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May 11

Can candidates beat the odds?

The President goes into campaign crunch time with a bum stomach.

Latest survey results on the party-list are out. The National Democrats are doing badly in the surveys but not so bad as to risk losing their seats in the House:

In the May 2-4 poll of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Social Weather Stations (SWS), Bayan Muna got 8.4 percent of the votes cast for partylist groups, down from 10.4 percent in the April 14-17 survey, and 27.6 percent in the March 15-18 survey.

In addition, it seems Mong Palatino is poised to become the first blogger to end up serving in the House of Representatives:

13. Kabataan (2.1 percent)

Mong, incidentally, pens this interesting description of the new political culture of our country:

We have a new generation of voters exposed to digital relationships and the OFW phenomenon. If friendship is possible between two people who haven’t met (in the traditional sense, they haven’t met. But in the modern sense, they have already met through viewing of their friendster profiles, live chatting, texting and emailing), a politician can risk campaigning through virtual means. If parenting is done remotely by OFW parents, young voters will not find it odd if politicians will campaign through television alone. The new generation of voters expect politicians to be less intrusive to their lives. Voters want the freedom to turn off the TV or radio if they dislike the candidate or politician; in the same way they can switch channels if they find TV programs too boring. They won’t have the same freedom if politicians or candidates are knocking on their doors.

In short, a politician must be both visible and invinsible to get more votes. How odd, yet so true. Welcome to the 21st century!

Speaking of surveys. He’s a sure guide to everything survey-related, and Philippine Commentary is taking pains to point out:

1. If there’s any certainty about the results, it will only apply to the first six or so places in the surveys; anything below that involves a race that’s too close to call.

2. Because things remain dynamic, don’t count out of the race those who come in past no. 12 in the surveys:

It is not enough to say that anyone below 3% of the current No. 12 candidate has no chance of breaking into it. Consider the performances in the last period of Juan Miguel Zubiri and Sonia Roco. I note with some ill-disguised gladness that in the May 1-2 survey, it looks like Ed Angara and Joker Arroyo are fighting it out for the last two seats, and both could in fact be displaced by hard-charging candidates from below. Even Antonio Trillanes is within striking distance, in my opinion and cannot be counted out, along with Migs Zubiri and Sonia Roco.

As The Journal of the Jester-in-Exile (in a very interesting analysis of the senate race, I might add) also takes pains to point out: the senate race can be divided into several groups, based on their rankings in the surveys. He places Angara, Joker, and Sotto in a dead heat for the finish, but says Pimentel, Defensor, and Trillanes are still “within striking distance,” and that a political upset can still carry Pichay, Montano or Roco to victory.

He brings to mind the third point to bear in mind today: the large number of undecided voters -and voters who may decide to change their minds (and votes):

The SWS has counted a stray/ undecided vote percentage of 13%, and with the margin of error of +/- 3%, will range from 10% to 16%. If the opposition is able to marshal this population, a Senate composition may range between 8-4-2 to 9-3-1, with Pimentel, Roco, and Trillanes kicking out Angara, Arroyo, and Sotto out of the running, with Zubiri duking it out with Honasan. Conversely, if Team Daya gets all of these numbers, the Senate may between 6-5-1 to 7-4-1, forcing out Cayetano and Honasan, and making the final seat a fight between Aquino and Pichay.

These two entries reminds us that on election day, priority one is getting people to show up and cast their votes. The monkeying around that follows means all the more that believers in certain candidates should try to contribute to a tidal wave of votes that would swamp the cheating. Random Thoughts, for example, is all set to cast that vote in favor of Joker. Patsada Karajaw takes heart from the Trillanes ratings, and this does suggest a big push on his behalf not only from his supporters (now liberated from the media blackout that handicapped him for much of the campaign), but from the opposition -enough of an effort to make the Palace nervous.

Contrasting views on the “command” or “machinery” vote come from Dan Mariano and Amando Doronila.

Mariano says unopposed administration bets in local races, can then attend to national candidates’ needs:

What do Belmonte, Treñas and Guico have in common?

They are all proadminis­tration mayors. Moreover, they are among the 243 municipal and 24 city chief executives all over the country-with a total of 5.6 million voters in their constituencies-who are either running unopposed or facing token rivals.

Given their enviable situation, these mayors are able to act as fulltime campaigners for Team Unity’s senatorial ticket.

This corps of influential campaigners is what sets Team Unity apart from GO. These are the local leaders who can deliver the unfortunately named “command votes” for the administration candidates.

This is the administration’s grassroots work, which can go and get out the vote-literally-on Election Day itself, which no survey can match.

Doronila, on the other hand, says what people tend to do, is accept conventional wisdom as gospel truth, without asking if old assumptions are holding true (or were ever true at all). He says observers who assume the administration to steamroll to victory in the House are wrongly discounting the chance some races will result in electoral upsets:

Statistics are touted to support the administration’s expectations of a sweep. For example, the administration’s seven-party coalition led by Lakas-CMD has in place 77 out of the 81 provincial governors, 194 out of 228 congressmen, 115 of 120 city mayors, and over 1,200 of 1,500 mayors. That profiles the machine. As for delivery of the command votes, estimated to number two million, the Genuine Opposition has no candidates in more than 70 percent of the electorates nationwide. Even opposition strategists admit that the opposition has contested only 144 of the more than 230 congressional seats, and that only one-third of the 144 (40) are considered as “sure winners.”

These estimates assume the best results for the administration. They further assume that the voters are robots, which is not the case. The outrage factor has apparently been taken out of the equation. Given the capacity of the administration to offend public opinion and to provoke outrage over its abuse of power, which tends to increase as Election Day approaches, there is a certain amount of volatility in public sentiment creating a backlash against these excesses. (The prospects of gagging Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrrez to limit their capacity to lose votes for administration candidates are dim.) The theory therefore of a 10-20 percent machine-delivered command vote rests at best on pure hypothesis, arrogance or overconfidence. In plain words, it is foolish to discount a number of upsets on the congressional level.

A very good point, and one which could change the dynamics nationally, too.

So tying it all together, here are the things to ponder as the campaign comes to a close:

1. There’s a large number of undecided voters out there.
2. The senatorial election may be more fluid than expected. And the borderline administration candidates may not get the big boost they need, but instead, even lower-ranking but more loyal administration candidates might get support; and there are an equal number of opposition candidates that could ride the crest of a last-minute wave of public support.
3. The senatorial races can be boosted by cohesive local support, but there may be nasty surprises for the administration in some local races.

Now much of the debate involves machinery, and variations thereof. Most voters seem to think some sort of cheating will take place. The question is, what kind delivers more electoral bang for the buck? Over the past decade, it’s proven to be dagdag-bawas is king. In Inquirer Current, I ask: what if the pros have come to the conclusion that old-fashioned muscle on the ground, matters more than wholesale fraud?

Update: it seems Newsbreak might have just answered the question:

A strategist and two operators who claim to be involved in the administration’s “special operations” for the senatorial elections separately told Newsbreak that this year’s strategy adopts the “successful” aspects of the pre-election cheating that they said they conducted for President Arroyo in the 2004 elections, and avoids the parts that had been subsequently discovered.

Due to the sensitive nature of their disclosure, these sources refused to be identified. But they were among the sources we previously interviewed for our series of stories on election cheating in the 2004 presidential polls.

Specifically, they disclosed, what will not be repeated from the 2004 elections are:

* The use of pre-accomplished election returns (ERs) that were switched with genuine ones before the municipal canvassing began.
* The use of extra certificates of canvass (COCS) that tampered with actual provincial tallies.

The ones that will be repeated from the 2004 strategy, according to them, are:

* Wide-scale operations only in “friendly” cities and provinces.
* An unusually high voter turnout in these areas.
* The buying out, if necessary, of the opposition’s poll watchers.

On a civic note, [email protected] explains why he will vote. For the undecided, there are summaries of the candidates’ positions in issues such as Charter Change, the dynasty question, the population issue, and RP-US relations.

John Nery in our joint blog, who disagreed previously with my assertion the middle class will be boycotting this one, rethinks his position (pointing to Mike Tan’s upcoming column, among other anecdotal evidence). Personally, I think this is the sad result of the logical trap the middle class has placed itself in, since 2005. But whether they come out to vote for the President’s ticket, or against, I hope I’m proven wrong. Because it won’t do the middle any good to be shown having opted out of an election.

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  1. mlq3

    territorial: the cases you pointed out are interesting. but they don’t prevent someone facing charges from running -and more importantly, the candidate turning his candidacy into a kind of referendum on himself. There is potent political symbolism, also, in running for office from a jail cell.

    In the case of Estrada, he’s one side of the two-sided question of legitimacy that’s come to haunt our society (the other being the President herself). I am not entirely convinced that had Estrada run, he would have automatically won; but I felt we should have welcomed his candidacy as a way of settling once and for all, where the public’s confidence lies. And again, for the same reason, the President should have submitted her stay in office to a referendum process, anyway, it would be non-binding.

  2. territorialregimen

    mlq3,

    I see your point about the political symbolism. I agree.

    But as to the legitimacy issue between Estrada and Arroyo… Nah! it’s long dead.

    And the referendum? Hmmm… there’s no such a thing.

  3. Bencard

    Buencad,

    maraming mga tao, lalo na dito sa States, na mas pinalalagahan and “hayop” kaysa “tao”. magmalupit ka sa tao, maari ka pang makalusot. Sa hayop? yari ka pag nahuli. Seguro mas alam nila na may mas mabuting kalulua and hayop haysa sa karamihan ng tao (na hayop din naman kung tutuusin, di ba?)

  4. Bencard

    baycas, see what i mean? you got one, didn’t you?

  5. manuelbuencamino

    bencad,

    ang gago ay tao, Ang aso ay hayop. Talaga bang gusto mo maging aso na lang?

  6. benj

    Are you guys really serious with all this rhetoric and burden-pushing? hehe

  7. baycas

    bencard, what i see is that you’re into your contrived spelling or TAGALIZATION (if you don’t mind) again…like your burgis for bourgeois example before.

    “idiot” in Tagalog is idyota and not…idyot.

    —–

    cvj, i wonder who is tanga, hangal, tulala, or a stupid person now. there’s always an online English-Tagalog dictionary online…

  8. The Ca t

    So, some ask, where did the appropriations for a House staff go? To charity, no doubt.

    If you do not know the explanation, it is because you do not know the budgeting and appropriations work.
    If there is no staff, no actual salaries are disbursed to the office. Walang ginawang voucher for payment.

    Yan ang kaibahan ni Binay, maraming salaries, binayaran pero walang withholding taxes ang neremit.

    I do not have to teach you Government Accounting and Auditing.

  9. manuelbuencamino

    Cat,

    kaya nga nagtaka ako kung bakit si Joker ang unang nagsalita contra sa suspension ni Binay,

    At talagang nagulat ako nung nabalitaan ko na nagpunta si Joker sa malacanan at sinabi kay Gloria na aalis siya sa TUTA kung hindi iurong amd suspension ni Binay.

    Bakit kaya ginawa ni Joker yun?

  10. Bencard

    baycas, i don’t know why you make an issue of “idyot” as a “tagalize” english word. Since your “idyota” is itself a borrowed spanish word, why don’t we just say idyot is male and idyota is female. thanks, but no thanks, for your “corection”.

    I don’t know if cvj would jump on this. he may be merciless at times, but he is not garapal, i think.

  11. Bencard

    “correction” i should say. the spelling cop might get me.

  12. baycas

    bencard, mainly because of your use of the word idyot (idiot). if spelling is my strong point i should have also included your Spanish word sigue.

    anyway, we’ve been joselued at one time or another in the past (possibly may be repeated in the future) and it’s a forgivable crime as long as your message is sent.

    it’s your use of the word…idiot…(for readers in the opposition who will believe in voting straight G.O. is important) which i think is garapal, to borrow your term.

  13. jonphil

    The formula to be a senator: stage a coup + get imprisoned (underdog) + prepare a script that you sacrifice your life to save da pilipins.

  14. The Ca t

    Bakit kaya ginawa ni Joker yun?

    Joker was once a congressman in Makati.

  15. Bencard

    if the trend holds, we may have to live with having two new jailbirds in the senate plus the one already there but out on bail. may God have mercy on us.

    we will also have three sets of “political dynasties” (6 senators out of 24) belonging to 3 set of immediate families. What is our country coming to? The much vaunted “idealistic” youth vote is either impotent or misdirected – a sad commentary on the sense of values that the young has been indoctrinated with.

    so the senate gridlock continues. we will have more of the same “investigations in aid of legislation” but no legislation; more grandstanding and maneuvering for the presidency after 2010, if the obsession for another GMA “impeachment” does not materialize; more leaf-frogging from one “party” to another depending on which direction the political wind blows.

    we deserve our lot, so let’s stop the fingerpointing and start focusing on our individual responsibility. to the forces of hate and despair, you may have a reason to celebrate.

  16. manuelbuencamino

    Bencard,

    If the trend holds, we will have oversight and checks and balance, two very important mechanisms for democracry.

    You saw what happened in your adopted country when both the White House and Capitol Hill was controlled by one party.

    Why do you wish the same curse on us?

  17. Bencard

    buencad, but do we need three potential convicts (of serious felonies) and three family dynasties in the same legislative body, out of 80 million or so Filipinos, to provide “check and balance”? don’t you think we could have done better than that? or are we just irredeemably naive or consumate fools?

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