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Opinion

Unfavorable shortage

FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

The December surveys clearly indicate that while Bongbong Marcos enjoys momentum, building up his awesome voter preference lead, Leni Robredo’s numbers have been flat. The last “strategic survey” commissioned by the BBM-Sara campaign for their internal use shows Marcos now enjoying a 62 percent voter preference against Robredo’s 15 percent.

At this point, in the face of miserable numbers, Leni should have called all hands on board, overhauled her campaign organization and ordered a fundamental review of strategy. This might include firing the amateurs running her campaign and getting some real professional help.

But all Leni has done, it appears, is to convene a committee to refashion her campaign tagline. The output of that effort is a slogan one typically expects to get from a committee: “Gobyernong tapat, angat buhay lahat.”

The opaque tagline is a poor reissue of Noynoy Aquino’s vastly more poetic “Kung walang kurap, walang mahirap.” It does not have the sharpness of Joseph Estrada’s classic “Erap sa mahirap.”

More important than its literary virtues (or plain lack of them), the new tagline fails to address the biggest problem bugging the Robredo campaign: the great number of voters who view the candidate unfavorably.

As mentioned in the previous column, Robredo is the only presidential candidate whose “unfavorable” number (54 percent) is larger than her “favorable” number (42 percent). That is a major problem for any candidate, let alone Robredo who needs to overhaul the nearly 48 percent lead piled up by her main rival.

In this internal “strategic survey,” BBM enjoys an 81 percent favorability rating. Moreno enjoys a 72 percent rating. Lacson has 55 percent. Pacquiao has 52 percent. Robredo ranks fifth, with only 42 percent viewing her favorably.

To make matters worse, her low “unfavorable” rating is part of a trend. In April 2016, Robredo had 63 percent “favorable” ratings. By April 2021, this declined to 45 percent and then to 42 percent by December. Focus group discussions provide qualitative explanations for this: every time Leni opens her mouth she seems to be whining about something.

By contrast, BBM has not only been increasing his “favorable” rating, he has also increased his “very favorable” rating dramatically. This, too, is a trend.

Consequently, this reflects in the “second choice” numbers. Moreno enjoys a 29 percent share of second choices voters identified. Lacson has 16 percent and Pacquiao 11 percent. Marcos, who already holds 62 percent of first choice votes, garners a further 10 percent of second choice preferences. Robredo comes in fifth with 9 percent.

Leni supporters offer excuses rather than an alternative strategy for her poor numbers.

They say the campaign period has not yet begun. That is crap. The actual campaign period started last year. The “official” campaign period is a bureaucratic illusion.

They whine about their candidate having inferior campaign resources. The fact is Leni leads everybody by a mile in paid social media advertising. Over the past weeks, Leni has flooded the airwaves with traditional media advertising.

It is not resources they lack. It is imagination -- and perhaps faulty raw material.

Her strategists (if they may be called that) should try listening to the people for a change. Listening does not mean striking random casual conversations during campaign sorties. It means scientifically documenting and analyzing the streams of opinion at the grassroots.

 

The publicity-seeking politicians handing out bags of relief goods are gone. But on the ground, in areas devastated by Typhoon Odette, the really difficult task of rebuilding damaged homes and infrastructure begins without the fanfare.

National government has downloaded P4 billion in calamity assistance to the local government units. With the money, they can begin rebuilding evacuation centers, clearing roads and assisting the homeless with construction materials.

That is easier said than done, however.

Odette destroyed an estimated 28,000 homes across Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Southern Leyte, Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental and Palawan. Some 600,000 people are displaced and in immediate need of shelter.

Much as generous individuals and corporations stand ready to help rebuild damaged homes, there is severe shortage of construction materials. The shortage is most felt in the unavailability of roofing material. No amount of downloaded funds or corporate generosity could solve that problem.

Last week, Metro Manila consumers faced a shortage of medicines due to the sudden surge of purchases induced by the rapid spread of Omicron infections. That has proven to be an easier problem to solve, mainly by limiting purchase volumes to avert hoarding.

The shortage of construction materials is much more difficult to solve. Recall that last year, the DTI tightened requirements for the importation of flat iron products. This produced a shortage in supply and a spike in prices long before Odette struck.

To date, the DTI has made no pronouncement about relaxing the extreme requirements it put in place. Unless these restrictions are somehow relaxed, there is no way we can meet the large demand for construction materials created by the natural calamity.

Those desperately seeking to build a roof over their head will be made to wait many months, perhaps even years, before roofing materials become available -- at whatever price. It is telling of the severity of the shortage that many homeless in the calamity zone are now pleading for tarpaulins to at least protect them somehow from the elements.

Bohol Governor Art Yap, exasperated by the misery endured by his constituents, has pleaded for national government support to acquire the construction materials. The solution to that lies squarely in the hands of the DTI since we import nearly all of our flat iron and steel products.

LENI ROBREDO
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