MUCH has been done at the feet of political campaigns. In order to win, branding and positioning are tools of the craft that have often used to capture the imagination of the voters. The 2016 elections taught us why authenticity was important because with it, candidates became close to the voters by being themselves; less luster and brilliance but appearing or sounding like voters gave candidates the chance to open the door and leave it ajar as the campaign progressed. Problems have croppped up when candidates positioned themselves according to some preconceived packaging so that the brand could shine or be made better. But fitting it to the candidate is the challenge. That is why some would rather be presented as is with less retouching and just plain persona. That is one of the strategies of PRRD that will have an influence in May 2022: who is authentic?

This article was originally published in The Manila Times on October 19, 2021

Before, pre-President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD), candidates were essentially picked by the political elites, and it was the elites who knew who the men and women who were running for president were. Today, we have shifted to the importance of a public presentation of the presidency. There are still issues about likeability, but at the tail end of the Duterte administration, voters will decide on the "basis of who they know is going to do the job."

Part and parcel of political campaigns are raising money, framing themes, recruiting strategists, building field organizations, and establishing credibility with the media. But one phase isn't getting the attention it deserves: the likability test. And this could be the most important of all.

Likability isn't the "only factor in determining who wins the presidency. The candidates' stands on issues, their experience and their records will make a big difference. But presidents play such a big part in our lives, and Filipinos are so enamored of positive personalities in public figures that being likable has become an indispensable quality for a candidate to have."

Let us take a look first at Vice President Leni Robredo, former senator Bongbong Marcos and Sen. Ping Lacson when it comes to authenticity.

From yellow to pink is a 360-degree turn. At least with yellow, you know what you are getting. But with pink, everyone is waiting for the unique selling proposition from Vice President Robredo. Yellow is not just a color but a way of doing things as defined principally by three presidential epochs: Cory Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, and Benigno Aquino Jr. The first two were associated with EDSA and the third was the son of the democracy icon. Essentially, yellow is liberal democracy. It is a "democratic system of government in which individual rights and freedoms are officially recognized and protected, and the exercise of political power is limited by the rule of law." So, when the Vice President filed her CoC as an independent, what does she really stand for? And to have her VP running mate filing as LP is what?

And you see that with the change of color came the change of the overall packaging — all made up, hair brought up and even the clothes were dolled up like some Barbie doll remake. Candidate Robredo in 2021 was jeans and tees and her hair was down. The parallel citizens group, Samahan Tsinelas, centered on her advocacy of the politics of the "laylayan" or those on the fringes. Lugaw was the main staple for fund raising as well as food during gatherings with the people.

But the politics of laylayan didn't come to being because she failed in harnessing the two appointments which were given to her by PRRD. So that come midterm, yellow became "Otso-Diretso" (Vote Straight the Eight). And from such a debacle, not much analysis was done to determine what caused it, why and how to reposition for 2022. The answer apparently is just color, from yellow to pink. When the Vice President filed her CoC, she made one thing clear, she is doing so to prevent Marcos from winning. Clearly, she is not running to offer solutions and a program of action. She has framed it as a fight against good and evil. She is the good and the Marcoses the evil. So, whatever happened to the voters? It would seem a time warp occurred in such a storyline.

What is wrong with the framing of Bongbong Marcos? To say he is running to continue where his father left off is a total rejection of the 34 years post-EDSA era. The more he makes references to the father, the more voters are reminded of two strains of influence: the horror stories of martial law and the positive narrative of a New Society — where there is discipline in the polis and the golden era of infrastructure in the country. Marcos will remain a Marcos but the counter-narrative there is the 34 years of Filipinos after EDSA. Value that and position on that by making known his platform. Clearly, the promises of EDSA have not been fulfilled and the politics of EDSA merely restored the oligarchs to where they are today, divided among the major presidential candidates. And the viability of some may just be defined by the money the oligarchs provide to one. A shift among donors can cause the pulling out of some, our own brand of primaries.

What works for BBM? A stronger base that wants to get back at the alleged cheating by then candidate Leni Robredo of LP in 2016, the first-time voters who are not emotional about martial law and are supporting the "young-looking" Marcos when in fact he is more than a senior and has three good-looking sons. That they have the breeding to remain cool with all the insults thrown at them says much of the way they were reared. And the perception that BBM is aligned with PRRD being supportive of the administration.

Presidential candidate Ping Lacson is the other one that can move the needle but is not doing so even by a small margin. With all the years of experience at the executive and legislative branches and from uniform to civilian positions, he is unable to use what is on the arena: a strong leader narrative, the peace and order candidate, the politician who has turned his back on pork barrel are some of his strengths. The colorful life he led that created skeletons in the closet have to some degree faded. Instead of joining the chorus in bashing the incumbent Vice President and a lady at that, he can lead the policy debate on national security, corruption, bureaucratic reform and retooling the economy principally made up of SMSEs. Ping Lacson is an example of a candidate with likeability issues and the sooner that is dealt with the better for his campaign.

Likeability is a criterion that people consider in most situations. We want political leaders, among others, who we can relate to and enjoy seeing as they become part of the backdrop to our lives. There is nothing new there. That holds through with teachers and celebrities. But more than likeability, who can do the job of a president tips the scale.


"To do the job" and to get anything done requires a president to make deals and "be malleable." But the whole concept of making a deal is "something you never want to admit to" on the campaign trail. "When you're on the campaign trail, everything is always in super black and white." So what's key to a candidate is "to know when to take a good deal, and the best possible deal, to actually get something done and make progress, rather than being so resolved that nothing gets done." From the incumbent Vice President to former senator Bongbong Marcos to Sen. Ping Lacson, who got things done? Your answer will define your choice for May 2022.


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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