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The Manila Times : The race to 51%

News & Interviews
26 October 2021

By Ma. Lourdes Tiquia | The Manila Times

WE'VE never had a majority president post-EDSA. We do not have a system of runoffs so that we get a president with majority votes. Majority is 50 percent plus 1. The nearest to a majority was former president Benigno Aquino 3rd with 42.08 percent while former president Fidel V. Ramos had 23.58 percent. So, the argument of some critics is that there are more total votes of opponents than winners. And that is something we need to correct either by having a runoff, which would mean a constitutional amendment. Or the political camps should have less splinter groups and more agreeing among themselves on who should stand for the administration and the opposition.

The other problematic practice our politics has is using the splintering as a strategy to contain the outcome and make it easier to handle at the operations level. Because of this mathematical model, no candidate can secure 51 percent.

Using the total registered voters in 2019 of 61,843,77 and voting turnout average of 80 percent during the presidential cycle at 80 percent, we get a turnout of 49.5 million. To get 51 percent of the turnout, a candidate for president will need to secure 25 million to win. And this is where geographical base is important to presidential candidates. Luzon has 56 percent of the votes, the Visayas 21 percent and Mindanao 24 percent. Technically, securing Luzon gives a lot of headway for anyone but politically, one needs to break in the Visayas and Mindanao and the math there could lead to several permutations.

The other factor that one has to consider in presidential politics is campaign experience and performance of the candidate. If one has not run a national campaign, understanding measured capacity and the strengths of cities viz provinces are crucial to determine harvest areas. Add to that the determinants of one's base, undecideds, and the opponent's base. Trying to convert your opponent's base is not the first step but spending finite resources for your base as the first strategy is also wrong. Ever heard of the saying "preaching to the choir?" If presidential camps do not have their numbers together, the campaign will be a hit and miss. Without a good communication plan, the hit and miss would lead to a shotgun approach. That approach has no traction in a target-driven digital arena.

In 2016, the contest for the vice presidency had six candidates: Robredo, Marcos, Cayetano, Escudero, Trillanes and Honasan. Cayetano, Escudero and Trillanes were said to be there to break the strengths of Marcos. Since Robredo was untested, having not run for national position, ensuring victory was necessary. Even today, there is that question, despite the ruling, if she really won the race, fair and square. It was so close that the splintered strategy resulted in that. But the votes of Marcos were within his measured capacity from 2010 when he ran for the Senate.

Robredo in 2016 got 14,418,817 votes, or 35.11 percent while Marcos got 14,155,344 votes, or 34.47percent. Marcos, his first attempt to run for a national position in 1995, placed 16th in the Senate race. He ran under the Nationalist People's Coalition then. By 2010, Marcos had landed 7th in the Senate race under the Nacionalista Party, with 13,169,634 votes, or 34.52 percent. Though the Senate is a multirace, and the presidency a one-on-one, one can see that the measured capacity of Marcos stands at 34.5 percent of votes. And this was the problem of the Marcos strategy in 2016; he never grew his base in all his years in the Senate.

Why is Marcos strong going into May 2022? There are several reasons: 1) his base remains strong which is 34.5 percent of the turnout; 2) his base wants to prove to all that they won the 2016 campaign for the VP; 3) all issues thrown at him in 2016 has no impact already because he has attained a Teflon-like demeanor and he has moved forward in terms of his communication framing and priming; 4) the first-time voters consider him still "youthful" despite his being a senior; and 5) he remains with the administration, a possible brand extension of strong leader just like PRRD. Adding the qualifier "dictator" does not damage the brand because voters want a strong leader and that is based on several focus group discussions: dictator is stable, dictator is decisive, dictator is political will. Getting things done and fighting for Filipinos appear to be essential characteristics of a leader that voters are looking for. Then there is love for the country.

The Pahayag-Quarter 3 national survey should be taken with the aforementioned points. What are the leadership traits voters identify with PRRD: brave (83 percent), decisive (76 percent) and have love for PH (74.5 percent). The approval (60 percent) and trust (53 percent) of PRRD remains high despite the Phalmary and handling of the global pandemic, as pointed out by his critics.

Shock at Marcos getting 49.3 percent on presidential preference? His base is there at 34.5 percent and it increased by 14.8 percent when he filed as candidate for president under Partido Federal, a natural bounce. Without Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, it would seem that her numbers went to the most viable candidate of the administration, and this is without the endorsement of PRRD unlike when Sen. Bong Go filed with PRRD in tow.

Where is the base of Robredo? She won the vice presidency at 35.11 percent. In the first survey upon filing, she registered at 21.3 percent, or a loss of potentially around 13.81 percent. What happened from 2016? That is for her campaign team to discover and find solutions to.

A survey is a snapshot of a point in time. If by the second reading the trajectory holds, then there could be a trend going to the campaign period. What is not inputted in these numbers is PRRD. His endorsement is the kicker. The same with having a single tandem for the administration. And with his political strengths shown in the midterm, the call for new names in the Senate may just be another arena PRRD may include in his legacy.