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All the Presidentiables' Men: The campaign managers behind the candidacies of the five survey frontrunners

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Apr 18, 2022 6:04 pm

Behind each of the five most popular candidates gunning to be the country’s next president is a person helping steer the wheel of their respective campaigns.

Since their presidential bets filed their certificates of candidacy, these campaign managers have been working around the clock—taking charge of their messaging on proclamation rallies and branding in social media, analyzing their greatest assets that can resonate the most with the voting public, and ensuring that they're playing their cards right in hopes of securing the country's highest elective office.

As the campaign season enters the homestretch, know more about the engineers behind the respective political machineries of the five pre-election survey frontrunners, arranged in alphabetical order.

Domagoso, Isko Moreno Lito Banayo

Lito Banayo, who also helped steer President Rodrigo Duterte’s successful bid in 2016, is the campaign manager of Domagoso.

For the messaging of the once maverick Duterte, Banayo came up with the slogan “Tapang at Malasakit," in line with Duterte's "political will" and "resolve" to combat corruption and illegal drugs.

This time, Banayo and Domagoso's team are trying to paint a picture of a candidate who has a solid game plan to quickly address the COVID-19 situation in the country through the tagline "Bilis Kilos."

After being sworn into office, Duterte appointed Banayo as managing director and resident representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taiwan. Banayo resigned from his post in 2021 to work for Domagoso.

Before his MECO stint, Banayo served as administrator of the National Food Authority during the Aquino administration. He and five other members of the agency were charged with graft before the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged illegal rice import allocations. Moreno's camp said the Ombudsman has dismissed the case in 2016.

Lacson, Ping – Ronnie Puno

Ronnie Puno, who led the campaigns of eventual winners Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is Lacson's man for the 2022 elections.

Puno was also the campaign manager of Jejomar Binay in the 2016 presidential elections.

In an interview with The Manila Standard, Puno said he's "confident" that it's in the bag for Lacson. “They say I helped ‘make’ three Presidents," he said. "They should have added a fourth: Ping Lacson."

Puno became interior secretary twice, first under Estrada (1999 to 2000) and then under Arroyo (2006 to 2010).

He also served as Antipolo's first district representative from 2004 to 2006.

Marcos Jr., Ferdinand "Bongbong" – Benhur Abalos

Former Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Benhur Abalos is the head of Marcos Jr.'s national campaign team.

Abalos tendered his resignation as MMDA chairman last February to focus on Marcos Jr.'s campaign. He was MMDA chairman for over a year after filling the shoes of the late Danilo Lim in 2021.

Before taking over MMDA, Abalos was mayor of Mandaluyong from 1998 to 2004 and from 2007 to 2016. In between these terms, he served as Mandaluyong representative from 2004 to 2007.

Marcos Jr. also tapped Abalos as campaign manager for Metro Manila during his vice presidential bid in 2016, where he lost to Leni Robredo.

Abalos's father, Benjamin Abalos Sr., was appointed officer-in-charge of Mandaluyong by then-president Corazon Aquino in 1986, shortly after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was booted out of Malacañang.

Pacquiao, Manny – Buddy Zamora

Business magnate Salvador “Buddy” Zamora II is at the helm of Pacquiao’s campaign.

Zamora is among the founders of Nickel Asia Corporation, one of the largest nickel ore producers in the country.

In 2017, he served as the chairman of telco firm Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp. He stepped down from the post in September 2021, but remains a PT&T board member.

Zamora also chaired renewable energy and resort development company Tranzen Group Inc., as well as several energy and mining corporations in the country.

Pacquiao said he's banking on Zamora’s expertise in banking, mining, agriculture, and telecommunications, among others—to fulfill his vision of reducing poverty among Filipinos.

Robredo, Leni – Bam Aquino

Former senator Bam Aquino of the Liberal Party (LP) is at the forefront of Robredo's presidential bid.

Robredo, who dons the "pink" branding in her campaign, is running as an independent candidate to distance herself from the "yellow" brand of LP, of which she remains as chair.

Aquino also led Robredo's vice-presidential campaign in 2016, when she won against five incumbent male senators, including her fiercest rival, Marcos Jr., who is leading the pre-election surveys.

Last September, LP endorsed five senatorial bets which included Aquino, but he turned it down to focus on Robredo's campaign.

Aquin chaired the National Youth Commission from 2003 to 2006. Before entering politics, he also hosted several youth-oriented television programs.

(research from Anama Reyes)