Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why Newbies are still behind the trapos in Senatorial rankings

Why is it that despite the popular perception that people are desirous to elect new faces in Philippine politics, no political neophyte has ever landed in the Magic 12 of both SWS and Pulse Asia surveys?

Nine re-electionists dominate the surveys, with familiar household names the likes of Estrada, Revilla, Ponce-Enrile, Defensor-Santiago and Cayetano all battling for the top senatorial posts. This seems to be a reflection of the opposite perception that the masses are favoring new faces in the Senate. It’s either these surveys show a contrari perception or they really show voters' true preferences.

In the top twelve posts in the SWS and Pulse Asia surveys, I saw only one name emerge, actually a new face--that of Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. Bongbong was once defeated when he ran and lost in the 1995 senatorial race. His comeback now is stronger than before not just because he is a Marcos, but due to his sterling record as a Governor of Ilocos Norte.

Bongbong is hovering between the eighth and ninth places, which, if you ask analysts, are one of the safest places any senatorial aspirant would wish for. There is, however, a caveat---Ralph Recto was similarly placed in the same spot only to be dislodged in the actual voting. Recto was in the eighth or ninth spot when suddenly he got "displaced." Bongbong is still not a shoo-in as far as politics is concerned. Politics here shifts and changes like the desert sands. You're on top last month only to find yourself at near death in the next.

Election campaigns really depend on three factors, namely: higher visibility than your opponents' through your campaign machinery, higher trust and voter conversion through your wide and expansive sectoral organization and vote-guarding through your legal team. Without one of these pillars, you are sure to lose the game. Recto and Atty. Coco Pimentel knew that too late. Same goes to Richard Gomez and Cesar Montano who are both popular but lost in the senatorial race.

Gomez and Montano have a very high visibility or awareness, but lack the proper machinery to actually push people to vote for them. They also hired weak legal counsels as their election lawyers.

Recto had high visibility and awareness, of course owing to association with his popular wife, Vilma Santos but lost the elections because he lost a stable grassroots organization and was weak in guarding his votes from dag-dag bawas operators.

Senator Richard Gordon's senatorial campaign way back 2004 was a classic example of how an election is to be won. Gordon had capitalized on his record (SBMA administrator and Olongapo Mayor), and got very high awareness and approval ratings. Gordon, however, did not stop there. He developed a very big grassroots organization composed of various sectoral groups. A close confidante of Gordon told me that this network is composed of more than 30,000 individuals, scattered in different parts of the archipelago. That organization became the cornerstone of the campaign, as these individuals went around their communities, and drummed up popular support for Gordon. With an army of para-legals and the backing of his Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity brothers, Gordon had legal support.

From a ranking of 24th or 27th, Gordon surged ahead of the game, eventually landing in the winning circle at the time of canvassing.

The Gordon formula was adopted by Senator Antonio Trillianes IV when he ran for the senatorial elections. Trillianes IV had a very high awareness rating because of Oakwood. He then developed the Magdalo which recruited thousands of people, mostly also belonging to the Guardians Brotherhood which was then a solid and stable grassroots fraternal organization.

Trillianes IV was fortunate because he had impeccable timing. He studied the political landscape and correctly concluded that the times were ripe for a virtual political neophyte. What others fail to see is the formula which Trillianes used to win the senatorial race--he had a high awareness ratings, took care of an expansive organization and safeguarded his votes though an army of para-legals and sympathetic election lawyers.

Study the contrasts--Trillianes used up a fraction of what Prospero Pichay spent, yet Pichay lost and he won. Both had a high 90 plus awareness rating, but Pichay's trust and preference ratings were incredibly low. Meaning, it does not necessarily follow that if you're popular, people will vote for you. People might know you, but have a very negative perception of you. In this case, Trillianes had both high awareness and high conversion rates simply because people trust him more than Pichay.

The Trillianes case must be studied from the vantage point of timing.

Now, going back, why is there no political neophyte that stands to replicate the Trillianes formula? Simple. These political newbies are suffering because of what happened to Trillianes.

Reports showing Trillianes having the highest expenses in travel, and not reporting at the Senate is being perceived by the people as a waste of vote for newbies. The people felt that they fought for Trillianes only to be disappointed in the end. The people who elected him expected something radically different, only to find him squander the mandate given to him.

This apprehension has affected the chances of newbies, particularly the likes of Joey de Venecia III, Sonia Roco, Alex Lacson, Danilo Lim and Col. Ariel Querubin. There is a popular perception right now that it is meaningless, even useless to elect neophytes since, like Trillianes, they will just squander their mandates. This explains why Lim and Querubin’s ratings are hovering between 18 to 25th places. Critical that we examine the March SWS survey ratings since by this time, sectoral support has kicked in for both Lim and Querubin.

Likewise, these newbies have no established brand names to speak of. Alex Lacson has his, backing on the equity of his relative, Senator Ping Lacson. Ping Lacson affects Atty. Alex Lacson’s chances based on what is happening to him. Lacson’s chances vacillate between positive and negative. What is very good at this point is the fact that Alex Lacson maintained his high conversion rate despite negative stories about Ping Lacson. This means that Alex Lacson, as a candidate, stands a better chance of winning compared with other established and more popular names for the Senate.

Roco’s case is similar with that of Lacson’s. The likes of Lim and Querubin, however, remain problematic since both share the same constituency and both will eventually clash come election time.

De Venecia III is probably the neophyte with the greater chance of clinching a Senate seat. His chances, however, fell and were shattered when Gina de Venecia publicly announced that the De Venecias have already repaired their ties with the Arroyos. People everywhere perceived this as a betrayal of trust. The public pronouncement stuck in the public consciousness and that’s why his preference ratings have plateau-ed. Analysts say it will continue on the downward trend probably due to a lack of sectoral support. Sectoral groups are supposed to elucidate and protect Joey de Venecia from negative perception but since he lacks ground support, and only rely on the PMP-UNO PDP-Laban machinery, the lingering negative perception will surely stick and affect his chances.