The Long View: Seeing red


Seeing red

Yesterday what can only be described (charitably) as the lunatic fringe, gathered at the Edsa People Power Monument. Led by an ex-general, the small motley crew thundered and shrilled about the Comelec choices, plus the communists, putting him on the same wavelength as online boosters of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who’ve been shrieking with increasing shrillness about the communists, and furthermore insisting an operation is in the works to steal the election. Last March 9, in her Facebook, Loyalist doyenne Clarita Carlos had ominously warned, “EVIL plan to cook survey numbers to justify cheating on May 9 … dire consequences … sama sa lasa!”

Yet the surveys all along, and until now, including the most recent ones of OCTA (55 percent Marcos, 15 percent Robredo) and Pulse Asia (60 percent Marcos, 15 percent Robredo) both undertaken in February, show the darling of the lunatic fringe and the loyalist crowd to be leading. So where is this mysterious conspiracy theory coming from?

The Marcos sorties — when the candidate has decided not to show up because he had to attend a wedding or other reasons — have been remarkable for what can only be described as surprisingly small turnouts and shockingly low energy attendees. Add to this that in contrast to, say, the Robredo volunteer-driven, bottom-up campaign, the Marcos one is as traditional as it gets (except for harnessing Sino-Russian online techniques) with its reliance on machinery, where the news hasn’t been so good of late.

Three governors, Defensor of Iloilo, Fernando of Bulacan, Ongchuan of Samar, affiliated with the National Unity Party, have endorsed Robredo, as did Evardone of Eastern Samar, who belongs to the President’s party, with both Evardone and Ongchuan pointing to the President as their reason for doing so. The President himself, in one of his recent ravings, said something to the effect that the next president ought to be a lawyer and kindhearted, with, furthermore, Cusi of the woebegone PDP-Laban taking up this supposed presidential cue, leading to confusion as to whether the President might do the unthinkable, which is endorse the Veep.

What if they are using the President as camouflage to disguise their taking their cues from their own constituents? But then what’s the President’s game?

I think, based on reading Earl Parreño’s biography of the President, that he ultimately hated Ferdinand Marcos because he blames the Great Dictator for a humiliating final defeat quickly followed by his dad’s death. But the President was pragmatic in using both his father’s old patron turned enemy, Alejandro Almendras, in his own rise to power and the Marcoses in his campaign for the presidency. His axe to grind is his preference for his daughter’s running for the presidency having been thwarted. This is the existential fear of the Marcoses.

Their mistrusting the surveys is for different reasons than the Robredo campaign, which is experiencing a breathtaking second wind, because of the remarkable turnout for her rallies: 15K in Naga, 45K in Bulacan, 47K in Cavite, 86K in Bacolod, 20K in Isabela (with roughly 90K, 2.7M, 2.3M, 1.9M, 1M voters respectively: divide the turnout with registered voters to get a better sense of scale: the turnout in Isabela was just .02 percent of registered voters; in Bacolod, which includes the region because attendees came from far and wide, just .04 percent of registered voters).

There’s a saying in (Filipino) politics that no candidate ever admits to losing an election. Take it further and one can argue no candidate ever thinks they’re losing, because at every campaign stop, all they experience is enthusiastic admiration. Common sense says: It’s still very much uphill for Robredo.

But there’s a tantalizing possibility: that the established survey firms have lost their touch, and that somehow their methods have become corrupted or corrupt. Not least because there is an alternative way of interpreting things. In recent weeks, Wilson Chua has gained a great deal of media mileage because of his raising the possibility that Google Trends is a better, real-time indicator of voter support and, thus, turnout. Now one can say that he has a self-promotion angle since his outfit doesn’t have the academic credentials or institutional staying power (or track record) of the established survey firms. What his suggestion has going for it, is that everyone can see Google Trends, while it’s a harder ask to understand opinion polling. Still: even Chua says that eventually, surveys would have similar findings to his, except it would take the surveys longer.

If you’re a betting man, the safe bet is still on the surveys. Which isn’t to say that March could reveal, in April, what everyone’s puzzling over today: a reenergized Robredo and droopy Marcos campaign.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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