In a year and a half, Philippine voters will head to the polls for the midterm elections. Half of the Senate, the entire House of Representatives as well as local leaders such as governors and mayors will be elected. The most important politician shaping the election will however not be on the ballot: President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos.
In the Philippines, the Senate is a nationwide election and senators are elected at large. Potential candidates who think about running typically spend hours thinking about the number of reelectionists and comeback senators, counting the “available” slots. While awareness is certainly important in the Philippine system, this nevertheless has always struck me as a pointless exercise for various reasons.
First, the number of “available” slots is severely limited in every cycle. Second, there are always reelectionists (or other candidates with established names) who lose. Last time, former senators Honasan, Trillianes, Gordon, de Lima and even former vice president Binay lost. In 2019, Senator Aquino, Estrada, Roxas and Osmeña lost.
Lastly, there are always new candidates who win. In fact, there is even a history of new candidates making it to the very top slot. Robin Padilla in 2022, Grace Poe in 2013 and Mar Roxas in 2004. Joel Villanueva in 2016 and Chiz Escudero in 2007 at least made it to rank 2 running as newcomers at the time. Go figure, Pinoy voters are open for something new.
Instead of counting the “open” slots, here’s a better way to evaluate a potential race for the senate:
– The easiest way to run for senate is during a midterm election on the ticket of a reasonably popular president. In 2019, the coalition of the incumbent president Duterte won 9 seats in the Senate. In 2013, the coalition of the incumbent president equally won 9 seats. At time time of writing, President Bongbong Marcos has approval ratings almost any other president in another country could only dream of. Depending on the survey, it’s almost double the approval rating of Joe Biden, for example.
– The second easiest way is to run for senate during a midterm election on the opposition coalition when the incumbent president is unpopular. In 2007, incumbent president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had become unpopular. The Genuine Opposition won eight seats. This said, even an unpopular president can still be of help to his candidates with respect to logistics and fundraising. Edgardo J. Angara, for example, won reelection in 2007 running on the ticket of incumbent President Macapagal-Arroyo.
– The third option is to run for senate during a presidential year when the main attention is on the presidential race and every senatorial candidate has to win on his or her own.
Either way, with the deadline for the filing of candidacies only a bit more than a year away, it’s time to settle on a plan of action.