There is another contest in the 2022 election that is as critical for the nation as the presidential election on May 9. It is the contest for seats in the two houses of Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate) that will decide the composition and leadership of the 19th Congress.
In the presidential election, the electorate will choose who will lead the executive branch of government. In the congressional election, the people will pick the legislators (congressmen and senators) for the legislative branch of government, one group to constitute the House of Representatives and another to constitute the Senate.
Under our constitutional system of separated powers, the president and Congress are vital to each other. They must act in concert for the solution of major national problems.
The president cannot govern alone, he must lead and serve in partnership with Congress. Similarly, Congress cannot legislate alone without the active cooperation of the president.
The two branches must cooperate to pass laws, adopt budgets, enter into international treaties, declare wars and appoint officials in the executive branch. In most cases, the institutions must find a compromise between them, but sometimes they engage in competition with each other.
The Constitution fatefully mandated that both the president and Congress should be elected at the same time in one general election. This impels serious candidates for either institution to turn their other eye on the other election.
I use analogously the term “second front” from World War 2 to underscore the high importance of the congressional election to the future shape of governance and national administration.
“Second front” described the western front against fascist Germany, which was opened by the US and Great Britain on June 6, 1944, through the incursion of their troops into northwestern France.
The need for a second front came to the fore from the time that Nazi Germany attacked the USSR on June 22, 1941. The opening of a second front in the west was necessary to distract significant numbers of fascist German troops from the main Soviet-German front and to achieve the fastest possible victory for the Allies against Germany. Major victories by Soviet troops over the fascist German troops in 1943-44 finally induced the British and American command to open a second front by landing 43 divisions in northwestern France on June 6, 1944. This impelled Germany to divide its forces as well as supplies. The landing at D-Day created the second front the Russians needed. The two fronts jointly won the war and demolished Nazi Germany.
Stakes of 2022 general election
It’s melodramatic and provocative to apply war as a metaphor for an election.
It’s inviting in the case of the 2022 Philippine general election because almost everything is on the table in this balloting. The nation will vote on May 9, 2022, for the executive and legislative branches of the government — national, provincial and local, except for the barangay officials.
At the top of the ballot will be the election for successors to President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo.
But there will also be elections for:
– 12 seats to the Senate;
– All 316 seats to the House of Representatives;
– All 81 governors and vice governors, and 782 seats to provincial boards in all provinces;
– All 146 city mayors and vice mayors, and 1,650 seats to city councils in all cities; and
– All 1,488 municipal mayors and vice mayors, and 11,908 seats to municipal councils in all municipalities.
We will be electing in one swoop the entire panoply of governmental power in our republic.
The sweeping scope of the general election impels a serious candidate for president, with a chance or likelihood of winning, to take an active interest in the congressional and local elections. If he has a cohesive national political party behind him, this larger interest will naturally be attended to. If he has none, he must construct a national coalition not only to help him get elected, but to create a united front by which candidates for president, vice president, legislature and local executive offices be elected at the same time in the general election.
Because of their incontrovertible and formidable lead in the pre-election surveys, it is tantalizing to speculate whether Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte can now relax and safely cruise to victory without being overly exercised by the contests in the down ballot.
In fact, their frontrunner status will engender additional burdens and cares for them. They must tend to the health and effectiveness of their coalition for the attainment of multiple goals, namely:
1. The attainment of a historic victory in the presidential election through a declarative majority of the votes in the presidential and vice presidential races.
2. The victory of the majority, if not its entire senatorial ticket, to ensure a working majority in the upper chamber of Congress.
3. The victory of a solid majority of the UniTeam’s candidates for congressional representative, to ensure a majority in the House to clinch leadership and control of the lower chamber.
4. The victory of a solid majority of local executive positions to ensure a daily national majority that can support the new administration’s policy agenda.
These laudable objectives cannot be achieved by mere wishing. They must be achieved through clear-headed tactics and sustained collective effort. Among these necessary tactics are:
1. Straight ticket voting by members and supporters of the UniTeam coalition. Uni-Team must aim for a sweep of its Senate ticket.
2. Mobilization of support and alignment of resources for UniTeam candidates for the House and local governments.
3. Massive get-out-the-vote drive to ensure that supporters will go out and cast their votes on election day.
4. Vigilance over the conduct of the election and the canvass of election results, until the proclamation of the winning candidates.
With victory in hand and proclaimed, the president-elect and vice president-elect can then turn their thoughts to the task of forming the new administration and the challenge of governing.