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The Philippine Star : Plateau

News & Interviews
13 January 2022

By Alex Magno | The Philippine Star

The BBM-Sara campaign is using the best election science there is.

I had to twist Mel Robles’ arm to acquire a soft copy of the voluminous “focus group discussion and strategic survey” undertaken by a Swiss election consultant for the BBM-Sara campaign from Dec. 12 to 21. This report is for the internal consumption of the BBM strategy team and I will take care to avoid citing its tactical recommendations, respecting their proprietary rights over these.

I know the consultant, having met with him several electoral cycles ago. He is meticulous as a watchmaker. His firm does electoral surveys across Europe and around the globe.

There is a reason this consultant is much sought after. He puts great value on precision in sampling. His sampling for the BBM strategic survey matches all our complex demographic parameters: regional distribution, age, income and gender.

He combines a “strategic survey” using 3600 respondents with an extensive focus group discussion following a structured questionnaire. This blends the quantitative with the qualitative. Through 219 pages of graphs and charts, the report examines all the major players seeking the presidency and the vice presidency.

One has to go through many pages of charts and graphs to get to the voter preference numbers. By the time these numbers are examined, one has a clear idea of why the candidates are where they are.

It is only by Slide 144 that this report looks at the first choice preference of the voters surveyed. Bongbong Marcos is the first choice of 62 percent of voters. Leni Robredo has a 15 percent share, followed by Isko Moreno at 9 percent, Ping Lacson at 6 percent and Manny Pacquiao at 5 percent.

The numbers are repeated in subsequent questions. On “Most Qualified to be President,” Marcos rates 62 percent and Robredo 14 percent. On the “Personality Most Capable of Addressing COVID Issues,” Marcos rates 65 percent and Moreno 14 percent. On “Personality most Capable of Giving Jobs and Livelihood,” Marcos scores 59 percent and Robredo 13 percent. On “Personality who can Best Revive the Economy,” Marcos scores 64 percent and Robredo 13 percent. On “Personality who can Best Solve the Problem of Corruption,” Marcos rates 53 percent and Robredo 13 percent.

This is significant, considering the Robredo campaign is trying to make political hay out of its “lugaw” stalls and cute vaccination buses. On the “Personality who has the Best Record in Helping,” Marcos scores 43 percent, Moreno 22 percent, Pacquiao 16 percent and Robredo 12 percent.

Considering this survey was taken in the third week of December (a week after OCTA’s and two weeks after Pulse Asia’s), the numbers suggest that the Marcos campaign is gaining momentum while the Robredo campaign has hit a plateau.

The biggest stumbling block to the Robredo effort, it appears, is on the likeability factor. She is the only major presidential candidate where the voters who dislike her outnumber those who find her likeable. This is a daunting cliff to climb.

The Marcos campaign is the only one scientifically studying the mood of our voters. The others are relying on merely anecdotal information. This helps explain the wide lead.

In subsequent columns, I will try to parse the numerous other insights produced by this “strategic survey.”

Hacked

One newspaper put out a story about the Comelec computers being hacked. The Robredo campaign reacted prematurely to this stray story by expressing “alarm” over the hacking.

By the Comelec’s account, the information the hackers claim to have stolen from the poll body’s database has not even been encoded. How could something that has not been encoded (in fact, not even generated) be “hacked?”

The Comelec’s dismissal of the hacking claim is reassuring. But this does not mean we should be complacent about the integrity of the information systems supporting our electoral process. Breakdowns in ballot security could still happen at the local level.

Shortly before the holiday break, the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) ruled in favor of the protest filed by the late Rep. Luis Villafuerte Sr. against former Naga City Vice Mayor Gabriel Bordado Jr.

Bordado was proclaimed winner of the congressional seat for the third district of Camarines Sur on the basis of the electronic count. On the basis of a physical recounting of the ballots, however, the HRET found Villafuerte winning by a large margin in the contested precincts. Bordado, currently occupying the seat for the third district, did not even file a counter-protest against the one filed by Villafuerte Sr.

The reversal of the results for this district means only one thing: the electronic report of the vote count was tampered with. More investigation is required to find out how this was done and who was responsible for this travesty.

A thorough investigation is important to further secure our electronic voting system against the sort of fraud the elder Villafuerte suffered. Our voters must be assured that all digital defenses are up to prevent something like this from happening again.

Unfortunately, the veteran legislator passed away last year before the HRET could complete its work on his protest. He did not have the opportunity to savor vindication – and to see that the votes of his constituents are better secured.

This does not mean, however, that the ends of justice will not be served. The current public health crisis kept the House from resuming its sessions. As soon as it is possible to do so, the plenary ought to unseat Bordado and appoint a caretaker to look after the needs of the third district of Camarines Sur.

The man who took the seat on the basis of fraud should not sit a day longer.