2022 Philippine Elections

Willie Ong congratulates Marcos Jr., Duterte over election win

Pia Ranada
Willie Ong congratulates Marcos Jr., Duterte over election win

GRACEFUL IN DEFEAT. Aksyon Demokratiko vice-presidential bet Willie Ong accepts the results of the 2022 vice-presidential elections.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

The admission of defeat caps the doctor-vlogger's rollercoaster 2022 electoral journey

MANILA, Philippines – Willie Ong, the doctor turned vlogger who agreed to be Isko Moreno’s running mate for the 2022 elections accepted the victory of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte as the next vice president of the Philippines.

In a video posted on his Twitter account on Wednesday, May 11, Ong congratulated Duterte as well as presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Sana po maging maganda at matagumpay ang inyong panunungkulan sa anim na taon. I’m sure alam n’yo naman na maraming umaasa, lalo na ‘yung mga kababayan nating naghihirap, na mas gaganda ang kanilang buhay,” Ong said.

(I hope your tenure will be good and successful in the next six years. I’m sure you know that many – especially our countrymen who are suffering – are hoping their lives will be better.)

He added: “Sana maging matahimik ang ating bayan at magsama-sama na tayo at magtuloy na kung saan man tayo patungo para mas umunlad ang ating bayan.” (May our country be peaceful and may we all come together and continue the path to becoming a prosperous nation.)

Ong’s message caps his crazy 2022 journey – which started in September 2021 when he agreed to become Manila Mayor Isko Moreno’s running mate.

Running for the vice-presidency was never in Ong’s 2022 plans. Even in August, it was Moreno doing the convincing, and it was for Ong to run for senator, not vice ppresident, initially. But when Grace Poe, Moreno’s first choice, said no, and only days after Ong’s mother passed away, the doctor finally agreed.

Since then, Ong has made his medical background a key selling point to voters at a time when the country was slowly emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. Fighting perceptions that he is a one-trick pony, Ong showed up at several debates and fora and did his homework enough to speak well about a host of other governance issues – from foreign policy to political reform.

But he differed from his standard-bearer in one major respect: he was not ready to take swipes at political rivals. After Moreno called on Vice President Leni Robredo to withdraw during a controversial Easter Sunday press conference, Ong said he did not agree and even expressed admiration for the candidate his own partner called “godmother of bullies.”

Ong’s strength was his large social media following (16.5 million followers on Facebook) and calm in answering media queries, even as his standard-bearer was besieged by negative headlines on supporters switching sides and politicians dropping Moreno.

Ong’s voter-preference rating stayed in the single digits throughout the entire campaign period. His last survey rating was 3%, recorded by Pulse Asia in April or weeks before election day. He leagues away from dominant Sara who went from mid-40s percentage to close to 60%. But he ranked higher than seasoned politician Lito Atienza, running mate of Senator Manny Pacquiao.

Ong was not a complete political newbie this time around, having run for senator in 2019 and even emerging as the second most favored candidate among overseas Filipinos.

His 2022 vice-presidential bid has no doubt elevated his profile and would give him better chances of winning a national post next time around. Will Filipinos see more of Ong? Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.