The Manila Times : Campaign enters new phase, a race against the clock

24 March 2022

By Yen Makabenta | The Manila Times

First word

SOME presidential candidates, not overly convinced themselves about their chances in the May election, will not be fazed by the onset tomorrow, March 25, of the last stage of the election campaign — the official start of the campaign for local executive positions and for seats in the House of Representative.

According to the Comelec's official calendar, the official campaign period will narrow down to its most hectic phase: the local and congressional elections. This stage spans the period from March 25 to May 7, when all campaigning officially ends, and Election Day on May 9, 2022.

Race against time

With the attention shifting to the local and congressional elections, the campaign of a serious presidential candidate becomes a race against time to accomplish certain objectives because there will be only 45 days left in the campaign.

A race against time means the campaign must act quickly and accomplish some things in the truncated time available. Like a newspaper, there will be a deadline to meet every task.

That means campaign tasks and goals must be finished before it is too late. If a campaign is properly and fully organized, and funded, that should be no problem.

According to campaign experts, there are three critical ingredients in a good campaign:

– Good public policy agenda for action, good message and issues;

– Campaign organization up to grassroots level; and

– Electoral politics, campaign operations and coalition building.

Campaign organization

If a presidential campaign has a full campaign plan, it will have a campaign organization that can conduct a nationwide campaign from national to local level. It will have campaign operatives in every region and province of the archipelago.

Looking at the current election cycle, I have serious doubts about how many of the 10 presidential candidates have bothered to build a full national campaign organization, or even a full candidate slate for positions in Congress and the thousands of local offices,

Indeed, if an investigation were to be conducted, many so-called presidential candidates will be found to have no campaign organization, and that they hardly do any campaigning. Most have no presence in countless provinces throughout the country. These are the ones who take umbrage when it is suggested that it is probably time for them to fold their candidacies.

Vice President Leni Robredo's campaign team appears to be under the delusion that when some governors endorsed her candidacy, she automatically gained a grassroots presence in the provinces concerned. In fact, this may be no more than a monetary transaction. Campaign funds have been shelled out to local officials and candidates in exchange for their endorsement of the vice president.

This appears to be a major part of her campaign strategy in this final stage of the campaign.

If a presidential campaign has a good campaign plan, it would have a good campaign organization that will extend from national down to local and grassroots level.

It's a different thing when a presidential campaign or political party has candidates or campaign committees at local level.

The key difference between the Marcos and Robredo campaigns is this: while Leni has a number of endorsements to publicize, the BBM-Sara UniTeam has people on the ground, both local candidates and campaigners, who will carry the campaign forward, and will turn out the vote come election day.

One has direct contact with voters. The other has voter contact by remote.

Integrity of high office

What did the nation learn from the phony Comelec presidential and vice presidential debates on March 19 and 20?

First we learned about how much the Commission on Elections was so concerned to uphold the right and opportunity of each presidential and vice presidential candidate to speak about themselves, and to attack other candidates as they may desire.

It provided each candidate with a megaphone to talk about themselves and their concerns. Incredibly, however, they spent the time talking about Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and Sara Duterte, who did not participate in the debate.

The public learned nothing about the candidate-debaters and their issues or platforms, or even just an inkling of why they covet such high positions in our government.

Second, I found it troubling that while the Comelec was so eager to uphold the candidates' right to debate, it had nothing to say about safeguarding the integrity and dignity of the highest offices of the republic from incompetent leadership.

The questions in the debates were as clueless as the statements of the candidates.

The Comelec is a confused custodian and regulator of our elections and electoral processes. The only good development now is the reduced visibility today of the walrus-like James Jimenez.

More than bare minimum

There is a delusion in this country that because in our democracy anyone, whatever his station, can aspire to be elected president, incompetent or even clueless leadership will therefore be good enough.

This is pernicious nonsense.

The Constitution, in Article 7, Sections 2 and 3, defines the qualifications for president and vice president consisting of a bare minimum:

– Natural-born citizen of the Philippines;

– A registered voter;

– Able to read and write;

– At least 40 years of age; and

– A resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years.

A candidate for vice president must have the same qualifications.

These are qualifications which millions of our people can fill.

In practice, however, the constitutional qualifications have proven to be the least of what it takes to be elected to the nation's highest offices. The voters as the ultimate judges measure presidential candidates and their running mates by their records, political skills, speaking ability, their moral character, their leadership qualities, their physical appearance or yardsticks to be found in any law or constitutional provision.

This is to say that the people demand from the candidates more than the bare minimum.

In theory only, anyone who meets the constitutional criteria can become president, but as a practical matter a person who becomes president must have demonstrated leadership qualities and political skills.

This is why we hold regular national elections and why candidates must be put through the wringer of public scrutiny and criticism.