DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 May) — The votes have been cast. And the results are miraculously, but pleasantly, almost complete just a day after the elections. Is this really the Philippines, one may ask?
What indeed went wrong and what went right in this just concluded historical exercise? Who are the actual winners and losers?
What could have actually happened?
1. Mar Roxas. If the trend continues till the end of today, it looks like the candidate who was once the biggest winner of this campaign will end up the biggest loser. Aside from Manny Villar.
When he agreed to slide down to become Noynoy’s running mate, Mar virtually locked the Vice-Presidential post with it. And perhaps the Presidency in 2016. If he won the VP race, he could have then gained a six-year built-in campaign for a run for the Presidency in 2016 with government resources to boot and the backing of an incumbent President (who is presumed not to become as unpopular as his predecessor).
Mar may have lost because of the following reasons:
a. He was over confident. He did not add resources to his campaign after Noynoy’s decision to run. A recycle of his Mr Palengke adverts and even his Tricycle commercials would have been winners but were archived. He coasted along until the last two weeks when the surveys showed the sudden surge of Binay (and Erap).
b. He wore his shirt blue. By trying to be “distinct” from Noynoy, Mar was perceived not to be a total team player and not really sincere in supporting Noynoy. Unlike Binay, who went out of his way to portray himself as a genuine, original “yellow” even if he was at Erap’s camp. Binay projected his “true opposition” credentials by even coming out with an advert that had him flash the “Laban” sign beside Cory Aquino.
The charge that the Aquino camp was of the “haciendero” and “elite” class did not stick with Noynoy as it did with Mar. Even if Noynoy did come from this class, he did not act nor bandy himself as such. Mar on the other hand did not take pains to check his perceived aloofness even as he tried to package himself as a “benevolent” rich man by deciding to do away with a “bongga” wedding reception after marrying Korina Sanchez, but then having a very glitzy, high-end, closed-door affair for friends and family at the Araneta mansion in Cubao afterwards. Blue is indeed the color of royalty.
c. Korina Sanchez. Marrying this media icon had a double-edge effect. It tickled the entertainment buds of the masses, made them “kilig” but then tapered off at once. Korina was not the damsel in distress type, came across as also somewhat arrogant especially after Mar slid down to become Noy’s VP. Korina’s immediate reaction of dreading the loss of becoming a possible First Lady and even at one point crisscrossing dares with Kris Aquino on this was a dead giveaway.
d. Chiz Escudero. Everybody knows that Chiz’s “B”ombshell of an endorsement did Mar in. The timing was deadly. Even Teddy Boy Locsin’s too little too late attempt to counter attack may have even helped Jejomon, er, Jejomar as it showed Mar to be desperate. Desperation does not sit well with the voters. Look at the use of Villar’s mother, dead brother and the psychological tests fiascos. They backfired real big! Binay’s message was consistent, steady, above the fray, gentlemanly, even statesman-like. And he indeed could boast that what others want to deliver, he has already done in Makati. Even if we may tend to argue this as an exaggeration.
2. Comelec. All the usual diatribes and slings hurled against this body were not deflected by the Commissioners but were instead met head-on. To the credit of Chairman Jose Melo and his commissioners, particularly Rene Sarmiento and Greg Larrazabal, and spokesman James Jimenez, the poll body soldiered on, patiently and assiduously explaining all the questions, issues leveled against them even up to the last minute when the serious flap on the CSP cards threatened to blow up the entire election process to kingdom come. Unfazed, the Comelec kept the faith and doused the fires that burned its way. Including the controversial secrecy folder scandal (But that is another story). The Comelec can ride on this new found goodwill and use this to radically reform itself while its credibility has been regained somehow.
3. Smartmatic. This Venezuelan company took the heat on the chin as it sizzled. The affable and collected point person, Cesar Flores, could even run for senator here and win hands down. Or become a lead in a telenovela opposite Marian Rivera or Angel Locsin. The surrender of his passport to the Comelec re-assured the nation that stepped back from the brink. Of course there should have been a lot of should haves. Should have tested the PCOS early, should have done this so and so. At the end of the day, come on, they delivered.
4. Surveys. The results showed that the surveys were correct. That there is indeed a science out there that can measure the pulse of the people. Give or take so called statistical margins of error as in the case of the Binay and Erap surprise. Perhaps next time, surveys will be taken seriously by both candidates and voters as a guide to correct or refine what they need to.
5. Erap. Vindication is the word. He may not have won, but he did “surprise” everyone as he promised, by zooming past erstwhile frontrunner “Money”, er, Manny Villar. It was enough that he ran a good race however late in the game but still managed a decent second place. He can argue that had he been allowed to run earlier, he could have bested Noynoy despite the magic of Cory’s passing. But give it to the guy, he did take to heart Cory’s – and the Aquinos’ apology to him about Edsa 2 (whether we agree with this or not) and thus may have also stymied his own campaign vis Noynoy.
And alas, he did favorably in Mindanao. What does this mean for the peace process and for our peace advocacy and constituency? It means that his message may be resonating well with the majority here. It does not mean that he or what he stands for (“all-out war”, for example) is correct or even desired by our people. It does not mean that our message as peace advocates does not, or that we are not getting across, but it is just we have still a lot of very hard work to do. In fact, Erap’s message can help us sharpen ours, and make us become more effective in showing the bankruptcy of his call. As a first step, it might help if perhaps we should know who our friends and allies are and not lump one with the “other side” just because we use different strategies and tactics in our work. We need to accept and respect each other; constantly converse, dialogue, among ourselves.
And by the way, did he or did he not intentionally vote for Binay?
6. Villar. Willie, Dolphy, Sarah, Pacquiao and his billions were not enough to buy the Presidency. Need more be said? His conceding early may earn him back some respect. And perhaps room for maneuver or negotiations in the incoming administration.
7. Legarda. Ahh, oh well. Enough said.
8. Risa. The Senate may not be graced by her lovely, steadfast and principled presence, but her decent showing at 13th place amidst a sea of recycled politicos is already a dent in the still dominant traditional political landscape that our people have been used to. Ditto for the likes of Acosta, Maza, Ocampo, Lao, Lim, Querubin. But a lot of work has yet to be done to get people like them into the Senate. It would help if the so-called “progressives” also try to get their act together.
9. Public school teachers and the Board of Election Inspectors. They were the glue that kept the process together yesterday. They stood their ground despite the heat, the rain, the intimidation, the lack of personnel, food, the impatience of voters, etc. Had it not been for their quiet dedication, improvisation, energy and experience, the first automated election in the country could have shamed this nation. Would have been a coup de grace if one of their lot, Teacher Neric Acosta made it to the Senate.
10. Noynoy. An overwhelming mandate has been given to this unassuming man. He must have earned a couple of million votes yesterday afternoon when people saw him lining up in the morning like any other voter for 4 ½ hours until his turn came. His main rivals breezed through the “courtesy lanes” to cast their own votes. He said it succinctly after : “A leader should be able to know how to follow first”. Touche!
Unlike his father who coveted the Presidency, but like his mom who did not seek the post, the nation graced him with this prime mantle. With a seeming landslide victory, Noynoy can use this mandate to usher in a new, hopeful era in this nation’s rambunctious politics where he will not be beholden to any interest, faction or group but only to the dictates of his conscience, his God and the people who gave him their vote, their trust and their confidence. Woe to him if he lets the people down. Expectations of him are so high and great and he should accept and be prepared for this challenge. Perhaps the key is for him to organize a very good, competent and selfless cabinet. He must also resist the temptation of “paying back” political supporters with perks and positions. And of course, he must put closure with justice to the Hacienda Luisita issue.
11. The Filipino people. The greatest winners were us. Again, it was the victory of the indomitable Filipino spirit, especially for the littlest, grittiest Filipino, the average, the ordinary – but heroes all. There was a mixture of palpable excitement and fear at the same time in the precincts as we either waited patiently at the lines, cracked jokes while waiting, sweltered in the heat in Luzon and braved the rains in Mindanao (including the rain of bullets in some usual hot spots).
The overall results may have shown how skewed our perception of politics and society: bringing back to the Senate actors, comedians, has-beens, the scion of a dictator or those who possess surnames of recall; but also at the same time almost bringing in to the Senate new blood, new faces, new politics.
Perhaps one step at a time. Perhaps we want to give Noynoy first the first crack to fix the system.
Perhaps it was not yet time, but we’re getting there. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Gus Miclat is executive director of the Davao City-based Initiatives for International Dialogue)