Homestretch for the presidential race: the 80% solution

THE PRESIDENTIAL and vice presidential races are heating up, and in a matter of days it will be all over. All over the country friends and kin are in heated discussions – whether with gentle sips of Hibiki and Monkey Shoulder, or tagayan sa kanto with the meanest gin – all with the caveat: Walang basagan ng trip.

The presidential contenders -- Photo from Interaksyon.com

The presidential contenders — Photo from Interaksyon.com

My contribution to one such recent political long table (as opposed to a round table) had me recapping a series of Facebook posts which apparently made a lot of sense to a number of people. Here’s is the series in one sweep:

A little over a month until the elections, and the choices are still among:

  1. A plunderer with a dynasty
  2. An admitted mass murderer
  3. An inutile oligarch
  4. An adopted former Filipino
  5. A smart talker with a terminal illness
  • Having Grace Poe as president means we will have a leader who most Filipinos – deep down inside – aspire to be: a US citizen who lives in the Philippines. Aminin…
  • “You break-a da law, I break-a yer face,” to paraphrase those ol’ gangster flicks. Digong Duterte promises this style of governance in his presidency. As the gangster molls say: “You likee?”
  • Yes, Jojo Binay being the antithesis to Mar Roxas’ protection of the current oligarchy is true. Binay wants to do away with the status quo and create a new oligarchy where he and his family will have all the spoils of victory. It’s built into his nature.
  • To say that Mar Roxas’ worst fault is bad PR totally misses the point. His worst fault is that he will put personal, family and class interest before the country’s – ALWAYS. The fact is it is built into his nature.

To which one guy in the group replied: “Or we can just vote for the best VP candidate and hope he/she becomes president sooner rather than later.”

My reply: “Then vote for the one most likely to vacate the office pronto! (Miriam perhaps?)”

At this late stage in the game people are getting caught in the latest survey results, mock polls, rally crowds that mainstream media didn’t seem to notice, celebrity endorsements and all the trappings of the perceived campaign bandwagon that they do not see the reality of our election process – and this is based on historical fact and I have written about this before: that 80 percent of the votes are from the “command votes.”

These are votes as ordered by ward leaders – barangay chairmen to the their people; mayors, congressmen and other local politicians to their barangay chiefs, tribal leaders to their communities; warlords to their tribal leaders… you get the picture. These ward leaders dispense the money, give sample ballots with the preferred candidates. Since time immemorial they have dictated who are going to win in the national polls. And their deal making assures them of their win, and of their own support when the offices are filled.

If there is any doubt about this, just look at the most recent election experiences. This is responsible for Jojo Binay’s come from behind win for the vice presidency in 2010. His sister city program and local politicians through the Boy Scouts network and his APO fraternity got these politicos the deals they wanted and he in turn the votes he needed.

Earlier it was Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s “Hello Garci” move in Mindanao, where then COMELEC commissioner Virgilio Garciliano delivered the crucial one million vote margin from Mindanao.

Given that 80 percent figure totally changes the election discussion. With the presidential race practically tied – or at least in close proximity of statistical margins –  it is interesting to note what they are doing to woo that 80 percent.

Jojo Binay is doing what he did in 2010, which is very traditional politics or trapo. One disadvantage he has now that he didn’t have then: cash on hand. He cannot just dole out resources as he did before, with his corruption cases causing a freeze in his and his associates’ bank accounts. But he’s going the same route, making promises. He does, after all, have a track record of what he did in 2010. He’s making his deals with the mayors and congressmen, the real politicians with the command of the barangay chairs. But political alliances are fickle.

Mar Roxas, on the other hand, has the upper hand in making deals, having the full backing of the Liberal Party and the resources that come with the incumbent administration. Mar is having some resistance from the local politicos since not all of them are LP and in fact many have been marginalized by the vindictive Yellow Army in them last five plus years of PNOY. So the LP is bypassing the top local politicians and going directly down to the barangay chairmen with their deals. Will this work, considering these barangay people have to look their mayors and congressmen in the eye each and every day of their political lives? It’s getting interesting, eh?

The first two cases promise both blessings with support, and repercussions if support is withheld.

In stark contrast to the mafioso style of “making them an offer they can’t refuse”, outright bribery or offers to share the spoils, or scaremongering — all of which are old hat political ploys – Grace Poe’s campaign presents an interesting case. Her campaign strategy is to come in strong from the start with a major groundswell. Reminiscent of the Chiz Escudeo playbook, it is a direction that has proven effective for candidates who aspire for national positions starting out from almost nowhere, with virtually no political machinery and limited resources. The approach capitalizes on the candidate’s good reputation and charisma. In entertaining offers of support, people are accorded with respect and the presumption that they also want what is best for their countrymen.  The Poe-Escudero campaign does not talk to the political leaders in terms of “deal making” but make them feel they need you and that you will take care of them if they take care of you. No political payoffs up front, but guaranteed nobody will be politically marginalized in this presidency.

Rody Duterte is just basking in the glory of his massive crowds at his rallies and motorcades. And he’s hoping this will translate to actual votes. Whether it will or not is the big question because everybody loves a good show, but when election day comes what will be marked in the ballot is what the voters’ direct boss says.

At least 80 percent of them.

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