Machinery versus popularity

In the wake of so many poll surveys showing Mrs. Mary Grace Natividad Kelly Poe Llamanzares and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte leading, 33 days before election day, people are now asking: What happened to Vice President Jejomar Binay, who was the leader early on in the race? And what about Mar Roxas -does he still have a chance?

I have been a journalist for the past 66 years. I know for a fact that popularity is not all there is to it in winning elections. We have had very popular presidential candidates who still did not make the cut.

Remember Raul Manglapus was popular, and so were Miriam Santiago in 1992 and Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004. Still, they did not win.

Of the five candidates in this year's contest, only Binay and Roxas have the grassroots political machinery. Binay has been building his since he became mayor of Makati City. He has been material aid to Makati's sister cities and municipalities. His many years as chairman of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines also gives him national exposure. No other candidate has covered so many cities and towns as he had.

As the administration candidate, meanwhile, Roxas has a built-in advantage. He has all local government units at his command. He does not have to worry about funding because he enjoys the support of the incumbent President. BS Aquino can flood the country with cash at a moment's notice. Above all, the administration also has the distinct advantage if it does decide to cheat.

But all surveys are just snapshots of the situation at the time the poll was taken. It's the last two weeks of the campaign that matter. While popularity may show the winning chances of Du-Dirty and Mrs. Llamanzares, I know for a fact that funding and a well-oiled political machinery will decide the elections.

I know this because during the 2004 elections, the late Ka Imon Cuevas, an Iglesia stalwart, told me the result of the "samba" going for Gloria. I had wanted The Standard to headline it, but Gloria pleaded with me not to come out with the story because she did not want to pre-empt the Iglesia Ni Cristo.

The other survey that matters is the one the many chapters of the Philippine-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry make two weeks before election day. The results of the survey are submitted to the head of the PCCCI, which directs all its chapters to contribute to the projected winners.

The point I am getting into is that despite poll surveys showing a Duterte or Poe victory because of their popularity, the machinery enjoyed by Roxas and Binay should not be discounted. I have seen it happen, and it could well happen again. Survey results do not guarantee victory, so Duterte and Mrs. Llamanzares should not be too sure.

* * *

The Kidapawan massacre of starving Cotabato farmers seems to be the trademark of the Aquino administration. We have had the Mendiola massacre and the Hacienda Luisita massacre, and now we have this incident in Kidapawan. Why didn't Aquino just instruct the National Food Administration to open its warehouse?

It was an insult when the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government handed out medals the following day to the members of the police force that assaulted the innocent farmers with M-16 rifles. And then the Philippine National Police sent a so-called fact-finding team to investigate the killings.

What happened was clearly a violation of human rights. It is an example of the Aquino administration's insensitivity and lack of compassion for the poor.

The government and the police were clearly at fault for the massacre. Granting, without assuming, that there were communists in the blockade, this did not give them license to shoot the farmers.

* * *

I don't know whom to believe: the administration mouthpiece-the Philippine Daily Inquirer that bannered the news that it's final Mrs. Llamanzares can run-or other newspapers like The Standard, which are saying that the Supreme Court will hand down its final ruling this Saturday, April 9.

I know though that whatever the Supreme Court would say would define the kind of court that we have. Will it turn the Constitution into a mere scrap of paper?

As a lawyer, I am saddened to see the gods of Mount Olympus on Padre Faura trivializing the fundamental law to suit their own whims. Everything I learned in my constitutional law classes has been trampled on, my gulay!

* * *

Space constraints prevented me from writing about the things former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did during her presidency in my series on how I witnessed history being made.

With her many economic reforms, Gloria was responsible for the rise in gross domestic product to a high of 7.9 percent-something no other president achieved. BS Aquino inherited the strong economic fundamentals instituted during her term.

Another achievement was her support for the Business Process Outsourcing industry that now employs over a million. Gloria can well be the "mother of Philippine BPOs."

These are facts that BS Aquino forgets so conveniently.

Source: The Standard

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