Flipping 2022

Can potential candidates for the presidency measure up to the following traits: brave, love for the Philippines, concern for Filipinos, responsible/fulfills sworn duties and sincere? If so, then voters are looking for someone like the incumbent who has a 65 percent approval rating and 55 percent trust in this quarter. 

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on April 6, 2021.

The names that are cropping from Mindanao assure a breakup of the stranglehold of the Dutertes in Mindanao. There is the national icon and favorite son of Mindanao, Manny Pacquiao, who has expressed his intentions for 2022 in clear and certain terms. The former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has launched his “In Search of a Leader, 2022” via voters’ fora and meetups. Alvarez is said to be preparing for a shadow boxing if and when Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio makes a serious bid. Then, there is the nationally televised float by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on his longtime aide, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go. The float was strategically made, and it came after a series of offensives in the National Capital Region with tarpaulins egging the mayor from Davao City to run.

Why is Mindanao important to anyone from the island? Simple, because it represents only 23 percent of the total registered voters (TRV) in the country. If a candidate is targeting 51 percent, which is majority of the TRV, she or he would need to get the Visayas at 21 percent. Still, one would be short of 6 percent. Luzon stands at 56 percent of the TRV, and everyone planning for 2022 has to reckon the power of Luzon. Twelve of the country’s 16 presidents have been from Luzon. Seven of the Top 10 vote-rich provinces are in Luzon.

Turn-outs are high during presidential campaigns at 80 percent. In the 2019 elections, there were 61,843,771 registered voters and 1,822,173 Filipino voters overseas. So, the math is such that one has to get 51 percent of the 80 percent turn-out to end up in Malacañang. Not easy if one does not understand how Luzon beats. And Luzon is composed of NCR, North Central Luzon and South Luzon.

If you flip the equation, a Luzon-based candidate only needs to win a plurality in Luzon and get sizeable portions from VisMin. If one is purist, one can just concentrate on Luzon landlocked areas than go to the Visayas (island-hopping) and get media centers in Mindanao (landlocked but predominantly rural).

Based on the latest Pahayag-Quarter 1 survey, covering the period March 20-29, the three most important traits that a national candidate should possess are trustworthiness, patriotism and free of corruption. Brave resonates as the dominant second and third choice.

Pahayag-Quarter 1 is a nationwide purposive sampling survey composed of 1,500 respondents drawn from a research panel of approximately 100,000 Filipino registered voters maintained by a Singapore-based firm. In terms of predisposition (not preference since there are still no candidates) for the presidency, the Top 5 (out of 22 names) are Duterte-Carpio (16.7 percent), Domagoso (14.7 percent), Marcos (13.6 percent), Pacquiao (12.8 percent) and Robredo (9.3 percent). Duterte-Carpio has a dominant hold in Mindanao at 37 percent. Domagoso holds sway in NCR, NCL and SL and is ahead of Duterte-Carpio in Visayas by .7 percent. Marcos is also strong in NCR, NCL, SL and Mindanao. Pacquiao evenly spreads out in NCL, SL and Vis while Robredo has traction only in NCR. What is interesting in this dipstick is that Pacquiao appears to be gaining ground, breaking from his 10 percent mark in two previous readings. Undecided is at 8 percent and none is at 3 percent.

For the vice president predisposition, the Top 5 (out of 22 names) are Domagoso (17 percent), Duterte-Carpio (15 percent), Poe (11 percent) Pacquiao (8 percent) and Go (7.3 percent). Undecided is at 12 percent and none is at 2 percent.

In a mano-mano scenario, Duterte-Carpio trumps Marcos, Robredo and Go. Domagoso is ahead of Duterte-Carpio, Marcos, Pacquiao, Robredo and Go. Marcos edges out Robredo and Go. Pacquiao is miles from Robredo and Go. He is almost in even keel with Duterte-Carpio.

Considering the challenges, the president and vice-president will be facing in 2022, tandems are very crucial in working together to move the country from pandemic to growth, stability and resiliency. It would seem the country is not ready in considering tandem voting by the low reaction to the 30 tandems measured in Pahayag-Quarter 1. The Go-Duterte tandem is not well-received getting only 2.6 percent nationally and 4 percent in Mindanao. The Duterte-Carpio-Domagoso tandem got 8.3 percent nationally, 8 percent in NCR and 8 percent in Visayas and resonated in Mindanao at 16 percent. When asked about voter’s partiality to a tandem, 60 percent said yes, they are partial to it. Partiality is higher in Visayas (64 percent) and Mindanao (67 percent). Twenty-eight percent said tandems have no bearing.

Having more candidates from Mindanao is a sure way of breaking the Dutertes’ hold on the island and this scenario would allow Luzon-based candidates to flip the chart having hold on a bigger pool of voters than anyone from Mindanao. Doing the “run Samson run” in NCR is not a wise strategy to do in a state of crisis. You can flood NCR with all the propaganda but political history will tell you that NCR is not a den of persuadable voters. The nuances of the islands need to be taken into consideration to build traction and swing it to a larger net in Mega Manila. Still, the pandemic has a way of throwing campaign planners off. Your Mega Manila is Covid’s major wave in NCR plus.

Can potential candidates for the presidency measure up to the following traits: brave, love for the Philippines, concern for Filipinos, responsible/fulfills sworn duties and sincere? If so, then voters are looking for someone like the incumbent who has a 65 percent approval rating and 55 percent trust in this quarter. Still high for a man in his last 16 months in office and under a pandemic. Even the daughter’s traits from the point of view of registered voters do not measure up to the father’s.

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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