FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

Sara Duterte Carpio reiterated this weekend she was not seeking the presidency. Fine.

But I have not heard her say she would not be seeking the vice presidency. The prospect titillates quite a large number so that when she visited Cebu (supposedly to visit a cousin), the political grapevines were humming. The mayor of Davao City found it necessary to insist her meeting there with presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos was only about how Hugpong could support the latter’s campaign.

For an ordinary family visit, Sara’s short Cebu sojourn was comprehensively choreographed – and extensively photographed. Her most ardent supporters observed her every gesture for signs foretelling larger plans than merely seeking reelection to the post she holds.

The Davao City mayor has mastered the art of sustaining mystique. She arrived at the airport wearing a “Sara All 2020” hoodie. Then she reemerged impeccably garbed for the high-profile functions she attended. After a swirl of public events, she flew back to her beloved hometown mysterious as the Sphinx. I saw no media report of her meeting with her cousin, a minor politician in a vote-rich province.

She may be discreet, but the woman knows the informal power she wields. When she announced she was not seeking the presidency, Sara thanked the “700 parallel groups” organized for the possibility she would seek the highest office in the land. Those “parallel groups” constitute an impressive army any of the current contenders would wish they had.

She is also a woman of fine taste. When she visited Cebu, she did not have poor people line up to receive crisp thousand-peso bills as one presidential candidate does habitually. There were no blaring balloon-decked motorcades led by shiny SUVs such as those held by supporters of two other presidential candidates the same weekend. They have no clue how much such gas-guzzling events offend those who have to walk to work.

At the end of that day, all she meekly announced was that she asked candidate Bongbong Marcos how her regional party might be of help to his campaign. That was a resounding endorsement of the candidate every survey says is leading in this game.

Some of those expensive advertising consultants working for the other campaigns think that because we are in a pandemic, the campaign will be mainly an “air war” waged on social media or a “road war” waged by gas-guzzling motorcades. That is a caricature, not a strategy.

In all likelihood, precisely because we are in a pandemic, this contest will be won man-to-man, house-to-house. The campaign with the most dedicated boots on the ground will triumph.

Revolutions, they say, begin in quiet places.


The biggest winner this weekend was, no doubt, the barely visible Bongbong Marcos.

Sara will not contest the presidency at this time and every survey says he leads his closest rival two-to-one. More than that, Sara just endorsed his candidacy. That translates into marching orders for the “700 parallel groups” nationwide to join the fray.

These days, we no longer consult seers or wizards about where the electoral winds might be blowing. We consult the opinion polls that will give us results with increasing frequency in the next weeks.

Junk the online surveys such as those done, to their regret, by Rappler and Bulletin. They are no more than mock polls. Mock polls are things only student councils do, reflecting nothing more than a thin and homogenous sliver of opinion. Every presidential election, for instance, a mock poll is held among students of UP Diliman. Each time, from Salonga to Defensor-Santiago, those who top this student poll end up dead last in the actual election outcomes.

Pay attention, however, to polls that employ some amount of random sampling (with varying margins of error) and also some amount of geographical representation. Voting patterns in this country, the internet notwithstanding, still follow regional lines.

The most recent such survey was done by PUBLiCUS. It closely replicates the results of the Kalye Survey done by a network of bloggers during the first two weeks of October. Nationwide, Marcos received a preference vote of 49.3 percent, Robredo 21.3 percent, Moreno 8.8 percent, Lacson 2.9 percent and Pacquiao 2.8 percent.

There are a few things of note in this survey, comparing it to those done by other outfits earlier. Marcos seems to have a large and stable voting base that is not about to be shaken by infantile pink motorcades. While the Marcos “Solid North” is still relatively intact, the candidate received his best percentages in Mindanao where he has a 62.5 percent voter preference. This will likely solidify even more with the Hugpong endorsement.

Robredo did get her post-proclamation bounce but Marcos leads her over two-to-one nationwide --- including, by the way, Southern Luzon. Moreno’s attractiveness appears to be evaporating quickly. Lacson and Pacquiao are exactly where anecdotal information says they are.

As the leading candidate by an awesome margin, Marcos should expect everything including the kitchen sink and the toilet bowl will be thrown his way. The biggest threat to his campaign, however, is that it could peak too early – replicating the 2016 Grace Poe campaign.

This will be a long, six-month actual campaign period. The best strategy, therefore, is one that plays the long game. He has enough time to go deep into a neighborhood campaign.

The voter preference support Marcos is getting at the moment indicates there is a subordinated narrative out there that the yellows/pinks will have to suppress until doing so exhausts them. For him, there is no urgency to do the daily tit-for-tat.

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