After stepping down from the highest office of the land, former President Lyndon B. Johnson retired his ranch near Stonewall, Texas. According to an article from PBS, Mr. Johnson spent his final days agonizing over his legacy. He did so while “chain smoking, overeating, and, sometimes, over-drinking”. Johnson’s aides noted that the former Chief Executive was “committing slow-motion suicide”.
Mr. Johnson passed away on January 22, 1973, aged 64 years old. The PBS article notes that he passed away “exactly two days after the presidential term he would have served, had he run again in 1968.”
At age 47, Manila City Mayor- and Presidential candidate- Isko Moreno is far from the twilight of his personal and political life. And yet he seems to be committed to enacting a slow-motion suicide of his political career.
Some context is necessary. On April 16- Holy Saturday, which in Christian theology corresponds to Jesus’ liberation of the souls in hell- the camp of Isko Moreno announced that he and “three other Presidential bets” would hold a joint press conference. Speculation swirled around the event, especially after Senator Ping Lacson announced that he would also be attending.
The event was a dud and wholly dismissed as such. The candidates- led by Isko and Ping- preached “unity” in not withdrawing from the race, while also hurling accusations that the camp of Vice-Presidential candidate Leni Robredo had asked them all to pull out.
Isko added insult to injury by asking Robredo to withdraw.
Lacson and Norberto Gonzales would immediately wash their hands of Isko’s remarks. In response, Isko doubled-down on his challenge for Robredo to withdraw, and called her the “godmother of bullies”.
None of Isko’s statements make sense. While Isko is the leading “second choice” in the Pulse Asia surveys, he is still a distant “first choice”. He has yet to break his glass ceiling of 10%. Assuming that Robredo’s entire 24% of voter share would migrate to Isko, the race would still be a distant 56-32 in favor of the frontrunner, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Not that Robredo voters are likely to switch to Isko in the first place. Robredo and Moreno supporters are equally as polarized as Robredo supporters are to Marcos Jr. And there is little to support the theory that Moreno would have a better chance of attracting soft Marcos Jr. supporters. With Rodrigo Duterte’s endorsement of Moreno not forthcoming, and Sara Duterte solidly behind Marcos, the voter-share of the Duterte-Marcos universe remains mostly intact.
Isko’s ire would be better targeted towards Marcos Jr. But in this regard, Isko is decidedly mixed. He vacillates between praising the elder Marcos as his “idol”, while also claiming to be sick of the infighting between the Marcoses and the Aquino. In the meantime, members of Aksyon have been calling out Marcos Jr. for his estate tax liabilities.
These are the kind of “naked moments” which reveal the real character of a candidate. These are the kind of mixed signals which sows confusion in a campaign. Hence the bloody trail of organizers and soft voters bleeding away from the Moreno team and realigning to Robredo.
Where does this leave Isko?
With his minuscule chances of winning (based on the surveys), he should be preserving whatever goodwill he still has in preparation for his political resurrection in Manila City Hall or even a Senate run in 2025. But every time he speaks, the boulder continues to roll over his political grave. The microphone should be withdrawn from Mr. Moreno to prevent the tomb from being sealed shut.