During the aftermath of presidential elections, most especially when the oath-taking of a new president has taken place, we seldom hear from the runners-up ever again, unless they opt to remain active in politics. But only a few of these second-placers were able to revive their political careers especially since losing in a presidential bid is the most devastating defeat of all political aspirations. In the recently concluded elections last May 9, Manuel “Mar” Roxas ended up as second string to popular Rodrigo Duterte. In this blogpost, we feature those who could’ve been presidents of Filipinas throughout our Republican history… if only fate —or the voters— had been kinder.
ANDRÉS BONIFACIO General Emilio Aguinaldo declared himself “El Presidente de Filipinas“ on 12 June 1898. Prior to this, he had already assumed leadership of the rebel forces that were trying to wrest the country from Spain. However, history has taught us that he became the rebels’ undisputed leader only after the controversial Katipunan convention which was held in Barrio Tejeros, San Francisco de Malabón, Cavite. The convention sought to consolidate the already fractured rebellion against Spain by deciding upon its leaders through an election. As theirs was a rebellion, only Katipunan members were allowed to vote. Of the 256 voters, 146 (57.03%) chose Aguinaldo over Bonifacio who only got 80 votes (31.25%). A third candidate, Mariano Trías, received 30 votes (11.72%). At the end of the proceedings, Trías ended up as Aguinaldo’s Vice Presidente while Bonifacio became Director del Interior. The rest, as we are now wont to say, is history.
EMILIO AGUINALDO Years after disappearing from the limelight, Aguinaldo participated in the US-sponsored presidential elections of 1935 (September 16) which was to determine the leaders of the newly established Commonwealth of the Philippines. He lost to Manuel Quezon, garnering only 179,349 of the total number of votes cast (17.54%) against latter’s 695,332 votes (67.99%). By the time Aguinaldo ran, he was already considered by many as an old guard, a beaten-down warrior from another era. There were whisperings that he was, in fact, under house arrest and was merely given as prey for Quezon, already a US favorite, to be pounced upon especially since national elections were still in its “experimental phase” (it should be noted that the 1935 elections were the first nationwide at-large election ever held in our country’s history). Others who didn’t make it were renegade priest Gregorio Aglípay (148,010 votes or 14.47%) and Pascual Racuyal (158 votes or 0.00%), our country’s original nuisance candidate.
JUAN SUMÚLONG The presidential elections of 1941 (November 11) was still under the US-sponsored Commonwealth of the Philippines. President Quezon sought for another term. A sickly Juan Sumúlong, the great-grandfather of outgoing President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, challenged Quezon but only got 298,608 votes (18.22% of the total number of votes cast) against the reelectionist’s 1,340,320 (81.78%). He died two months after his defeat. Had he won, he would’ve been the first Filipino journalist to have become president. Another contender, Hilario Moncado, didn’t receive a single vote, the first presidential candidate in our history to have received such a pathetic feat.
SERGIO OSMEÑA Quezon’s second term was put to a halt when the Japanese invaded the country during World War II. Actually, his government went in to exile while José Laurel took over the country as president of a Japanese-sponsored republic. After the war and the defeat of the Japanese, the US was all set to grant Filipinas its much-sought independence. On 23 April 1946, national elections were held to determine major governmental positions, from the presidency all the way to local government units. Sergio Osmeña was then the president, having replaced Quezon who had died while in exile (he served as Vice President under Quezon). Challenging him was then Senate President Manuel Roxas who had just formed the Partido Liberal and had full support from the US. During the campaign period, only Roxas was visible; Osmeña was busy helping his constituents who were still suffering from the ravages of war. The result: Roxas received 1,333,392 (53.94%) of the total votes. But Osmeña wasn’t too far behind with 1,129,996 (45.71%) of the votes. Nuisance candidate Moncado gave it another run, but only received 8,538 votes (0.35%).
JOSÉ P. LAUREL Roxas was not able to complete his term as he had died of a heart attack in 1948. Replacing him was Vice President Elpidio Quirino. Quirino decided to continue his presidency by joining the 1949 presidential elections (November 8). Challenging him were former president Laurel and Senator José Avelino. Quirino won another mandate when he got 1,803,808 (50.93%) of the votes. Laurel and Avelino received 1,318,330 (37.22%) and 419,890 (11.85%), respectively. This was the second time that a former non-elected president ran for the highest office of the land (the first was Aguinaldo). In addition, the 1949 elections was the only time when the duly elected president, vice president and senators all come from the same party (Liberal Party).
ELPIDIO QUIRINO The 1950s belonged to Defense Secretary Ramón Magsaysay, already popular by thwarting the Communist threat, particularly the Hukbalahap movement. He was already a shoo-in for the 1953 elections. The result was overwhelming: 2,912,992 (68.90%) of the total votes cast went to him while Quirino got 1,313,991 votes (31.08%). Joining the race was Gaudencio Bueno, a political unknown who received only a total of 736 (0.02%) votes. Carlos García was the Vice President during Magsaysay’s term.
JOSÉ YULO The 1957 presidential elections marked the first time in our history where a president was elected by a plurality rather than a majority because seven people —including legendary poet and nationalist Claro M. Recto— aspired for the position. It was also the first time when the winning presidential and vice presidential candidates came from different parties. García was already president during this time, replacing Magsaysay who had died in a plane crash. He decided to run for a full term and won. He got 2,072,257 (41.28%) of the votes; Retired Chief Justice José Yulo ended up second place with 1,386,829 (27.62%) votes; Manuel Manahan, head of Magsaysay’s Presidential Complaints and Action Commission, ended up third with 1,049,420 (20.90%) votes; at fourth place was Senator Recto who received 429,226 (8.55%); Judge Antonio Quirino, brother of former president Quirino, garnered 60,328 (1.20%); cult leader Valentín de los Santos got 21,674 (0.43%), and; US annexationist leader Alfredo Abcede got 470 (0.01%). Had Yulo won this election, he would have been our first president who had become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
CARLOS P. GARCÍA Dubbed as “The Poor Man From Lubao”, Diosdado Macapagal won the 1961 presidential elections with 3,554,840 (55.05%) while reelectionist President García followed not so far behind with 2,902,996 votes (44.95%). Others who joined this contest were never got more than 10 votes each. These were Abcede with 8 votes, Germán Villanueva and Gregorio Llanza with 2 each, and Praxedes Floro with 0. Floro became the second presidentiable to have received a zero vote, after Moncado. After his loss, García retired as an ordinary citizen though he made a brief appearance a decade later when he was elected as a delegate to the Marcos regime’s 1971 Constitutional Convention. He died of a heart attack days after his election.
DIOSDADO MACAPAGAL The 1965 presidential elections were participated in by 12 aspirants, the most for a presidential election by that time. Among the candidates was President Macapagal. Despite the number of candidates, his fiercest rival was then Senate President Ferdinand Marcos of the Partido Nacionalista. Marcos popularized himself by claiming that he was a World War II hero, a claim that is now contested. On election day, Marcos garnered 3,861,324 (51.94%) votes, deposing Macapagal who received 3,187,752 942 (88%) votes. Third place was Raúl Manglapus who got 384,564 (5.17%) votes. The rest were considered nuisance candidates: Gaudencio Bueno with 199 votes; Aniceto Hidalgo with 156; Segundo Baldovi with 139; Nic Garcés got 130 votes; a returning Villanueva improved with 106; Guillermo Mercado and Antonio Nicolás, Jr. garnered 27 votes each; Blandino Ruan got 6, and; Floro finally received 1 vote after receiving none on his first try four years earlier. The nuisance candidates thus shared 0.01% of the total number of votes cast. Macapagal retired from politics after his loss, returned in 1971 to become the president of a constitutional convention, and eventually became a vocal critic against the Marcos dictatorship, even publishing a book against the strongman.
SERGIO OSMEÑA, JR. The 1969 presidential elections saw Marcos winning for a second term, the only presidentiable to do so. He got 5,017,343 (61.47%) votes against Senator Sergio Osmeña, Jr.’s 3,143,122 (38.51%) votes. Serging filed for an electoral protest citing massive cheating. The protest dragged on for years but was rendered moot with the declaration of Martial Law. Third place was Racuyal with 778 votes (0.01%). Others who participated, also sharing 0.01% of the total number of votes cast, were as follows: Baldovi with 177 votes; Pantaleón Panelo with 123 votes; Villanueva with 82; Bueno with 44; Ángel Comagón got 35; César Bulacán with 31, and; Espiridión Buencamino, Garces, and Benilo José got 23 each. Osmeña, Jr. subsequently retired and died of a heart attack in 1984. He was the second Osmeña to have placed second in a presidential elections.
CORAZÓN AQUINO The 1986 presidential elections proved to be the weirdest in history because it was the only time when the second placer in the presidential polls became president. It was an election called earlier than expected (“snap elections”) as Marcos, who still had more than a year left on his term, was facing an escalating public discontent borne out of his declaration of Martial Law and was under pressure from foreign allies, particularly from the US. While Marcos received the most number of votes: 10,807,197 (53.62%) against Cory Aquino’s 9,291,716 (46.10%), allegations of massive cheating from the camp of Benigno Aquino’s widow, as well as the ensuing coup d’état led by AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile (a long story which I assume all of you already know), resulted in his ousting. Others who participated were Reubén Canoy who got 34,041 (0.17%) votes, and Narciso Padilla who got 23,652 (0.12%).
MIRIAM DEFENSOR de SANTIAGO The feisty lady from Iloílo was leading the 1992 presidential elections for the first five days. But on the sixth day, she was was overtaken by Ramos who was fresh from his stint as Cory’s Secretary of Defense. In the end, Ramos won with 5,342,521 votes (23.58%) against Santiago’s 4,468,173 (19.72%). They were followed by Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. with 4,116,376 votes (18.17%), Ramón Mitra, Jr. with 3,316,661 (14.64%), Imelda Marcos with 2,338,294 (10.32%), Jovito Salonga with 2,302,123 (10.16%), and Salvador Laurel with 770,046 (3.40%). Losing by only a margin of 874,348 votes, Santiago filed an electoral protest citing power outages in several voting precincts. But the protest went nowhere. She participated in two more presidential elections: the one in 1998 which was one by Joseph Estrada and this year’s elections won by Duterte. But she was no longer as popular as she used to be in 1992. After Cory, Santiago was the second lady presidentiable who ended up second place in a presidential election. The difference is that Cory ended up as president.
JOSÉ DE VENECIA Vice President Joseph Ejército Estrada won in a landslide victory with 10,722,295 votes (39.86%) against rival José de Venecia’s 4,268,483 votes (15.87%) in the 1998 presidential elections. Third place was Raúl Roco with 3,720,212 votes (13.83%). They were all followed by: Emilio Osmeña (former President Osmeña’s grandson) with 3,347,631 votes (12.44%); Alfredo Lim with 2,344,362 votes (8.71%); Renato de Villa with 1,308,352 votes (4.86%); Santiago’s second try got her only 797,206 votes (2.96%); Juan Ponce Enrile received 343,139 votes (1.28%); Santiago Dumláo got 32,212 (0.12%), and; Manuel Morató, who ran simply as an irritanto to Erap’s presidential campaign, got 18,644 votes (0.07%). Erap, however, was not able to complete his term when he was ousted by another EDSA revolt. Replacing him in controversial fashion was his Vice President, Gloria Macapagal de Arroyo, who was mandated by the Supreme Court to complete the remaining term for Erap (up to 2004). Erap was eventually imprisoned, tried, and sentenced to lifetime imprisonment. He was later pardoned by Arroyo. Many people though, believe that his trial and sentencing was a farce.
FERNANDO POE, JR. Though an effective and highly productive leader, President Arroyo proved to be highly unpopular because of the fact that she was never voted to the presidency. Challenging her at the 2004 presidential elections was Erap’s best friend: movie legend Fernando Poe, Jr., known throughout the country as FPJ. FPJ’s popularity was more enormous compared to Erap’s. However, Arroyo still won with 12,905,808 (39.99%). FPJ trailed not very far behind with 11,782,232 votes (36.51%). Because of the small lead, allegations of cheating naturally followed. The allegations proved to be true after all when, on the following year, audio recordings of a phone conversation between Arroyo and then Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, allegedly talking about the rigging of the 2004 national election results, were released to the public. But nothing came out of it because Arroyo was saved by her allies in congress from an impeachment case. Other candidates in this elections were: Pánfilo Lacson with 3,510,080 votes (10.88%); Roco with 2,082,762 votes (6.45%) on his second try, and; cult leader Eddie Villanueva with 1,988,218 votes (6.16%). Had FPJ won, he would have been the second film actor to have been president. He died later that year due to complications from a stroke.
JOSEPH EJÉRCITO ESTRADA It was expected to be a three-way fight between Noynoy, businessman-Senator Manuel Villar, and Arroyo’s annointed one, Gilberto Teodoro. But the results of the 2010 presidential elections proved to be surprising when a dark horse emerged. That dark horse was none other than former President Erap who got 9,487,837 (26.25%) of the total number of votes cast. But still, 15,208,678 voters (42.08%) sent Noynoy to the presidency. Nevertheless, his victory was later deemed by political analysts to be the result of sympathy voting because his mother, former President Cory Aquino, had just died of cancer a few months prior to the elections. Following Erap was Villar who got 5,573,835 votes (15.42%). The administration’s standard bearer, Teodoro, ended up fourth place with 4,095,839 votes (11.33%). Rounding up the rest of the candidates were: cult leader Villanueva, on his second attempt, received 1,125,878 votes (3.12%); outgoing Senator Richard Gordon got 501,727 votes (1.39%); sustainable development activist Nicanor Perlas got 54,575 votes (0.15%); outgoing Senator Jamby Madrigal received 46,489 (0.13%), and; John Carlos de los Reyes, the youngest among the candidates, received 44,244 (0.12%).
MANUEL “MAR” ROXAS From the get-go, Duterte was already a shoo-in for the presidency. The tough-talking mayor from Daváo City got a huge 16,601,997 votes (39.01%) while Mar received only 9,978,175 (23.45%). Grace Poe, the adopted daughter of former movie legend and presidentiable FPJ, received 9,100,991 (21.39%) of the total number of votes cast. At fourth place with 5,416,140 votes (12.73%) was Vice President Jejomar Binay who suffered from his very first electoral lost. Veteran presidentiable Santiago was at the tail end with only 1,455,532 votes (3.42%). Had Mar won this one, he would have been the second Roxas to become president. After Mar’s emotional speech while conceding to Duterte last May 10, the last time we heard of him was he was having a burger.
Up Next: THE FINAL CURTAIN!