Of Winners and Losers

In 2016, Duterte threw away the existing campaign playbook. After 2019, he wrote the rules of campaigning with a lot of shadow boxing and double talk. Those unable to decipher were left at the starting gates and those whose hubris flew high, ate humble pie.

Running for public office in this country is not an easy thing. The best strategies based on data and analytics may not ensure victory, what with operators offering various options to a willing client to win at all costs. There are those who game the system and others who cover every base to ensure no one takes home a base or two.

For first-timers, wanting to help, offering their services was an easy decision. Using their own money was a way to prove to all that he or she was a different candidate. New ideas, independent of old money and traditional donors were the calculated moves launched. Planning ahead, doing face-to-face, attending debates and offering hope were ingredients used to fight incumbents, old names, dynasties, etc.

Prior to automation, it was selling votes, delivery of which was via election returns, that showed where and how many votes were shaved or added. Post-automation, it was being zipped by SD cards, malfunctioning PCOS (rebranded as VCM in 2019), ballots and pens. It is so fast that no naked eye can capture it unless one makes a protest to uncover how the operation was done. With the former, there were many actors to have a smooth operation. The latter only had the people with the keys, and the rest is history.

A new name offers hope and change against an incumbent who runs on his accomplishments. The incumbent treats voters like chattel, pumps infrastructure rather than social safety nets as if voters were cement bags and steel. Such is the case of neophyte Malou Morillo of Oriental Mindoro. A new face, a new name against an incumbent who has been in the limelight for more than 12 years. She ran because she wanted to help more, reach more people and offer a service that puts emphasis on the well-being of voters from the first district of Oriental Mindoro.

A new name may be old but is willing to risk safety to offer voters an option. With the Jalosjos clan holding power for 50 years in Dapitan City, the hall of famer former mayor of Dipolog, Belen Uy, offered herself and ran as mayor of Dapitan. Risking physical safety and setting aside threats, Uy changed residency and registered as a voter in Dapitan to offer the voters of the city an option. From Day 1 of the 45-day campaign period, she and her team were harassed, cases filed left and right in order to remove her name in the ballot. When they were not successful in doing so, the Jalosjoses decided to protect their bailiwick and focused on defending their turf and at all cost ensure the victory of a Jalosjos kin. Yes, it took a dynasty to face another, and it took a woman to drumbeat the ground and appeal to the voters to go out and vote. Reports from the ground indicated that the vote buying was so massive that one could just throw up.

A new name harnesses volunteers and works hard to get his message across, disavowing old cliques and strategies. Against eight other candidates, one needs a plurality of the votes to win and that is the story of Benjie Magalong, the new Baguio City mayor. Simple, direct and no political talk. Finally, the voters of Baguio voted for order and basic services (garbage and water) to be delivered than the flowery words and promises of traditional names, tribal politics and grand plans.

Dynasties also came falling down in the National Capital Region with the Ejercito/Estradas losing more than your typical dynasty. Estrada lost Manila and San Juan principally, as well as Laguna and Cainta, while the Eusebios of Pasig were removed by the former number one councilor, Vico Sotto. The Binays also suffered with the defeat of the patriarch and former vice president, Jojo Binay. After a shaky campaign, Joy Belmonte-Gian Sotto held on for the top two seats of Quezon City, ushering in a new brand of leadership of the second generation of leaders.

Manila gave their roaring support to mayor-elect Isko Moreno and Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna. Moreno is the Cinderella of Philippine politics, coming from the poor and laboring through insults as the number one councilor in 1998, whom everyone laughed at and was not taken seriously until he started picking himself up and honing his skills. Moreno is proof that waiting and doing work can get you to places at the right time. Six years as councilor, six years as vice mayor and giving way to a previous president of the Republic, he thought that word of honor was something to hold on. Unfortunately, that was not the case even with a former president. Moreno gave way to Estrada in 2013 and avoided a head-on fight in 2016. The redemption that Estrada was looking for was given on a silver platter only to be denied later on. Still, Moreno ran a positive campaign without hitting two elder statemen opponents — Estrada and Alfredo Lim. He stayed on message, did house-to-house like never before and was heavy on social media. Manila under a former basurero who lived by pagpag food will surely be on a different tempo.

Nationally, never has a totally unknown ran for the Senate, won and placed no. 3 in the standings. This was the case of SAP Bong Go. Not known before the start of the campaign period, his star shone brightly, curing awareness, trust and converting during the 90-day campaign period. His was a campaign for, by and of Duterte. With so many messages diluting advantage with every new release, what got him traction was PRRD saying “serbisyo ang bisyo” and the high frequency and heavy placements at the start. This 90-day campaign style was unique to Go and can’t be repeated under any circumstances because PRRD was at 81-percent approval rating. PRRD’s endorsement was not a fluke. He also did for Bato dela Rosa what he magically did for Go. And to prove that a damaged brand can be resuscitated through pakiusap, PRRD did it for the third time with Tolentino.

In 2016, Duterte threw away the existing campaign playbook. After 2019, he wrote the rules of campaigning with a lot of shadow boxing and double talk. Those unable to decipher were left at the starting gates and those whose hubris flew high, ate humble pie.

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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