By Yen Makabenta | The Manila Times
WHEN you have observed and written on elections and political campaigns as long as I have, there comes a time when the words you write come back to haunt you or confirm your guesses.
Back on Oct. 26, 2021, when the nation was just beginning to stir to the reality of the 2022 presidential election, I wrote a column entitled, "Negative attacks vs Marcos name making Bongbong inevitable."
Yesterday, with the election just a few days away, I woke up to the news that Pulse Asia, the most quoted pollster in the current election cycle and following its latest pre-election survey, is now telling the nation and the world that "Bongbong Marcos is inevitable."
The confluence of words and meeting of minds is entirely accidental. Pulse and I have never met.
In the piece last October, I wrote:
Like his opponents and critics, I have wondered why Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr. as candidate for president is so popular and greatly favored by a large majority of the national electorate.
By almost any yardstick — leadership and support base, personality and character, policy agenda, service record and experience, and opinion polls — BBM is the runaway favorite of the people.
To the chagrin and desperation of his political rivals — notably Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso, Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Sen. Ronald de la Rosa — the negative campaign that has been desperately mounted to stop another Marcos from entering Malacañang appears to be generating the unintended effect of making BBM inevitable.
Every election poll conducted so far has installed BBM as the candidate most preferred by voters. It's so overwhelming that placing second to him in the preferential polls is now being seen by his hapless rivals as consolation.
You can argue that BBM's popularity is principally due to his personality and character, his record of public service and the abiding appeal of the Marcos brand (thanks to both his father and his mother). Each of these counts as a factor in his electoral appeal.
But the biggest factor of all, however, may be the desperate and negative propaganda that political rivals have mounted with increased urgency in order to stop him.
Instead of derailing BBM's run for the presidency, the negative attacks may be contributing to his appeal and are probably cementing the vote preference of many. Negative propaganda against BBM could turn out to be the biggest enemy of his opponents.
Dick Morris, the renowned political strategist and campaign consultant (he was a key factor in Bill Clinton's reelection despite Monica Lewinsky), discussed the shortcomings of negativity as a campaign strategy in his book, The New Prince (Renaissance Books, Los Angeles, 1999).
Morris wrote: "Voters hate negative ads. They have always hated them, but they used to work better than any other type of ad…
"The pendulum has swung back. People have become jaded by negative ads. Voters have become deeply suspicious of negative media."
More important is Morris' warning: "If negatives don't work, they have an increasing potential to blow up in the face of its candidate-sponsor. When a negative attack fails, its sponsor endangers its own credibility."
Morris' most weighty advice to candidates is probably this: "Campaigns start with competing messages. The key to winning any race is to come up with an affirmative message that outdistances your opponent's message. It is the inability to understand this simple, straightforward point that causes more losses in politics than any other single factor.
"Neither a financial advantage, nor a better negative campaign, nor a superior field organization matters as much as getting the right affirmative message established at the start of a race."
There is a lesson from the unsuccessful campaign of the Aquinos, Yellows and Liberal Party against ousted President Ferdinand Marcos and his family since the EDSA uprising in 1986. Despite some 35 years of demonizing Marcos and his family among their countrymen, and writing their preferred history of the country, the Yellows never succeeded in driving the Marcoses away from the affection and support of their countrymen.
Even hauling Imelda Marcos to trial in New York City on corruption charges and flying plane loads of documents there could not do the trick of humbling Imelda.
On the charge of stolen or plundered wealth, the case fell apart when the judge asked from where or from whom Marcos stole all that money. Philippine officials could not answer him.
When it was suggested that the loot was probably taken from Japanese reparations to the country, or from US economic assistance because of the military bases, the Japanese government issued a statement that no part of the reparations money was lost to President Marcos; and the US government similarly manifested that no portion of US economic support was misappropriated or unaccounted for.
Marcos critics similarly failed to prove the charge of massive military and human rights abuses during martial law.
The claim proved feeble when placed against the reality that the martial law declaration stopped the communist the insurgency in its tracks and succeeded in arresting most of the top leaders of the CPP-NPA at the time.
Marcos victory inevitable – PulseAsia
Yesterday, the Manila Times reported: "Less than a week before the elections, independent pollster Pulse Asia on Tuesday said it was impossible for Vice President Maria Leonor 'Leni' Robredo to stage an upset against former senator Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr., or BBM, who got 56 percent in the firm's latest and last presidential election survey."
The 65 million registered voters have already decided at this time and no amount of convincing could make them change their minds about their preferred bets, said the Pulse Asia research director, Ana Maria Tabunda.
She believes that the result of the survey could also be the result in the May 9, 2022 elections.
"If ever there will be a slight change, there won't be an upset. It will be hard for other contenders to catch up," she said in Filipino in an interview with DZRH radio.
It would seem the voters have already decided, she said.
The results of the Pulse Asia poll conducted from April 16 to 21 and released on Monday, May 2, showed no movement in the candidates' figures compared to last month's.
The survey covered 2,400 respondents nationwide.
Marcos maintained a 56 percent voter preference score against his closest rival, Robredo, who got 23 percent.
The former senator dominated in all geographic areas, including Metro Manila, where he scored 57 percent, Balance Luzon with 54 percent, the Visayas with 47 percent and Mindanao where he scored highest with 67 percent.
Robredo came in second with 26 percent in Metro Manila, 24 percent for Balance Luzon, 34 percent in the Visayas and 11 percent in Mindanao.
Tabunda said that of the 56 percent who expressed their preference for Marcos, majority claimed that they will not change their decision until the May 9 elections.
"Eighty percent ang nagsasabi na hindi na magpapalit ang boto nila para kay BBM. Sa tingin ko hindi [na lilipat]. That's why 'yun pa rin ang number niya," she explained, referring to there being no movement of the survey numbers of the candidates for president.
Tabunda earlier said that if the 56 percent of voter preference for Marcos were to be converted into votes, it would be equivalent to about 36.5 million of the total 65 million registered voters in the country.
She said Marcos' consistently high numbers are historic since it was the first time since they started conducting pre-election surveys that a candidate for president has been able to maintain his 50-plus percentage voter preference for the duration of the race.
She said Marcos' lead of 33 percent margin points, if converted into votes, would be around 19.5 million, which would be even higher than the more than 16 million votes that President Rodrigo Duterte garnered in 1016.
In the vice presidential race, Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto 3rd had preference shares of 15.6 percent, which is way off from frontrunner Sara Duterte-Carpio's 55 percent.
For third place in the race to the Palace, Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao outpaced Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso, with 5.8 percent preference share as against the latter's 4.6 percent.
There were 10,091 respondents for the presidential survey with the undecided pegged at 6 percent; while there were 6,881 respondents for the vice presidential survey, with 7.9 percent undecided.
Meanwhile, Splat Communications announced the results of its latest survey showing "a tandem super majority victory for the UniTeam of Mayor Inday Sara Duterte and former senator Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr."
"This is already inevitable at this point…," Splat Communications said.
No challenges or debate will ever change the outcome, it said. "That opportunity sailed long ago," Splat said.
Splat reminded voters to go out and vote to give worth to the data gathered.
"All of these numbers are worthless if everyone will not vote on Election Day. So make sure your lists are ready and that you will vote," it said.
"Indeed, the future of the Philippines looks bright. Unity is a positive force that paves the way for success. A nation united can never be conquered," it said.