s The Long View

The Marcos maneuver | Inquirer

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and colleague Sen. Panfilo Lacson Jr. have been playing coy about forming a tandem for the presidency and veephood, and within weeks Sotto has started becoming more independent. After the will-they or won’t-they confusion about faceshield requirements, Sotto has taken to exasperated potshots: “Now I know why the Handling of the pandemic is not good!” As I said in this space before, as the campaign season nears, everyone will sooner or later become an oppositionist.

Which makes it all the more important to hold as much of the coalition together, as the administration flirts with the possibility of going all in, to ensure it is succeeded by itself, in 2022.

Last week two photos and three press conferences combined to send a powerful message. The photos were of two separate meetings involving the Marcoses. Chronologically speaking, the meetings were: a June 14 meeting at ex-president/speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s, with former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez; and a June 15 meeting at Sen. Imee Marcos’ with Mayor Sara Duterte and Sen. Ronald dela Rosa. The press conferences were the President’s, and his daughter’s, on June 16; and Romualdez’s on June 17. She said she is open to considering running for the presidency, but had no plans of joining a national party, preferring to remain in Hugpong ng Pagbabago. He said he’d gladly not run for the vice presidency if Martin Romualdez would be a candidate. In Romualdez’s June 17 presser he loyally thanked the President for his endorsement and said he’d think about it.

Romualdez playing coy might have something to do with what he may have seen coming. On Monday, MindaNews headlined that Mayor Duterte said there will be no Duterte-Duterte tandem in the 2022 election. It quoted the Mayor as saying on her Davao City Disaster Radio 87.5 FM show, “President Duterte has already said that the presidency is not a woman’s job, particularly not for me. So if President Duterte will run for vice president, let’s not expect that he will get me as president.”

A possible Sara campaign talking point for the faithful is she will rectify the wrongs of her father; so if we take her radio proclamation as an independence-fostering posture, it means the only slot up for grabs is the veephood from which she’s eliminated dear old dad.

Romualdez is the fourth name — the President himself being the first, then Ferdinand Marcos Jr., then Gilbert Teodoro, and now Romualdez — to be mentioned as a potential running mate for the President’s daughter. But of these the most boosting has been given to Teodoro and Romualdez. Oscar Wilde once defined an aristocratic foxhunt as the unspeakable in hot pursuit of the uneatable, and the two trial-ballooned vice presidentiables thus far, Romualdez and Teodoro, could be described similarly.

But the clincher here are the four faces of the ruling coalition — Mr. Duterte, Arroyo, Marcos, and Romualdez — and the message they combined to set out, setting aside trial balloons: Here, in four acts, is the ruling coalition sending a warning to all political players that they will be outgunned, outgooned, and outgolded.

But in the presser in which Romualdez responded to the President, an interesting question was asked. Won’t all this talk of veephood for Romualdez spark conflict with his cousin, Ferdinand Jr.? Romualdez’s reply was a classic political smokescreen: “I don’t foresee any conflict as what you’re anticipating. Because you know that all conflicts, problems, as long as we face them, and we talk about them, we will be able to solve the problem before it arises.”

What Ferdinand Martin Romualdez could not say about Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. is that the former senator has his sights on the presidency, which makes it a problem for the whole Duterte-Marcos-Romualdez-Arroyo Axis. Even if allies peel away to fulfill their own ambitions — as Lacson and Sotto and others are already starting to do — the core coalitionists have to hold together.

For some reason, it seems the President isn’t keen on Ferdinand Jr. for veep; but is Ferdinand Jr. himself keen on being veep? The President can easily say the only person he trusts to have his back is his daughter as the next president. Which means Ferdinand Jr., and not Manny Pacquiao, is the real problem of the ruling coalition.

Related Readings

I. Here is the (rather confusingly written) MindaNews article.

Sara: ‘No Duterte-Duterte tandem’ in 2022 national polls |

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 June) — Mayor Sara Duterte “thumbed down” a possible tandem with her father, President Rodrigo Duterte, should she decide to join the presidential race next year. …

II. On the same day, this featurette came out. It raises an important consideration, although I’m not entirely convinced. But the question will have to be confronted by all players, and will probably be measured by means of commissioned survey questions (to arrive at some sort of rule of thumb: say 10% of your voting base will vote for whomever you decide to endorse, for example).

Magic or Curse? Philippine Presidents’ Endorsement, Explained

In all but one election since the restoration of democracy, only Corazon Aquino got her anointed candidate, Fidel Ramos, elected to succeed her. Since then, all presidential candidates who relied on the advantage of the administration fell short or suffered the political kiss of death.

Of course, that’s not counting the 2004 elections, when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who served the later half of the Estrada presidency, sought a fresh six-year term and won in a vote that was hounded by unprecedented allegations of fraud.

When “Cory Magic” worked for Ramos and for her own son, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, in 2010, will President Rodrigo Duterte’s enduring popularity help propel his preferred successor to Malacañang?

It’s a classic double-edged sword according to University of Santo Tomas Department of Political Science Chair Dennis Coronacion. When it comes to capitalizing on the incumbent president’s support, it’s a popularity game, he said.

“Whether adversely or favorably, the popularity or unpopularity of a sitting president rubs off on his or her anointed one,” Coronacion told reportr.

“We have seen this. While it’s not the sole factor for the win or loss of a candidate, it has a certain impact,” he said.

III. Who wields the greatest clout in determining Ferdinand Jr.’s moves? In the past the consensus was, Dear Old Ma. But she is increasingly frail and may not be, as they say, as politically sharp as she used to be. It may be that 2016 was her Last Hurrah. The Era of the Marcos Restoration is bookended, in my opinion, by two documentaries.

Thoughts on The Kingmaker, a Documentary About Imelda
Nearly a generation separates Ramona Diaz’s documentary, “Imelda,” from Lauren Greenfield’s documentary, “Kingmaker,” also on Imelda.

IV. It’s entirely possible the Marcoses are trying to convince the other coalitionists that Sara would do better running for veep. One argument they could make is to wonder whether it’s really wise to have the President run for vice-president or have Sara give up management of their home turf. After all, at the height of his power, neither father nor daughter could prevent Pantaleon Alvarez’s intrusion into their home turf — Alvarez’s candidates in fact beat Duterte’s. Put another way: there might be a less risky way to secure the future, without putting to the test whether or not the President really has the power of endorsement. Because if it’s proven he doesn’t, it’s far more damaging to their long term interests than a maneuver to maintain the impression of being able to sway voters.

There is also the question of how safe a bailiwick is Davao City? The former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who got to big for his britches so that he was ousted, was effective enough to actually put together a winning coalition in the 2019 midterms. He is apparently enough of a continuing threat for the State Media to be gleefully reporting on his (supposed) unraveling. Incidentally, never in the past has state media taken to reporting the political ins and outs of a president’s home turf. See these two articles:

January 12:

Alvarez’ allies absent in birthday bash | Philippine News

DAVAO CITY — What was expected to be a grand reunion with his political leaders and supporters invited to his birthday bash on January 10, Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez was surrounded instead by guests from outside the province of Davao del Norte. …

January 14:

A great divide in Davao del Norte | Philippine News

HE said a mouthful against the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and finally, on November 15, 2020, resigned as a member of PDP-Laban where he served as Secretary-General for almost five years. Former Speaker now incumbent Representative of District 1 of Davao del Norte, …

The Real McCoy Department

Fascinating new article by historian Al McCoy. Remember when the Suez Canal got plugged up? This article came out around then and reminds us of Britain’s end as an imperial power was marked by the Suez Crisis in 1956; in this article he traces how USA, out of imperial hubris, facilitated China’s rise to challenge and displace it, now ongoing.

Washington’s Delusion of Endless World Dominion —

Empires live and die by their illusions. Visions of empowerment can inspire nations to scale the heights of global hegemony. Similarly, however, illusions of omnipotence can send fading empires crashing into oblivion.

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Manuel L. Quezon III

Columnist, Philippine Daily Inquirer. Editor-at-large Views strictly mine. I have a newsletter, blog, podcast, and Patreon.