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The Philippine Star : Hardened

News & Interviews
28 December 2021

By Alex Magno | The Philippine Star

There is more bad news for the lesser candidates.

OCTA’s Tugon ng Masa Dec. 7-12 national survey affirms the trend established by the Pulse Asia, Publicus, dzRH and RMN surveys. Taken a week after Pulse Asia served out its survey forms, OCTA gives Bongbong Marcos a wider lead.

In the OCTA survey, Marcos’ voter preference share moves up a bit to 54 percent. Leni Robredo’s share dropped to 14 percent, followed by Domagoso at 12 percent and Pacquiao at 10 percent. There are now three second-tier candidates with Robredo, Domagoso and Pacquiao tightly clustered within a margin-of-error’s distance from each other. None of the three is anywhere near striking distance of Marcos.

Meanwhile, UniTeam’s vice-presidential candidate Sara Duterte increased her lead over Tito Sotto, 50 percent to 33 percent. This widens the possibility for a rare tandem win.

Furthermore, the OCTA survey results shows momentum on the side of the BBM-Sara tandem. This momentum increases as the parallel groups and local candidates come into play. Uniteam is supported by an array of national and regional political parties, an asset the Robredo campaign is without.

In a separate essay, I will go through the strategic blunders committed so far by the Robredo campaign. This will explain why this early her campaign has appeared to have peaked and begun to recede. There are many indications Leni’s campaign will resemble Grace Poe’s 2016 quest: a bright flash in the pan.

For this moment, let us examine a unique feature in the OCTA survey.

OCTA attempts to measure voter commitment to their preferred candidate. In face-to-face interviews, respondents were asked whether they would likely change their mind or not. Most voters indicated a high degree of commitment to their preferred candidate.

Among those who preferred Marcos, 73 percent said they will likely not change/definitely not change their vote. Only 50 percent of Robredo voters were as committed.

Among those who preferred Sara Duterte as vice-president, 74 percent said they will likely not change/definitely not change their vote. Only 50 percent of Sotto voters were as committed to their first choice.

Among those who had indicated a first choice for president, OCTA attempted to measure second-choice options in case the original preference becomes unavailable.

Domagoso leads the second-choice column with 21 percent, Pacquiao with 12 percent, Marcos with 14 percent (considering he already holds 54 percent first-choice preference) and Lacson with 13 percent. Robredo ranks only fifth as second choice option with 12 percent.

This dimension is significant, considering (the distant possibility) one or two candidates may either withdraw from the race or be disqualified. Should a further simplification of the race happen, Robredo will still not land on top.

Expectedly, Leni sympathizers reacted to the OCTA survey with much denial. One TV host pressed OCTA’s Guido David about why the firm is doing opinion polling when it had established its reputation with accurate forecasts about the progress of the pandemic. It took a while to sink in her mind that market research and opinion surveys are really OCTA’s main line of business. Dealing with pandemic statistics was a patriotic digression.

Late

It takes forever to settle an electoral dispute in this country.

I remember quite clearly the time Toti Cariño, contesting the Pasig congressional district, was sworn into office on the last day of session, his electoral protest having been upheld by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) three years after the protest was filed. He enjoyed the seat he deserved for only a few minutes.

I have it on good source that the HRET has affirmed the election of Luis Villafuerte Sr. as representative of Camarines Sur’s third district. The political veteran, who passed away a few months ago, was in a tight contest with former Naga vice-mayor Gabriel Bordado Jr.

Villafuerte had served as legislator for 17 years, eight as assemblyman and nine as congressman. He served as governor of Camarines Sur for 15 years. He is patriarch of a clan that continues to figure prominently in the province.

Bordado was declared winner of the May 13, 2019 elections in the district. Villafuerte filed an electoral protest.

A manual recount of the ballots showed Villafuerte clearly leading his rival. All that remains now is for the HRET to formally declare the results of the recount and thus unseat Bordado. Justice Marvic Leonen chairs the 9-member HRET panel.

The fact that Villafuerte Sr. passed away does not remove the urgency of formally issuing the ruling on this case. Several Supreme Court rulings have invested “most conclusive evidence” on the manual recount.

Curiously, Bordado did not find it worthwhile to file a counter-protest in this case. He did not seek a recount of clustered precincts other than those listed by Villafuerte in this protest. A counter-protest was the only way to offset the eventual findings that Villafuerte won handily in the clustered precincts specified in his protest.

Having established Bordado’s proclamation to be invalid, the man should not be allowed to continue occupying his district’s seat at the House of Representatives. He was never the representative chosen by the district’s constituents. He has no standing continuing to participate in the work of legislation.

Although Villafuerte Sr. can no longer occupy the seat he legitimately won, the House may name a caretaker representative to serve out the last months of the current term. The caretaker will have more legitimacy looking after needs of the constituency and articulating their voice in the plenary.

It was the HRET that caused the delay, after all, taking all of two years for the HRET to order the retrieval of ballot boxes from the questioned precincts.