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The Manila Times : It's likely to be a boring election

News & Interviews
10 December 2021

By Rigoberto Tiglao | The Manila Times

IF you just look at the facts and the polls, as well as monitor the sizes of the rallies for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates, the team of Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio look unstoppable that it could be the first ever boring election for the two highest posts in the country.

Many of course would contest that forecast, pointing out that it's too early to call it. They say that in the 2016 elections, then vice president Jojo Binay was the frontrunner, followed by two other strong candidates, Grace Poe and the Yellow forces' Mar Roxas. They point out that Rodrigo Duterte at that time was the laggard in the race, but he unexpectedly zoomed up in the five months to May 2016.

The facts do not support that narrative. Yes, Duterte got only 12 percent support compared to Binay's 29 percent in one early poll, but this was way back in March 2015. By December 2015, he had 23 percent, statistically the same as Poe's 21 and Roxas' 21. Binay was still ahead, with 33 percent.

These polls are in stark contrast to the presidential surveys on next year's election done last October and November. Marcos, according to the October Social Weather Stations' poll had a commanding lead, with 47 percent of respondents choosing him. That's three times bigger than Robredo's 18 percent, and four times Isko Moreno's 13 percent.

A new but respectable pollster, Publicus Asia, in its November poll shows Marcos' support even moving up by 10 percentage points, to 57 percent. Robredo shed three points, and got only 15 percent, while Moreno was down to 7 percent. A privately commissioned pollster told me that his poll made in December shows 70 percent for Marcos. Other surveys, including Facebook-based surveys, confirm the SWS and Publicus findings.

Not by any stretch of imagination could Robredo and Moreno, and certainly not Pacquiao and Lacson, zoom up Duterte-style in the next four months. (Yes, January to April is four months to the May 9 elections.)

Propaganda

Binay, the frontrunner in the 2016 elections, gradually lost support mainly because the immense resources of the ruling Aquino 3rd administration were brought to bear on him through an intense propaganda campaign undertaken even in the halls of the Senate that it got to hog the headlines almost every day in the run-up to the May elections.

Accusation after accusation was thrown at Binay, that he owned vast properties and got huge kickbacks in the construction of a Makati government building and a land deal involving the headquarters of the Boy Scouts which he controlled.

Marcos’ lead is just too big now.

While they were beating up Binay of course, Duterte — with his charisma of courage and identification with the ordinary Filipino — electrified the nation, to get 39 percent of the votes. The Yellows were beating up the wrong man.

In contrast, the Duterte administration is obviously not out to take down Marcos. Even if the President has not endorsed Marcos and has even criticized his qualifications, his running mate after all is Duterte's beloved unica hija. The once powerful Yellow forces are all but gone, that even Robredo chose to change her campaign color — to the derisory pink.

In contrast to Binay who obviously couldn't claim to be squeaky clean in his and his family's 19-year rule over Makati, the richest city in the country since 1986, Robredo can't find any issue to hurl against Marcos except that he is the son of Ferdinand Marcos, whom she assumes, wrongly I think, most Filipinos hate because of his martial law rule — which ended 35 years ago. Filipinos don't like that, and for more than three decades the myths and lies of the Yellow forces were being debunked in the past few years.

Cheating

Marcos' wide lead over Robredo is proof that her win in the 2016 vice-presidential elections was because of massive cheating, and the recent polls simply confirm what should have been the results if it had been a clean election.

The Yellow forces believed in the fiction they created, and they should have had a reality check and developed in the past five years another candidate for president not just with the qualifications but with characteristics and political instincts to win in the first place. Robredo is totally out of her weight class.

Actors spend millions for personal trainers and dietitians as they know that their income depends a lot on their looks. Robredo has become obese in the past year, a no-no in a contest that involves looks. By contrast, Marcos and even Sara seem to have spent a lot of time in gyms. Filipinos just like how they look.

Manhattan candidate

Robredo's base of support is merely in her home region Bicol, but not even half of that. Her support comes also from a small section of the upper- and middle-class who would vote only for somebody like them. This would account for at most 10 percent of the voters. Robredo is really the "Manhattan candidate" — financed by that billionaire Filipino American who has a huge penthouse there overlooking Central Park.

In contrast, Marcos' main base is of course from the Ilocano-speaking provinces who felt all these 35 years that his father's overthrow was the height of injustice, undertaken by an unholy alliance of the US, the Communist Party and the Yellow forces. What we are seeing now in Marcos' massive rallies is the explosion of their pent-up emotions. The Marcos-Duterte team also has the support of kingpins in the provinces around Manila — such Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the Remullas of the vote-rich Cavite.

Based on the Publicus Asia poll done last month, 50 percent of respondents in the National Capital Region will vote for Marcos, nearly twice the 27 percent for Robredo.

Eastern Visayas, where his mother comes from, is also a base of support, especially because of the inexcusable bungling of the Aquino administration in addressing the horror of the Yolando super typhoon that hit Samar and Leyte in 2013, claiming the lives of 6,000 Visayans. Among the large religious sects, the Iglesia ni Cristo and the El Shaddai are said to be fully supporting Marcos. The INC particularly is livid over Robredo's win in 2015 as the electoral count in many of their known "locals" yielded even zero votes, an impossibility with the group's well-known hold on the voting preferences of their members.

Sara Duterte-Carpio as Marcos' running mate has given her rocket boost, as after all she is the daughter of the most popular Philippine president ever. But even on her own, and with her looks, she has developed a kind of charisma that Filipinos seem to have fallen in love with her, enough to throw their support to the Marcos-Duterte team. If Marcos has his Solid North supporters, Sara brings to him the South, Mindanao. Based on the Publicus Asia poll, Marcos support in Mindanao is at 70 percent — even more than his 60 percent in Northern and Southern Luzon.

Vice president

In contrast, Robredo could not have chosen a worse running mate than the prematurely phlegmatic Sen. Kiko Pangilinan. He was a councilor in Quezon City and then lost in his bid to be congressman in 1992. But he married the popular actress Sharon Cuneta in 1996, three years after he had her previous marriage annulled in 1993. With her by his side in all rallies, Pangilinan won a Senate seat in 2001. I think Pangilinan adds zero to voters for Robredo. If Robredo thought he could add to the campaign war-chest, she is terribly, terribly wrong.

I don't think there'll be any surprises in the coming months, and I cannot find any engine that would miraculously boost Robredo's bid in the coming four months. This is especially so as she and her people have demonstrated unbelievable brainlessness and amateurishness in the past months. A handful of rice with her campaign leaflets? A painting of her on Facebook with Jesus Christ looking over an assembly of believers?

Only the US can save this Manhattan candidate, as they'd want to revert the Philippines to its former status as its most malleable puppet, especially to use against its superpower rival, China.

But after US ambassador Sung Kim left Manila in October 2020 to go to Indonesia, only a deputy chief of mission has run the embassy since. And last September only a chargé d'affaires, ad interim — an official ranked lower than an ambassador — was appointed to run it.

Message

That is usually a message that one nation doesn't really care much about a particular country at a particular time that it won't post an ambassador there. But it also means it would be very difficult for the Americans to mount a campaign against Marcos, since they don't have a senior diplomat on the ground to coordinate the plot, as they did in the person of the high-powered Ambassador Michael Armacost when they literally removed Bongbong's father by shanghaiing him to Hawaii in a C-130.

It is also fortuitous for Bongbong that the US, with a less-than-energetic president, has its hands full with crises — its failure to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of migrants invading its southern boundaries, China supposedly gearing up to take over its rogue province Taiwan, and now Russia allegedly threatening to invade Ukraine.

However, it would be far from being boring if by some satanic maneuver, Bongbong is disqualified from running. In that case, it will be a real revolution, from north to south.

That is one reason why it has been the Red fronts and known communists who have filed the disqualification cases, thinking a period of political chaos would be to their party's and its NPA's advantage. That would be a huge mistake. This time around, they will certainly be wiped out by the real patriots.