Political rallies: Does crowd size matter?

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT - Atty. Ruphil Bañoc - The Freeman

Why do many people quarrel a lot about the crowd estimates in political rallies? The answer is that a political rally is a show of force. It can create an impression that a political team’s victory is inevitable.

It also targets the undecided, particularly those whose decision is based on going with the flow. Humans have the tendency to side the majority, real or perceived.

The history of the world may have been characterized by few brave men and women who chose not to side with the majority. But during elections every vote counts, whether it is cast by a genius or someone clueless. That is the reality of politics, and that is democracy.

There is so much subjectivity during electoral campaigns. I am sure, however, that there is also an objective way of estimating the size of a crowd in rallies. We know that a particular area can accommodate only a certain number of people. Any claim, whether it comes from the camp of Leni or from the camp of BBM, can be verified.

Police Lt. Col. Wilbert Parilla of Cebu City Police Office estimated that 300,000 people attended the recently-held Uniteam’s rally at SRP. As reported, he also said that the venue has an area of three hectares only. Critics were quick to point out that such estimate may be too big, given the area.

They pointed out that every hectare is equivalent to 10,000 square meters. So multiply it by three hectares. That equals to 30,000 hectares. Then multiply it by four as every square meter can only accommodate four persons. Therefore, if people are jam-packed in that area, then the crowd should only be 120,000.

I expect that the Kakampinks’ rally, held in Mandaue, will receive similar scrutiny, particularly the size of the rally area as the point of reference. As of this writing, the rally has not yet formally started.

What is funny is that if the crowd estimate coming from the police and the organizers appeals to or is in consonance with our own group’s self-created reality, we clap our hands. People, indeed, see not what is there but what they want to see.

Our obsession with crowd size will see reality on May 9, 2022, election day. Ug dinhi makita ang katag.

I would venture to say that once upon a time, before the age of the internet, big crowd sizes during rallies brought chills down the spines of political opponents. But the rule of the game has changed to some extent. Now, many get their information and form their decision on what they have gathered themselves, and not on what they heard from the stage.

Crowd size during rallies may give us an idea, no matter how little, on the strength of the group. The reality, however, is that people attend rallies for a thousand and one reasons.

Not a few attend because they want to see their favorite singers, actors, and actresses. They want to get entertained. They attend all rallies, regardless of which team organizes them.

Political parties know that if they don’t hire entertainers or clowns, many people will not attend.

Well, dili pud hinuon tanan.


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