GENERAL SANTOS CITY, May 13, 2016 – Senator Grace Poe lost the presidential election but she has won a place in the history of Philippine election. As a graceful loser, she let “a first” happen since the first election under the Commonwealth government in1935.
At 12:03 AM, May 10 – seven hours after the voting had closed — she conceded defeat to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte. At that time returns from 81.18% of the precincts nationwide had been reported and Duterte was leading her, at third place, and Manuel A. Roxas II, at second place, by more than six million votes.
Earlier, Duterte, soon after voting had closed at 5 PM, May 9, at a press conference at the Royal Mandaya Hotel Davao reached out to his opponents to start the “healing process”. He described the “past few days” as “quite virulent for all of us” recounting “the black propaganda, and the false accusation exchange between two sides” as ”really part of a day’s work in election”.
Then his message, collated from media reports: “Let us begin the healing now… Let us be friends. Forget the travails of the elections. When I offer (peace), that’s without exemption but if they don’t accept my goodwill, fine; then I will accept it. I always believe in the deep abiding faith in God.”
When he said, “If they don’t accept the goodwill, fine, then I will take it”, he was saying either “Take it or leave it” or, in the language of the common Filipino, “Believe me, I’m sincere” implying he would be most disappointed should his goodwill be rejected.
Did Poe concede – the first ever, like the American tradition – in response to Duterte’s call? She said in Tagalog:
“Bilang isang masidhing tagapagtaguyod ng repormang pang-eleksyon, matatag ang paniniwala ko sa boses at kalooban ng ating taumbayan. Iginagalang ko ang resulta ng ating halalan.” (As a sincere advocate of electoral reforms, I firmly believe the voice and will of the people. I respect the results of the election.)
Binabati ko si Mayor Rodrigo Duterte at ipinapangako ko ang aking pakikiisa sa paghilom ng ating bayan at pakikiisa ng ating mga kababayan tungo sa patuloy na pag-unlad ng ating bansa.” (I congratulate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and I pledge to help heal our country and cooperate with the people towards its progress.) Whatever, it touched a series of concessions and conciliatory statements that bode well for the incoming Duterte administration.
- Vice President Jejomar Binay, without conceding on May 9, repeated his call “for respecting institutions and the democratic process. Once the process is completed, we should always respect the outcome. We should all move towards healing and unity for our divided land.” Yesterday, May 12, with 96% of the returns reported, he called Duterte at 5:40 PM to extend his congratulations.
Only Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the tail-ender with 1.4M to Duterte’s 15.3M votes, has not conceded.
- Roxas conceded at 1 PM May 10. He said: “Galangin at tanggapin natin ang pasya ng ating mga kababayan. Ayon sa unofficial count, si Digong ang susunod na pangulo ng bansa. Digong, I wish you success. Ang iyong tagumpay ay tagumpay ng ating bansa.” (Let’s respect and accept the will of the people. By the unofficial count, Digong is the next president. Digong, I wish you success. Your success is the success of the nation.”
- Interviewed last May 11, winning senatorial candidate Leila de Lima, an arch-critic of Duterte over human right violations – calling him a “monster” –told reporters: “Since he appears to be the winner based on quick counts, let me congratulate Mayor Duterte for winning the presidential race.”
- Of the six vice presidential candidates, as of this writing, four have conceded defeat – Senators Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes, and Gregorio Honasan. The win is a toss-up between Rep. Leonor “Leni” Robredo (LP) and Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. (Ind.).
Trillanes, who tried to derail Duterte with plunder charges, was conciliatory. He admitted that the people want “Mayor Duterte to be our next president”, while promising, “I assure the Mayor and our countrymen that I will not be a hindrance to the reform initiatives he intends to push in our government.”
Defeated Filipino candidates very rarely conceded defeat – never just hours after voting had closed. This was true before and after the Marcos dictatorship. For instance, Sergio Osmena, Jr. did not concede to Marcos in the 1969 presidential election; Santiago never conceded defeat to Fidel V. Ramos in the 1992 presidential election. Roxas’ protest against Binay in the 2010 vice presidential contest still stands at the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.
A precedent has been set in the 2016 election to be followed in succeeding elections. Soon after voting had closed, Duterte called out to his opponents to forget the “travails” of the “quite virulent” election and to “begin the healing process”. His “goodwill” was accepted.
Within three days, all but one of his four opponents have conceded. The last, Senator Santiago, may concede any time. The interesting question is: Had Poe not started the ball rolling seven hours after the voting had closed, could this “first” in the history of the Philippine election have happened?
The answer is anybody’s guess. But, for making the move no losing presidential candidate has ever done before – conceding at the very moment the opponent’s election has become inexorably evident – Poe, to repeat, has won a “first” in the history of Philippine election.
Presumptive President Rodrigo R. Duterte now has a clear path toward the “change” he envisions for the Philippines. More so that President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, his fears for a Duterte presidency notwithstanding, has personally congratulated Duterte and offered a smooth transition and cooperation.
The ball is now fully in Duterte’s court.
[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at [email protected].]