Why Marcos is big winner in latest Pulse Asia survey

Inday Espina-Varona

Posted at Mar 09 2016 08:49 PM | Updated as of Mar 09 2016 08:53 PM

The most striking part of the Pulse Asia February survey released Wednesday has to do with the vice presidential candidates.

Erstwhile front-runner, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero slid six percentage points to 27% from 33% in January. Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., the late dictator’s son, increased three percentage points to 26% from 23%. They are tied at first place.

Marcos’ increase isn’t that big. But it is noticeable because Pulse Asia conducted fieldwork just before and during the 30th year commemoration of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolt.

That historic event was the world’s first generally peaceful revolt that kicked out a strongman. Marcos Sr. declared martial law at the end of two regular terms of office and then ruled with an iron hand for two decades. His regime was infamous for numerous human rights violations, corruption, crony deals and the extravagance of his wife, Imelda.

The son has repeatedly said the family – which regained much power after their return – has nothing to apologize for.

The government of President Benigno Aquino III went hammer and tongs against Marcos, using state resources to push its last-minute vice presidential choice, Leni Robredo.

Robredo’s standing, however, remained unchanged at 18%. Fourth placer, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano decreased by 1 percentage point, from 14% in January to 13%.

It wasn’t just the government that campaigned against Marcos. Activists tried their best, too.

PROTEST VOTE

What gives?

Some people grumble that Filipinos may really love a dictatorship. But that misses the nuances of the current political situation or the lessons of the last 30 years.

After six years of hearing Mr. Aquino’s self-serving twaddle about righteousness and seeing glaring displays of double standards, the public has become cynical. Though the cynicism extends back 30 years – three decades of dashed hopes, of seeing heroes turn into heels, of realizing that the country’s few powerful clans couldn’t care less about the 99%, so long as they can bathe in riches.

ABS-CBN News columnist Teddy Boy Locsin, who served under Mr. Aquino’s mother, former President Corazon Aquino, also pointed out on Twitter: "People (are) sick and tired of those who had nothing to do with restoration of democracy making big to do about it." 

Pulse Asia tables do not show age demographics. But it is likely that young voters – college-level youth and young professionals who fall under Class D or the lower middle class and poor – gave Marcos’ son the edge.

As columnist Boo Chanco noted in a recent column, it’s a protest vote against current power politics. Mr. Aquino, he says, makes the Marcos son look good.

FESTERING PROBLEMS

What Escudero lost in the vote-rich D class (26% from 34%) went to Marcos (28% from 23%).

I wouldn’t put the credit (or blame, depending on one’s outlook) solely on young people.

People struggling daily to make ends meet may be tired and disappointed with three decades of political intramurals that haven’t changed their lives.

Let’s not forget, the Marcoses came back during the time of the first president Aquino.

Mr. Aquino has largely followed his hated predecessor’s record for posting positive economic indicators. But very much like former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, his sparkling figures do not reflect the lives of ordinary folk, as even multilateral agencies note.

Also like his predecessor, Mr. Aquino’s administration has been dogged by corruption scandals. And like his predecessor, Mr. Aquino has a penchant for going after political enemies and ignoring all reports of misdeeds by allies and close friends.

The latest example is Malacanang’s dismissive response to reports that disgraced national police chief Alan Purisima had collected almost a billion pesos over three years from a private gambling firm.

Purisima and Mr. Aquino, of course, were the tandem that hatched the 2015 Mamasapano operation that resulted in a carnage – and killed one of the President’s pet legislative measures.

Mr. Aquino, like Mrs. Arroyo, has also largely ignored, and even justified, human rights violations. The past year has seen a rash of United Nations experts warning of systemic and deliberate abuses under the incumbent President.

Corruption and rights violations under the current administration do not match the Marcos record. But they nudge close to the level of Mrs. Arroyo, who ruled for nine years. Mr. Aquino’s friends had only six years to monkey around with the national coffers only in the last six years compared to two decades of Marcos crony rule.

Even the noise of democracy did not stop Mr. Aquino from trying to extend the life of pork via PDAF and DAP, despite two Supreme Court defeats.

CONFLICTED VOTERS

Results of the survey portion on second-preference reflects how conflicted voters are today.

In the improbable event that Marcos doesn't run, Escudero gets a big chunk of his vote -- 28%, enough to give him a commanding lead.

If Escudero doesn’t finish the race, however, Marcos doesn’t benefit as 23% of his voters will go to Cayetano and 20% to Robredo.

Pulse Asia also notes: “In the case of the original supporters of Senator Cayetano and Camarines Sur Representative Robredo, a sizable majority of them (35%) would back Senator Escudero as their second choice for the vice-presidency.”

There’s a big swing vote of undecided or non-commital (and/or confused) voters – six percent, both for the presidency and the vice presidency.

Pulse Asia says 84% of those still without a presidential choice, and 78% of those with no vice presidential bet, also do not have an alternate candidate.

I don't know if realization that Marcos may become vice president of this country -- a heartbeat away from the presidency -- will prompt a rethinking among candidates' supporters. 

I know this much. Those who like to preach at the "bobotante" -- translated loosely to people who don't share one's political convictions -- should stare at the mirror. 

We Filipinos are paying the price for our double standards. And those who like to pontificate like Mr. Aquino should tear at their hair and clothes and do penance for six years of kowtowing to his backside, of tiptoeing around so as not to rouse his pique. Six years I've listened to people say they need to protect good relations to win some points for the country. All we have are incremental gains -- heck, the RH budget even got slashed. 

We should weigh the price of dropping the first key word of "critical collaboration" in the face of the failures of the Aquino administration.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.