Mass perception
STRAWS IN THE WIND (The Freeman) - September 22, 2015 - 10:00am

Much has been said about the damaging effect on the Liberal party the entry of Grace Poe into the presidential derby has created, particularly on the chances of Mar Roxas in 2016. Such entry has been the nightmare of Malacañang, which explains why it has bent itself backward in trying to convince the lady senator to join its political wagon.

Now that nightmare has become a reality, and despite the lame assurances of its strategists that its impact is negligible, most observers believe otherwise. There is no doubt that Roxas' candidacy has suffered a set-back with Poe's decision. It certainly has split his supporters. In Negros Occidental for example, the voters will either go for Roxas or for Poe since both candidates trace their roots in that province. In Manila, voting would sway heavily towards the candidate whom Mayor Estrada will support. He was very close to the late FPJ, Poe's father and therefore may be inclined to favor the lady senator. He is close too to Jejomar Binay, and to a certain extent, to Mar Roxas. This could be the reason why at this point in time, the mayor  has not said anything about his choice of a president. But that choice is known to most people close to him.

These fissures in the following of Roxas will be the phenomena in other parts of the country even in areas which are bailiwicks of the Liberal Party. And unless its leadership takes strong damage control measures, its chances of getting the mandate in 2016 are shaky.

One of the measures could be whipping up local government chiefs into towing the line. With Malacañang's billions of disposable funds, it's not difficult to do this, after all with the kind of politicians we have (except for a few), loyalties can be bought. Yet even getting the nod of LGU heads may not ensure a win. It's the masa themselves that can make or break a leader even to the extent of going against the whims and caprices of their local heads.

If Roxas is negatively affected by the entry of Poe, what about Binay? Most likely he too is affected, but perhaps to a limited extent only. Limited, because his followers are different from those of Roxas. These are mostly on the grassroots level, the rank and file, farmers, and low income wage earners. In fact, Binay's chances could likely be enhanced because while Roxas and Poe will be sharing the votes of the Administration's supporters, his group would remain intact. This is assuming that the damaging publicity about alleged massive irregularities in Makati city has not changed the mindset of the vice president's adherents. But even if it hasn't, the entry of Poe into the picture may yet destabilize his bailiwick.

Mass perception, you see, is a powerful determinant of decision. And in the context of this perception the lady candidate clearly has the upper hand. Having sat in the Senate session hall for only a few years, Poe's image is not yet that of a traditional politician. Young and gracious and gifted with a pleasant face, she exudes an aura of goodness and sincerity, a far cry from that of her contenders who are both seasoned politicians.

Mass perception in fact was what made PNoy win the presidency. Remember how a nobody he was in the scenario of Philippine politics? Remember how when his mother passed away millions mourned for the loss of an icon of democracy and an icon too of clean governance? Like mother like son-so why not make the son president?

At that time Noynoy, like Poe, had only a limited experience in government service. Yet the perception of a being clean and righteous person like his mother convinced the Filipinos, at least, a healthy majority of them, to vote for him.

The same perception could work for Poe this time, despite the claim of her being a neophyte in matters of governance and of being a doubtful native born-Filipina. Right now some political groups notably the NPC are edging towards the Poe-Escudero tandem. Is a bandwagon emerging?

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