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Business

Last mile for the underdog

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa - The Philippine Star

With national elections a little more than a month away, presidential candidate Leni Robredo has turned on additional firepower for its last mile sprint to the Palace. It’s always interesting to watch what the underdog is doing, especially of one who displays gritty persistence.

Robredo is, by far, the only worthwhile contender emerging to Bongbong Marcos’ overwhelming dominance in voter preference surveys during the last few months. She has whipped up a formidable campaign fueled by a growing army of followers.

Her mass action tools are tinged with unconventional approaches, like organized walks around malls or villages, or a flash mob at a public market. Lately, volunteers are conducting house-to-house visits that aim to convince the “soft” undecided voters to choose Leni over BBM.

Such efforts are slowly being rewarded by an increasing number of political personalities publicly endorsing her election bid, and although it is still too early to say whether these will translate to actual votes, Robredo’s campaign appears to be picking up steam.

In the same way, endorsements by universities and religious orders will need to be monitored closely. If the BBM team has been condemned of manipulating public perception through social media, Leni’s team can likewise be accused of taking advantage of such channels as Facebook and Tiktok to spread information against Bongbong and his family.

Soft votes

Robredo’s last mile is her do-or-die pitch aimed at what political scientists surmise are BBM’s soft voter base, which would be half of those that have earlier expressed their preference to vote for the son of the late former president, Ferdinand Marcos.

Based on 67 million registered voters, of which 60 percent appear on surveys to favor Bongbong, these soft voters represent a high wall of people mostly belonging to the C-D-E sectors: 20 million Filipino market vendors, tricycle drivers, casual wage earners, unemployed wives, farm hands, fishers, and even youth.

Robredo has to break through with all of these 20 million soft voters to deliver a decisive win come May 9. Based on the last surveys of late February to early March, Robredo had only about 10 million votes.

When Robredo beat Marcos by a narrow margin in the 2016 vice-presidential race, the latter’s protest was not too big of an issue. However, winning by a small margin in the presidential bid can result in a potentially explosive situation.

Forthcoming survey results due to come out soon should show if Leni’s non-traditional election machinery of “people’s councils” would have made substantial headway to convert those BBM soft votes to hers. Abangan!

Business vote

During the presidential election campaign period, the country’s big business groups organize forums that allow business leaders to personally meet with individual presidential candidates. This time, even if Metro Manila is already on the lowest alert level with regards the pandemic, these big events previously held in five-star hotels will likely be substituted with Zoom sessions if ever.

How business groups view each presidential candidate does not always translate to votes, although they offer hints on where more of the campaign funds will flow. President Duterte himself, during the 2016 meetings with business groups, may not have eloquently aired the best economic platform, but his economic team led by Sonny Dominguez did.

The Duterte-Dominguez tandem had assured Philippine businessmen that the gains achieved during previous administrations would further be solidified though relevant programs, among them, an ambitious infrastructure-building initiative.

Too bad that two years in a pandemic had robbed the Duterte’s administration of the opportunity to start and complete more big-ticket infrastructure projects. Still, many of the promised economic reforms had been delivered to provide firm stepping stones that a competent incoming government can use.

Ability to lead

The country faces tough challenges as it emerges from the weakening effects of the pandemic, and lately, in confronting the supply chain disruptions caused by the prolonged strife between Russia and Ukraine, the latter country backed by many European countries and the United States.

While still minding the threat of a future virus spread, bringing economic growth back to full speed is seen by business leaders as the best way forward.

All presidential candidates without exception have to date not made apparent yet who will wield the economic baton for them if elected, and this leaves us with their published economic platforms and their apparent ability to lead as the sole guides for now.

Bloomberg had polled 28 analysts and investors in late February to early March on who they thought would be the best person to lead the country in the next six years, and BBM not surprisingly took second to the last spot. Leni received the highest score.

It was not clear on what exactly the poll respondents’ votes were based, but still their views are foremost a reliable assessment of each presidential candidates’ ability to lead – and this should matter a lot.

Unfortunately, what businesses and their leaders think or want, or even what analysts say, are no sure assurances that they matter to Filipinos who will go out and vote next month.

Election day reflects the voice of the majority, and this may be for the good or for the worse. Be reminded, though, that this democracy we value so much is the sum total of how each of us has contributed to nation-building in all the six years before election day.

Nationhood is a process, and we should at least be thankful that we can still choose freely who we want to lead us.

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We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us on www.facebook.com/ReyGamboa and follow us on www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at [email protected]. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

LENI ROBREDO

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