Sandbox

POLITICS is said to be a game of addition, not subtraction. You go to bed with the enemy and you forget about previous opposition research that caused one's political fate to unravel - is addition for some. The recent 1Sambayan launch pretends to be capturing the rainbow in the spectrum of ideas when it does not really do so. It merely created a sandbox.

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on June 15, 2021.

What unites the six names is something the organizers can probably explain to the public. But since it wilted in the public glare 1Sambayan is left with just two or three as Diokno was not clear with his neither-here-nor-there explanation. Clearly, Diokno used it to define and contrast himself from the rest. When aligned with the five, he raised his political worth and created a beachhead in the voter's mind. Diokno clearly reintroduced himself.

What unites the six, however ephemeral the link, is that all of them come from Luzon. Telegraphed, Luzon will be the cornerstone of the present opposition. If they are left with VP Robredo and former senator Trillanes, that's Bicol. The others - Senator Poe and deputy speakers Vilma Santos and Deputy Eddie Villanueva - are not even in opposition. So, what gives? The astroturfing approach used for a trial balloon was not well thought out or planned.

They didn't need astroturf with the likes of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, former Associate Justice Antonio Carpio or former secretary Albert del Rosario. The opposition remains elitist in approach, totally setting aside the lessons of 2016 and 2019.

The May 2022 election is all about a fight over the base, which is but a mere plurality. Let's take the two past election cycles: 2010 and 2016. Then candidate Noynoy Aquino got 15,208,678 votes, or 42.08 percent of the total votes cast which stood at 40.6 million, or a voter turnout (VTO) of 74.8 percent. In 2016, candidate Rody Duterte got 16,601,997 votes, or 39.01 percent of the total votes cast of 43.7 million on a VTO of 81 percent. One cannot get a majority if there are more than two candidates running for the position. So, critics who take the opposite view that 61 percent did not vote for Duterte, one can also make a case that in 2010, there were 57.92 percent who did not vote for Aquino. Clearly, the majority was not with the winner in 2010 and 2016. But it seems the betting has always been via plurality as a strategy to break the strongholds of some. But the best laid plans proved nothing to a late entrant whose brand was pure authenticity.

During the 2010 elections there were six candidates: Aquino, Estrada, Villar, Teodoro, Villanueva and Gordon. In 2016, there were five: Duterte, Roxas, Poe, Binay and Santiago. You want a majority leader, let the two best candidates for president come from a serious and honest to goodness primary process. Let opposition and incumbent parties do their primaries and let the best from among them be the candidate instead of back doors and oligarchs deciding the whole thing for the 50 million registered voters.

So, on launch, 1Sambayan is but a sandbox, a "campaign that does not have a specific prescribed storyline, but one where the authors set up a world (or at least a small section of one) and everyone is free to wander where they will and find adventure where they will. It's about freedom of voter choice but actually, the sandbox expands to other would-be candidates who remain under the shadow until such time that it is ripe to show up on center stage." And that is the problem with this approach. The planners will have to recalibrate or go back to the drawing boards or pursue a Manchurian approach.

Anyone but Marcos became the rallying cry in 2016. There were more candidates for the vice presidency, designed to cut the tail wind of a Marcos and make sure a last-minute hold on the center with a Robredo brand. VP Robredo got 14, 418,817 votes. Marcos got 14,182,344, or a difference of only 263,473 votes. There were six candidates for the vice presidency: Cayetano, Escudero, Honasan, Marcos, Robredo and Trillanes. Robredo had to run a competent ground campaign anchored on the track record of a Robredo. Five years hence, she has not shown her mettle because she had to stick to the play that her benefactors want her to be. She is not after all Jesse.

"Politics is not a game. It is an earnest business," as aptly stated by Winston Churchill. You either play for the money or you turn your back from it if the country, at the end, will suffer with that joke of a Manchurian. Can anyone be purists in belief? No, this can't be the case if one is to win. And the only way to win is to build a movement of people who might have differing views. Ideological purity is the realm of the powerless, and power is what allows you to get good things done."

 

How do you practice governance? One has to win and that is why winnability becomes the holy grail. In politics, if you are not in the top line, you are not the winner. But ambition can also kill one if the reason for running is purely grounded on timing. That can result in a snapback and against an authentic candidate as against a personal narrative but gilded with gold, the former can be the reflective strength of the leader about to ride to the sunset.

 

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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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