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Opinion

Overwhelming

FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

For a while there, it seemed the deepest cleavage dividing this nation is between those who believed in surveys and those who believed in miracles.

When the numbers came in fast and furious Monday night, the surveys were proven correct. At the very least, this should move the needle towards science and away from superstition. That is a gain.

In 2016, Rodrigo Duterte accumulated 16 million votes and his win was declared a landslide. This week, Bongbong Marcos accumulated nearly twice that number of votes. This is an avalanche.

On top of the convincing win that makes him the first majority president since 1987, Marcos enjoys the support of nearly all the functional political parties. He will access the presidency with much more political capital than Duterte did in 2016. He should not waste the advantage of a supermajority and awesome political momentum.

The day after the voting, the sore losers were circulating the silliest conspiracy theories about the outcome. Those theories will quickly fade in the face of the facts.

One could hardly describe the outcome as surprising. We knew as early as late last year that this was coming. Only those who allowed themselves to be gas-lighted by those exploiting their naivety believed in an alternate outcome. That is founded entirely on wishful thinking.

The last contest was a battle between experts and amateurs. The universe frowns on incompetence. It would have been perturbed if the amateurs won.

When Marcos and his “Solid North” joined forces with Sara Duterte and her “Solid South,” the circumstances dictated the only strategy for the Robredo camp was to break both bailiwicks early and effectively. Failing in that, the UniTeam tandem needed only to split the votes of the middle regions and win handily.

The Robredo campaign had neither the competence nor the imagination to break the twin bailiwicks.

Having chosen to run without a political party (the LP was totally useless), they had little means to flip local powerbrokers. Having chosen to rely on a “movement” rather than on solid organization, they could not calibrate their campaign effort at provincial level and optimize votes where they could.

While the Marcos campaign used the best instruments of social science to keep very close tabs on the public mood, the Robredo campaign was not effectively listening to the people. The Marcos campaign was excruciatingly disciplined in its tactics and messaging. The Robredo campaign was improvising every step of the way.

Thoroughly disorganized and therefore squandering both resources and tactical opportunities, the Robredo campaign focused on organizing large rallies using matinee idols to draw crowds. Barry Gutierrez crowed about these rallies generating “momentum.” In actuality, these were events where the campaign preached to the converted.

Very late in the campaign, it took Robredo’s daughters to point out the fatal error. These blessed daughters pushed for holding house-to-house campaigns, asking campaign volunteers to actually meet the masses. They correctly asked their volunteers to be less conceited and less condescending. But that was too little and too late.

By contrast, the Marcos campaign relied on the tried and tested networks of local politicians to reach deep into the grassroots. This enabled the campaign to optimize time, resources and effort to finely calibrate conversion.

With their twin bailiwicks unchallenged, the Marcos-Duterte campaign could focus on flipping swing provinces. The dramatic switch of vote-rich Cebu and Batangas are the best examples of precision in electoral tactics. As a result, they did not win handily. They won overwhelmingly.

Early on, Bongbong Marcos understood that the coalition of forces opposing him would attempt to transform the electoral contest into yet another passion play, a struggle between good and evil. They would rely on demonizing the past to deny him leadership of the future. They would spread fear of “another Marcos” to mount a hateful torrent of propaganda to scuttle his candidacy.

The self-appointed guardians of the anti-Marcos narrative – the vociferous communists, the self-righteous clergy and the liberal mainstream media – were pervasive. The only way to break that pervasiveness was to rely extensively on social media.

True enough, the communists, much of the clergy, self-righteous school administrators and the rest of the “disente” constituency boarded the Robredo campaign like the many species boarded Noah’s ark. This time, however, the ark sank.

The biggest losers in the last contest are those annoyingly self-important guardians of the post-Edsa narrative. They monopolized public discourse and kept all others marginalized. They condemned the 2016 Duterte voters as “bobotantes.” Our voters voted against them. Overwhelmingly.

These self-appointed guardians will attempt to conserve their hegemony, this time by attributing the vote to “disinformation.” They will try to keep the masses voiceless by attributing the results to poor education or fake news. By doing so, they are trying to invalidate the voice expressed by the people through the ballot.

By choosing Bongbong Marcos, our voters want him to be the medium of a subordinated discourse. It is an unarticulated discourse, which is why Marcos voters tended to be quieter than the vociferous Leni supporters. It is for Bongbong to give that discourse flesh.

His father may have had his failings; but no one can fault him for lacking a grand vision for the nation. Many chose Bongbong because the imminence of a majority vote and the broad “unity” coalition he leads will have the political capital for re-envisioning the nation.

In a brief conversation months ago, he did mention that none of his rivals spoke of nation-building. I am sure he sees this as his task.

RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE

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