‘Is it I, Louie?’

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

The Philippines has had several presidential elections and subsequently several presidents reflecting the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I’ll leave it to our readers to fill in who they think represents each. After Cory Aquino was elected president in a “No Contest” election, all the other presidential elections that followed have turned out to be intense, insane, amusing or strange. I remember my father Louie Beltran writing a “blind item” about a presidential candidate who had a child with a mistress. The day after the blind item came out, my father spent the afternoon laughing and shaking his head in dismay because 3, yes THREE presidential candidates had reached out to him to ask, “Is it I, Louie?”

Then there is the story of a presidential race frontrunner who even got the endorsement of the sitting president, who came out as the highest scoring candidate in surveys and had multi-party support. All the good news apparently got to his head, that he was totally convinced that he was the next president of the Philippines, so he reportedly decided to play it smart and stopped spending campaign funds at the final stretch. Instead, he put the money aside for a rainy day once he was no longer president. Well, that day came years too soon because he never made it as president. While he was busy putting millions upon millions of campaign funds in the safe, his opponents initiated what was to become standard practice in campaigns: block buying of mayors and barangay captains in vote rich and critical areas. The opponent waited until the final surge to release campaign funds to LGU heads in areas with high volume voters. As a result, a lot of provincial votes went to the opponent who won. Don’t feel too bad for the losing presidential candidate because he did save so much money he continued to live in comfort and even made a sizeable cash profit from the election.

I recently interviewed an ex-member of the NAISKO Movement Mr. Rommel Abesamis, a former supporter of presidential candidate Isko Moreno and he shared their frustration with Moreno’s group, and suspicion that their candidate and his team of advisers were not out to win. Abesamis shared how they had initiated talks with the campaign officials on how the supporters could actively be involved and they were allegedly told that they can simply talk to neighbors because everything is in place and there was no need for watchers and the like because the elections are computerized etc., etc. In addition to this, there were no provisions for campaign funds or expenditures in spite of the fact that any proper campaign requires funding for materials, events, etc. To paraphrase what Mr. Abesamis shared, they had the impression that Isko’s team did not seem concerned with the low ratings of Isko or about winning the elections. Our readers may find this sort of thing unbelievable but mind you, it’s not the first time that such a possibility has presented itself.

Once upon a time, I encountered such a situation when I found myself imbedded in the team of a candidate who had all the right reasons as well as willing supporters to take on a serious campaign. Money was no object. His ratings were high, and he had the political machinery to pull off a national campaign. But strange signals began to pop up. We kept asking for advance copies of campaign schedules or sorties in order to make travel arrangements and accommodations when needed, but it was like pulling teeth from someone clueless. Such a schedule gives you a glimpse of what the campaign team sees as vote-rich areas where turnouts would create good PR and news value that directly impact subsequent surveys, which will then influence the confidence of campaign contributors.

Strange as it seemed no one was in-charge. We simply got day to day updates. Then someone told me that local representatives of the candidate were setting up antiquated campaign setups for their events and that there seemed to be an intentionality in limiting the expenses for the rallies in terms of equipment and staff. Then one day I was told by a very close friend of the candidate to step back a little because I was still wet behind the ears and apparently things were not as they seemed.

It was only after the elections when I came to learn the full picture that the entire candidacy was more a political statement of the party. The candidate did not want the position and it was not about money because they actually returned unspent campaign contributions to donors and friends. The candidate was merely serving notice to detractors that they could win the elections if they wanted to, but they preferred to rather work out a unified program of government good for politics and for business. The candidate “lost” the battle, but he won the war. He continued to be a major force in business and lived in peace.

So, the next time you find yourself asking “Why” candidates do what they do, just look back at their past performance. Some of them are “Voluntold” to run by the party, some run for self-promotion or to bring their advocacy to the national audience or to sustain public awareness, some run for profit as in they run in opposition to someone and then agree to back out in exchange for a refund of campaign expenditures with a profit, while others are out to collect “Campaign to Pocket” contributions like a “Lihislator” who always buys a European sports car after every election or another who always bought a nice house with remaining campaign contributions. Others run as Trojan horses, double agents, etc. with the intention of spreading votes or to do demolition jobs on more formidable or credible candidates. And remember they are getting money more than Judas did to betray Filipinos.


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