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Opinion

If still fractious by Easter, all is lost

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

In a video of Earth zooming out from a spacecraft’s camera, Carl Sagan reminded that humans are but specks on a dot in the vast universe. Lives are but split seconds of eternity. Still man must not waste existence on self but spend it for the betterment of all.

Zoom in to the present. Eminent citizens must act now. Get the nine Opposition presidential and eight VP candidates to join forces once and for all. The Holy Week break from campaigning grants the 17 time to reflect. Giving way to the winnable among them offers the Opposition a fighting chance. Bowing out is not disgraceful but noble under the circumstances. Legacy far outweighs ego.

Four weeks from Election Day, their internal surveys show sure defeat of them all. But if they add up their ratings, plus the undecided and potential switchers, a common Opposition presidential-VP tandem can pull through.

Belittling surveys in which they trail behind is natural. They’d rather believe they’re well-loved from attendance in their rallies. “How can I be wrong? Look, all these people are here too,” they tell themselves.

Crowds enthrall, for sure. Ancient philosophers to Kierkegaard have studied the allure of gatherings on individuals. Pedestrians avoid bumping or being touched by strangers. Yet people crowd – in processions, concerts, stadiums, demonstrations – emboldened that many others think like them. Crowds overcome their fear of aloneness. The tighter packed, the more thrilling, Elias Canetti noted in his 1960 book “Crowds and Power.”

But crowds do not win elections. The urge to join rallies can be strong after two years of pandemic isolation. Immense attendance can prick interest of others. Still, votes are won by platform and personality. Rallies were few in the 2013, 2016 and 2019 elections. Candidates presented programs of government and credentials mostly through media ads and leaflets.

House-to-house campaigning is today’s vote-getter. Personal explaining debunks social media disinformation and historical distortions. That works best in the Lingayen-to-Legaspi corridor and other urban sprawls.

Of equal importance is for candidates to visit isolated clumps of barangays along coasts, riversides and hillsides. Bancas and small choppers are crucial to reach rural folk in Bicol, Southern Luzon and Visayas islands, and Mindanao hinterlands.

With just three campaign weeks left after Easter, no Opposition candidate can overcome the lead of the survey frontrunner. Only by combining can they intensify vote conversion, blunt election fraud then take the top two offices in the land.

Factions also need to re-assess their senatorial tickets. Weed out the timid and unpopular. The Opposition cannot afford a repeat of the 2019 fiasco of total senatorial shutout.

The programs of the 17 presidential and vice-presidential aspirants complement. Abhorring corruption, they view the cabal of plunderers not as a political party but a criminal syndicate. They advocate Filipinos’ basic needs: jobs, affordable commodities, education, health, housing. They offer solutions to the learning crisis, government overborrowing, transport mess, agricultural smuggling and slump of small enterprises.

In coalescing, the 17 and their senatorial bets can swear by a common action plan. Foremost is to guard the ballot. The winners must implement and those who give way must hold them to the objectives. All for the greater good.

Failure to band together spells doom for the Republic. Political dynasts will continue to rule and the constitutional ban on them will be expunged. Filipinos will go on seeking better pay abroad; the talented will emigrate; left-behinds will stay unskilled. Plunderers will keep the people ignorant and dependent on “ayuda;” critical thinking might even be criminalized. Sovereignty will be completely surrendered to the regional bully.

The Reform Movement and the Revolution gained or lost ground when leaders helped or pulled down each other. Ambitious rivalries enabled collaborators to gain positions in the first election after the Japanese Occupation. The self-sacrifice of Opposition stalwarts for a common tandem removed the Martial Law dictator.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., dwIZ (882-AM).

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