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The Manila Times : Election miracles, nightmares and realities

News & Interviews
30 December 2021

By Antonio Contreras | The Manila Times

MANY people have always doubted pre-election surveys. There is that lingering doubt about how a few thousand people can truly represent the sentiments of the entire Filipino electorate. Indeed, while there is a science behind surveys, it is easy to undermine this when fly-by-night, non-randomized surveys are conducted.

However, it is an entirely different matter when all surveys from the internet online to the people on the street surveys and from surveys using purposive sampling like that of Publicus Asia to one that used a randomized sample like the one conducted by Pulse Asia all point to one result. All surveys, regardless of sample size and methodology, point to the undeniable conclusion that the 2022 elections for president will be a lopsided blowout with former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on the way to becoming the first majority president since martial law as he sends his opponents to eat dust.

Surveys this early have a powerful effect on the political landscape. Campaign finance will definitely respond, like investors respond to market forces. The bitter reality is that no one wants to invest in losers. The same logic applies to local politicians and those running for Congress. In the absence of a well-disciplined party system, local and congressional candidates will line up to support the potential winners.

And such a choice is clear and easy to make. With Marcos Jr. netting more than 50 percent in most surveys, leaving a margin that mathematically would be impossible for any other candidate to reach and overcome, we now see opposing candidates running for local and district positions all throwing their support behind him.

Faced with this grim prospect, supporters of other candidates can opt to dismiss the results as too early and many things can still happen.

Right now, all the other candidates like Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso, Senators Emmanuel Pacquiao and Panfilo Lacson, labor leader Leodegario de Guzman and others could hope for is a miracle. Of these, and judging from the survey results, it is Robredo who has the most urge to dismiss the result and hope for a miracle. Domagoso's star appeared to have shone bright earlier and has since fizzled out, that not even the withdrawal of Sen. Lawrence Christopher Go or even the endorsement of President Rodrigo Duterte, which he covets, can save him.

Robredo supporters point to the fact that she already defeated Marcos Jr. in 2016 in a race where she was behind but was able to manage a razor-thin upset by election day. They have to face a bitter reality check if they keep on insisting that 2022 can be just a replay of 2016. Six years ago, the entire government machinery was solidly behind her. Also not to be discounted is that Marcos Jr.'s numbers did not breach the 50 percent mark then. Furthermore, Robredo was relatively unknown at the time and would have fewer baggage that could weigh her down, unlike now that she stands as being one of the most disliked political figures.

It would be foolish for Robredo supporters to draw attention to her victory against Marcos Jr. which remains contested despite affirmation by the Supreme Court on a technicality. With the current margin that Marcos Jr. has piled up on her in all current surveys, it can only but amplify the dubious nature of her so-called victory in 2016.

Robredo, Domagoso and other candidates who languish with single-digit numbers in surveys are also counting on the petitions for disqualification and cancellation of the certificate of candidacy (CoC) of Marcos Jr. filed at the Commission on Elections. It is anticipated that these petitions will likely reach the Supreme Court. Far from eroding support for Marcos Jr., a protracted disposition of the case will only heighten his image as an underdog who is being bullied and persecuted.

Granting without admitting that these petitions may have basis, to which I honestly believe they do not have, the optics created is a strong player being disqualified to compete by weaker players. To ordinary Filipino voters, there is no honor in this act. It can only but sharpen their anti-elite resentments. It will be seen as an attempt to snatch victory from them using a technicality, because they would not win in a fair fight.

Disqualifying a front-running candidate can only but tear apart the political fabric of our Republic. It will throw the electoral process in total disarray, and will push us to venture into uncharted waters that can only further destabilize our politics. One thing is certain, however, if this happens. Unless Marcos Jr. is replaced by another Marcos, which would be the case if he gets disqualified only but his CoC is not canceled, we will see the specter of a winning candidate who will have a greatly diminished legitimacy.

Faced with the great likelihood of a Marcos presidency in 2022, his critics are now getting desperate to a point that they make moves that contradict what they purportedly stand for. As human rights defenders, they even would like to have Marcos Jr.'s name stricken out from the roster of candidates even prior to the final settlement of their petition, thereby violating a fundamental right to a presumption of regularity.

Despite his being a frontrunner, I maintain my decision not to support Marcos Jr. or any other candidate. But his critics and haters would do the country a lot of good if they just fight for clean and fair elections. While they dread and hate the prospect of a Marcos presidency, which they fear as a nightmare, they should learn to respect the will of the people, and learn to accept their verdict. And they should also begin recalibrating their strategies as a political opposition. Apparently, resurrecting the horrors of martial law, reminding people of the corruption of his father, and exposing his conviction in a tax case and his misrepresentation of his academic degrees are not enough to change people's minds.