In Hi’s and hello’s in three stages, I wanted to point out that there are different stages in a presidential campaign, and that we’re transitioning from one stage to another, namely from the first to second stages of the campaign.
First stage: Introducing Yourself and Making Friends: potential candidates put themselves forward for consideration by the public in its capacity as the body politic that constitutes the membership of political parties (Anytime from May 10, 2007 to Oct. 20, 2009)
Much as Filipinos followed the American presidential contest, and are in some ways more familiar with the American system than our own, the equivalent period in the United States was the far longer period during which various potential candidates first set up their exploratory committees, and then began participating in the debates and fora leading up to the more formal elimination rounds known as the party primaries.
There have been proposals to establish some sort of primary system here at home, the problem is such proposals always come too late: and they must necessarily come too late because the law -written by by politicians with politicians’ requirements during elections in mind- rigidly prohibits an extended and public selection process.
My personal view is that the 90 day period provided by law for campaigns is far too short, and is a case of being penny wise and pound foolish, the short period meant to encourage economy in campaigns. To my mind it accomplishes the opposite, as campaigns have to frenetic, and, considering the large size of the electorate, it’s superficial because only a few, key messages can be drummed into the public consciousness during the campaign.
Still, the law is the law, and much as it may not make total sense to the public, it makes sense to the candidates, fortified as their understanding is, by legal precedents. Basically, the law simply states that if a candidate does not formally file candidacy papers, he or she is not yet a candidate, and therefore, not bound by the law when it comes to punishable violations of the Omnibus Election Code.
Since this is the introductory period, prospective candidates are trying to accomplish several things, going into the period when they’re expected to formalize their affiliations and form teams to contest the elections. There’s no leader where there aren’t any followers, and what candidates are trying to do is to prove they’re serious contenders for the presidency and vice-presidency. They do this by manifesting interest in the position, by touring the country, by getting commitments from individuals and groups, and accumulating a campaign kitty or at least, the resources to attract future donations.
They also have to start speaking out on issues and proposing themes in the hope they’re attractive to the electorate. As it stands, with the period for putting together, revising, and formally adopting, party platforms still ongoing, it’s well to remember that there have been opportunities aplenty for the candidates to be asked their views on the issues, and for these opinions to be scrutinized.
In fact, considering that most of the leading contenders are not only in the Senate, but ran for the Senate in 2007, there’s an underutilized resource available to the public for comparing where the candidates of today stood, in terms of the issues in 2007, which can help gauge if they’ve remained consistent, or have evolved or devolved since then: the Podcast interviews conducted by Inquirer.net of senatorial candidates in 2007, which were provided online. These interviews are particularly useful because they weren’t limited by time constraints, candidates could talk as long or as briefly as they pleased.Francis Escudero Podcast Transcript Benigno Aquino III Podcast Transcript
So it’s not as if there wasn’t a starting point for vetting the candidates.
And as the introductory process continues, and the current ideas, the points of view, of the prospective candidates start accumulating, to the point that the public, in turn, starts deciding, not on who to vote for, but who to consider.
And they can begin comparing and contrasting the opinions of prospective candidates -whether these opinions, in turn, provide the basis for a real campaign, comes later, when presidential aspirants, for example, woo and secure the support of potential running mates, and potential tandems, in turn, lobby for, and are lobbied to embrace, individual senatorial candidates to form a ticket.
Here are examples of comparing and contrasting the public statements of the prospective candidates:
Presidential Views ANC Face to Face With LGU Champions
The above being a comparison of their answers during the ANC Local Government Unit Forum.
And putting together the statements of an individual candidate to get an idea of the various statements of the candidate on the issues:
And the above being a comparison of the answers the prospective candidates gave during their profile interviews with Che-Che Lazaro.
But to a certain extent, the above are useful only in getting to know the candidates, but it’s premature to demand of them, their party platforms considering they couldn’t formalize their party candidacies until last October: and with their party candidacies comes the whole panoply of the campaign, from veep to senatorial slate.
Not to mention maintaining the strange -because not really in keeping with reality- and formal distinction between aspiring to a nomination and being a bonafide, nominated, party candidate.
The law on campaigning kicks in when candidacies are formally filed, yet to be a candidate, one usually goes through the complete staff work of party affiliation, and then endorsement. This then brings us to the second stage of the campaign.
Second stage: Formalizing Alliances, by means of Party Conventions and Nominations
Part I: the adoption of potential candidates as the official candidates of particular parties or coalitions for the purpose of forming slates to campaign for votes from the electorate at large (Oct. 21-Nov. 19, 2009)
Conventions aren’t what they used to be (see The NP Convention Story, 1953): contests in which party delegates engaged in balloting to determine who’d be the standard bearer. Still, candidates need to be anointed by parties, as the parties provide the legal personality required by law for many aspects of electoral process. Conventions are the means by which not just presidential and vice-presidential tandems, but senatorial slates, are unveiled and deemed closed.
October 21 The Joint Convention of the Partido ng Masang Pilipino and PDP-Laban in Plaza Moriones, Manila, adopting Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Jejomar Binay as presidential and vice-presidential candidates, during which they announced of their common platform, was the first convention to take place, on the first day allowed by law.
Unfortunately, beyond news reports, I haven’t found the platform online.
November 15: on or before this date, the Nacionalista Party Convention will take place.
The Nationalist People’s Coalition is widely expected to enter into a coalition agreement with its mother party, the NP, by providing Senator Loren Legarda as the veep running mate for Senator Manuel Villar Jr., who will be formally adopted as the Nacionalista standard bearer.
I ran into Gilbert Remulla a couple of weeks ago, and at the time, he said the Nacionalistas were engaged in finalizing their party platform; it’s reasonable to assume that the Party Convention will include formally ratifying that platform.
November 16: Liberal Party Convention, adopting Senator Benigno Aquino III who announced his intention to run for the presidency on September 9:
And Senator Manuel Roxas II who accepted Aquino’s offer of the vice-presidential slot on September 21:
As official candidates of the party. However, there’s likely to be another, less formal activity in which a broader coalition will manifest its adopting the tandem as its candidate, but whether the LP will update its existing platform, or retain it, while the coalition in turn adopts a broader platform, remains to be seen. As it is, Aquino by all accounts has been deeply involved in the meetings of various clusters tackling a coalition platform.
November 19 Lakas-Kampi CMD Convention in Manila’s Philippine International Convention Center (originally slated for November 12 in Cebu City, but moved because of the Pacquiao fight and the wooing of Gwen Garcia for the veep slot failed), following earlier events:
It started with the President’s presiding over the unification of Lakas-CMD and Kamp (setting forth the campaign direction of the administration “for the next thirteen months”) on May 28; the National Executive Committee meeting on September 16 announcing the intention to adopt Sec. Gliberto Teodoro as party standard bearer:
Then followed by the President’s relinquishing the party leadership to Sec. Teodoro; and today’s announcement by Interior Secretary Puno that former OMB Chair Edu Manzano will be the running mate of Teodoro (squelching speculation that Ceb Gov. Gwen Garcia or Lipa City Mayor Vilma Santos or Senator Miguel Zubiri were contenders for veephood).
Teodoro has been reported as having practically single-handedly produced the NPC Party Platform when he was a member of that party; while the PaLaKa has a platform, it’s probable that together with the anointing of Teodoro as the president’s chosen successor, a new party platform will be unveiled as well.
As for Senator Francis Escudero, no longer affiliated with a party, his decision on whether to seek the presidency or the vice presidency or continue in the Senate is strictly his own.
Part II: The filing of certificates of candidacy (Nov. 20-30, 2009)
This is when individual presidential candidates, vice-presidential candidates, and senatorial candidates, then form teams; and it is here that platforms become essential, as they document the basis for unity of those who’ve decided to campaign together as a ticket. Their basis of unity in turn becomes the basis for campaigning for the votes of the electorate.
So conventional wisdom seems to be the following slates: Aquino-Roxas (LP); Estrada-Binay (UNO); Teodoro-Manzano (PaLaKa); Villar-Legarda (NP-NPC) with Escudero as the wildcard for the presidency or vice-presidency.
Break Time: The Long Hiatus (December 1, 2009-February 8, 2010)
After the filing of candidacies comes what’s expected to be the Long Hiatus from November 30 to February 6, when all sorts of prohibitions kick in.
In the past, the convention period would have been in January 2010, followed by the campaign period itself; but because of automation, the convention period was moved up, which introduced the rather nonsensical prohibition on doing anything, on the part of the candidates, for two months.
So what prohibitions might kick in? On things deemed to constitute either an “election campaign” or “partisan political activity.”
Section 79 of BP 881 defines “election campaign” or “partisan political activity” as “An act designed to promote the election or defeat of a particular candidate or candidates to a public office.”
This includes the following prohibited acts from the period of the filing of certificates of candidacy by November 30, until the official campaign begins on February 6, 2009:
1. Forming organizations, associations, clubs, committees or other groups of persons for the purpose of soliciting votes and/or undertaking any campaign for or against a candidate;
2. Holding political caucuses, conferences, meetings, rallies, parades, or other similar assemblies, for the purpose of soliciting votes and/or undertaking any campaign or propaganda for or against a candidate;
3. Making speeches, announcements or commentaries, or holding interviews for or against the election of any candidate for public office;
4. Publishing or distributing campaign literature or materials designed to support or oppose the election of any candidate; or
5. Directly or indirectly soliciting votes, pledges or support for or against a candidate.
However, the following acts are not included as offenses during this period:
1. Reporting by newspapers or radio or television stations of news or news-worthy events relating to candidates, their qualifications, political parties and programs of government;
2. Commentaries and expressions of belief or opinion in respect of candidates, their qualifications and programs and so forth, so long as such comments, opinions and beliefs are not, in fact, advertisements for particular candidates covertly paid for;
3. The posting of decals and stickers on “mobile” places, whether public or private, is allowed;
4. Holding political conventions or meetings to nominate their official candidates within forty-five days before the commencement of the campaign period.
Furthermore, with regards to the conduct of candidates, according to a ruling of the Supreme Court (Penera vs. COMELEC) it is upon the filing of his/her COC, that a candidate can thereafter be held guilty of premature campaigning for purposes of disqualification. It’s upon the filing of his/her COC, that a candidate explicitly declares his/her intention to run in the coming elections and is governed by the rules on campaigns.
And so, based on the above, much as the forced break from campaigning is inconvenient to the candidates, it presents a golden opportunity for those interested in scrutinizing platforms, to engage in public discussions about those platforms.
This is the period when Platforms ought to be expected and really, the earliest when they can be produced: therefore the demands for platforms prior to the convention season and the filing of candidacies betrays ignorance of the process. Even in the United States, voters, in their capacity as members of political parties, selected candidates not on the basis of formal platforms by the candidates, but rather, as a result of debates; for it’s only with the formal adoption of candidates by the parties that the conventions also produce the platform under which the party and its candidates campaign. Indeed, the choice of candidate has a direct influence on the party platform.
As I’ve pointed out, our political practice is more oriented towards coalitions; and the coalitions, too, require time to hammer out a common platform as the basis of uniting to support specific candidates. The broader the coalition, the longer and more complicated the consensus process required to arrive at a platform becomes.
So you cannot have a platform if you are a leader without followers and the association of leaders and followers is the party or coalition; and that coalition or party has to coalesce before it can unveil its platform.
Third stage: Parties and coalitions, their candidates, campaign among the electorate, to obtain their votes on election day.
Part I: Feb. 9, 2010: National campaign period for candidates for the presidency and vice presidency, the Senate and party list begins.
Part II: March 26, 2010: Local campaign period for candidates for House seats and provincial, city and municipal positions begins.
This is when the entire party or coalition slate, national and local, gets to campaign, and it’s a pretty short period all things considered.
Part III: May 8, 2010: Campaign period ends.
May 10, 2010: Election day.