Mayor Isko: Everything to gain, everything to lose

By: Joel Ruiz Butuyan - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | July 12,2021 - 08:00 AM

Manila City Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso (Isko Moreno) would be the third city mayor to become our country’s president if he runs and wins in the presidential election next year. He will follow in the footsteps of Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City and Joseph Estrada of San Juan City.

Next to Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Moreno has one of the most dramatic rags-to-political-success stories in our history. He has risen from the slums of Tondo, where he foraged for food from garbage bins, to become his city’s chief executive.

In the latest Pulse Asia survey conducted from Feb. 22 to March 3, 2021, Moreno tied for third place with Sen. Grace Poe, both garnering 12 percent, on people’s preference for our next president. They trail behind former senator Bongbong Marcos who obtained 13 percent, and frontrunner Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte who garnered 27 percent.

Moreno faces the biggest decision of his political career as he arrives at a fork in the road. If he throws his hat in the ring and wins the presidency, he stands to win everything as he will achieve the pinnacle of political success. At 47 years old next year, he can become our country’s youngest president post-martial law. But if he’s defeated, he stands to lose everything. It can prove difficult to win back the mayoralty post if the thrashing he gets during the campaign will dim his luster.

If Moreno stays put to seek reelection, it will be a walk in the park. He can cruise into completing three full terms as city mayor. By the 2028 presidential elections, he will only be 53 years old, and ripe with considerable experience as mayor, vice mayor, and councilor for the maximum of nine years in each position. If he completes the transformation of our decrepit old capital back to its old glory, it will be a rock-solid accomplishment, and the presidency can be his for the taking in 2028.

There’s a big pile of concerns that Moreno will need to consider before he decides to take the road that leads to the presidency.

It’s Moreno’s first term as city mayor, and he has been deprived of the opportunity to make a model out of Manila. He had been off to a good start, but COVID-19 robbed two years of the three years he could have used to fully showcase his capabilities as a leader. There’s always the right timing for one’s next political move. Run prematurely and one can get badly burned. The sting of Moreno’s loss in the 2016 senatorial elections may still be fresh with valuable lessons in his mind.

There’s also the question of how Moreno will package himself to convince voters that he’s the leader with the right vision for the next six years. If he plays his rags-to-success story, he will be eclipsed by a more storied rival in the person of Pacquiao. If he promotes himself as the heir apparent of President Duterte, he will be overshadowed by Sara Duterte, Bong Go, or Marcos. If he projects himself as the opposition bet, he will be outshined by Vice President Leni Robredo. Moreno has so far avoided taking sides in the highly polarized divide between pro- and anti-Duterte forces. But once the election campaign starts, fence-sitting will get him hit with everything that’s thrown from both sides of the political fence.

Moreno will have powerful backers, but he will have to be wary of varying intentions. There will be the tycoons who gamble in elections like they’re wagering in a cockfight, betting on multiple cocks and emotionally unaffected if the cock they bet on gets mortally wounded in defeat. There will be conspirators who will plot to dilute votes from one side of the political fence in order to give advantage to the other side. And there will be mercenaries who will orchestrate a vacancy in the Manila mayoralty post in order to clear the way for their anointed candidate.

Isko Moreno is a star on the rise in our dark political sky. Time is on his side, and he can march to its cadence until his radiance is at its brightest to fully illuminate our dreary horizon. If he hastens in his stride, he may end up like a shooting star.

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TAGS: Manila City Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso, Mayor Isko, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, would be the third city mayor to become our country's president

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