Campaign post-mortem

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

To whom much is given, much is expected.

With a majority vote, the incoming president faces high expectations especially among his poorest supporters.

This being the period for giving the benefit of the doubt to whoever wins in our elections, we should wish the victors the best in steering our deeply divided country.

In 2016, Rodrigo Duterte promised to end the drug menace in six months. We all know how that promise fared.

This time, the promise coursed through TikTok and Facebook is to bring down prices of rice (P20 per kilo!) and electricity (Manila Electric Co. rates have just gone down due to a mandated refund). At least the Marcos camp avoided promising lower fuel prices.

Local rice farmers are now worried that there will be an even worse deluge of rice imports, to fulfill that P20 per kilo promise. Department of Agriculture officials said yesterday that the most realistic retail floor price possible is P30.

There is also the promise of jobs, which should be easy to fulfill at least in the coming months as the country continues to emerge from two years of crippling pandemic lockdowns.

And there’s the promise of specialist hospitals all over the country, like the ones built during Ferdinand Senior’s long rule but concentrated in Metro Manila. Where to get the money and health professionals for the new hospitals has yet to be explained in detail, like the winner’s economic agenda.

In the 1986 snap election, a gut issue also dominated the campaign: the price of galunggong or blue mackerel scad, described as the poor man’s fish. Runaway inflation was blamed on the abusive regime, and the galunggong spiel led to the opposition battle cry for leadership change: Tama na, sobra na, palitan na.

That was messaging worthy of Twitter and TikTok.

You can promise the moon without going into specifics, as Duterte did in 2016. If the promise meets the current most pressing concerns of voters (in this race, the impoverishment aggravated by COVID and worries about one’s health), the masses will buy it.

*      *      *

Those eyeing the presidency in 2028 (yes, there are names being floated this early, all allies of the victors) will be conducting a thorough post-mortem of the Bongbong Marcos campaign for tips on winning a majority vote.

Apart from extolling qualities whether real or imagined, there’s the distancing from factual negatives, such as the sins of the father.

Judge him by his actions, not by his “ancestors,” Marcos was quoted as saying by his spokesman, for example, as the camp finally declared victory on Wednesday. The quote is a continuing subtle emphasis on the “past is past” narrative, since “ancestor” refers to someone ancient. You wouldn’t describe Imelda Marcos as an “ancestor” even of BBM’s children.

Speaking of negatives and “ancestor” Imeldific, throughout the campaign the victorious camp cleverly kept Mommie dearest out of sight even on Mother’s Day, lest her presence jar the nation from acute Alzheimer’s.

This refusal to acknowledge the sins of “ancestors” is understandable, especially since the other half of the conjugal dictatorship remains very much alive. With the embarrassment of riches and luck enjoyed by the Marcos clan, you will have no doubt that life is unfair.

The refusal to acknowledge “ancestral” sins would continue to make it difficult for BBM to deliver on a key theme of his campaign – a united national team – now followed up by his victory promise to be the president “for all Filipinos.”

Still, thank you for this promise. And good luck on selling unity without accountability to the 43 percent who didn’t vote for him, particularly to the 15 million who passionately campaigned and voted for his closest opponent.

*      *      *

Back to the tips for the 2028 campaign: TikTok has replaced dancing on stage for politicians.

Social media rules election campaigns in many countries. As even several administration candidates with limited resources openly lamented, however, dominating socmed platforms will require immense resources. Clearly, those who claim to have stumbled upon the fabled treasure of Yamashita have an edge.

GCash has replaced cash for winning hearts and votes.

These developments have made the election playing field even more uneven, making it so much tougher for new blood without dynastic ties and with limited resources to penetrate and change the rotten status quo.

Another tip: regional pairings still work, as outgoing Manila Mayor Isko Moreno must now be acknowledging ruefully. The team-up of the Solid North and the Duterte strongholds in Mindanao plus the vote-rich Cebu delivered that majority mandate for BBM.

After the 2019 and 2022 races, candidates will probably heed the comment of the head of a group that regularly commissions pre-election surveys mostly by the two top pollsters, Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia: candidates who ignore surveys lose.

We congratulate OCTA Research for being the new reliable player in the industry; its detailed pre-election polling amid a pandemic turned out to be as frighteningly accurate as its COVID trend tracking.

What about no talk, no mistake? The jury is out on this one. It probably works only if combined with a bombardment of revisionism, fake news, disinformation and demonizing of the competition. Again, a widespread “information disorder” operation is not for those with limited resources.

Even with Yamashita’s resources, however, a president in this country must deftly manage high post-campaign expectations, juggling immense powers to appoint, and disappoint.



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