FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

The most obvious way to look at the numbers is to understand what our citizens voted for. It should be interesting for the number crunchers to help us understand what our citizens voted against.

The past electoral contest was, no doubt, a watershed political event. The landslide win of the Marcos-Duterte tandem is amplified by the strong win registered by senatorial candidates supportive of the two.

Bongbong Marcos’ astounding triumph was not an easy one, notwithstanding the final numbers. He was running against the weight of the post-Edsa orthodoxy. Last year, he was placing only second to Sara Duterte in the early preference surveys. Had Sara continued her presidential bid, the outcome might have been quite different.

As soon as he filed his candidacy, anti-Marcos zealots filed numerous disqualification cases. Losing any one of them might have sealed for him a different fate.

A wide range of groups, from clergymen to professional associations to showbiz fans’ clubs, voiced their support for anyone who might beat Marcos. The candidate had to be tactically adept every step of the way to avoid the traps laid in his path.

From the start, he had to manage a presidential campaign loaded with much baggage from the past. To his credit, he oversaw what is likely to be the most disciplined campaign effort in our political history.

There are major forces that lost badly in the last democratic exercise. Some of them might never recover the roles they played as arbiters of public opinion. Our voters resoundingly rejected them.

The most obvious loser is the Liberal Party. Although she was titular head of this party, Leni Robredo understood this group would be a millstone hanging from her neck. She decided to run as an independent, junk the yellow shirts and adopted the ridiculous pink color to delineate her campaign. However, she made the fatal error of relying on LP politicians to run her campaign.

After being rejected by voters in 2016, 2019 and 2022, it will take eons for this political brand to resurrect from the dustbin.

The next major loser is the Left. The senatorial candidates they fielded were severely routed. Their party-list groups were grossly decimated.

From the start, Leni tried to keep the national democratic groups away from her campaign. They were sure to become a liability. But the nat-dems parlayed their affiliation with 1Sambayan to insinuate themselves into her campaign, shamelessly loitering in the margins of her rallies in the hope of getting a slice of her voters.

Sure enough, late in the campaign the administration linked the Robredo candidacy to the Communist Party of the Philippines. That was among the last nails in the coffin of the Robredo candidacy.

In the days after the voting, leftist groups mounted orchestrated rallies against what they imagine was “wholesale cheating.” Leftist-influenced student councils called for an indefinite school strike. Obviously the Left is trying to create a “revolutionary situation” out of a decisive electoral outcome. Their vainest and most cynical hopes will never materialize.

The last campaign also saw the unprecedented partisanship of the Catholic clergy. Bishops and priests signed statements endorsing Leni’s candidacy. They issued pastoral letters with undeniable partisan slant. Catholic school administrators even obliged their students to wear pink during UAAP games – a truly pathetic method for winning votes for their preferred candidates.

It is demeaning for the bishops and priests to descend to blatant partisanship. The election numbers tell us their flock was not appreciative of such partisanship, even if they veiled it as some moral crusade.

Early in the campaign, a shocking photo circulated in social media of Leni-Kiko tarps mounted right on the altar of a church where I once served as altar boy. In that parish, where I still vote, the opposition tandem lost heavily to the frontrunner. The Church ought to have clearer rules governing sacrilege.

Now widely circulating in social media is a letter penned by a parent of an Ateneo student. The mother complains about how the Jesuits, by going overboard in their partisanship, molded impressionable young minds into intolerant, holier-than-thou fanatics. I have not seen a Jesuit response to this eloquent and impassioned letter written by a seriously concerned parent.

I lurk in the pro-BBM chat groups as much as I do on the networks of Leni supporters. Among these groups, there is mounting disdain for the mainstream media for what they perceive as an anti-Marcos bias. The last campaign period escalated this disdain.

As a general trend, mainstream media is rapidly losing out to social media. The latter is livelier, timelier and more accessible. Mainstream media is better curated than social media, to be sure. In the forthcoming period, it must consciously try to rebuild our people’s trust in curated information dissemination.

The Leni campaign in particular enlisted the support of movie stars and other celebrities to draw people to their rallies – and hopefully, their cause (whatever that might be). If we add up the social media following of these celebrities, they might seem to be an awesome electoral force.

However, the voting numbers tell us their social media following does not translate into command votes. Our voters love their pretty faces but not their political opinions. Leni supporters now drawing up a list of senatorial candidates composed of matinee idols should think again.

The biggest loser in the unbridled partisanship that marked the last campaign might be respect for diversity in political opinion. Such respect has made our politics both interesting and safe.


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