In the most recent Pulse Asia Senatorial Preferences Survey, two neophyte Senatorial candidates, Grace Poe and Bam Aquino were both the biggest gainers, with Poe registering an 11.2 point gain while Aquino registered an 11.8-point gain. This considerable increase allowed Poe to leap from her ranking of 13th to 16th place in the January 2013 survey to a ranking now of 4th to 10th place while Aquino’s ranking leaped from 13th to 15th place to a ranking now of 4th to 9th place, both well within the winning circle of 12 Senators for the coming elections.
Bam Aquino: More than a last name
I recall one noted political analyst saying sometime in October 2012 when the first Senatorial preferences surveys were out that the last name of a candidate may not be enough to make him or her win in this elections. He, in fact, cited the case of Bam Aquino who at that time was lagging behind the surveys, even ranking as low as 25th place. What changed from then to now? How did Aquino turn things around from being outside the winning circle to now being in the Top 6 of the most recent survey?
Perhaps one important factor was that people are now seeing that his being an Aquino is not the only thing that he has when it comes to proving himself worthy of being part of the Senate. Aquino graduated Valedictorian and Summa Cum Laude at the Ateneo de Manila University and fresh out of college, he began to work with the National Youth Commission (NYC) from 2001-2005 wherein he, together with Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, pioneered the annual search for Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) Awards. This awards has since helped inspire more youth organizations all over the country to develop their own innovative projects and programs that help address key problems in their respective communities.
After his stint at NYC, Aquino went on to establish one of the most successful social enterprises in our country, Hapinoy. Hapinoy has helped more than 20,000 sari-sari store owners increase their income by developing an innovative system that allows these owners to buy their products directly from manufacturers such as Unilever and SMART Communications. The increased income has allowed these sari-sari store owners to send their children to school and provide quality healthcare to their families. Clearly, we can see that beyond the fact that he is from the Aquino family, he has also his own fair share of accomplishments in the field of public service.
Grace Poe: Reaping the sympathy of 2004
If it weren’t for the “Hello Garci” controversy and the rampant vote-buying that happened in the last 2004 Presidential Elections, the late Fernando Poe, Jr. might have been our President. Whether it was for the better or not, we can no longer tell but the reality is, majority of Filipinos believe that he was the winner and he deserved to be the President of our country.
Fast forward to the upcoming 2013 Senate race where the daughter of the late actor, Grace Poe, is now running for the Senate and is reaping the sympathy of ordinary Filipinos who all felt betrayed and angry when the “Hello Garci” controversy blew up during the Arroyo administration. This sympathy and anger has since translated to a strong support base for Poe who recently served as the Chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
This is similar to the experience of Senator Antonio Trillanes who ran and won as Senator in the 2007 elections despite being in jail and despite having meager financial resources. Trillanes, whose Magdalo group plotted to overthrow the Arroyo administration, received much sympathy and support from ordinary Filipinos who were clearly frustrated with all the corruption taking place in the Arroyo administration. He as then able to translate this support into a “protest vote” that allowed him to place within the winning circle of 12.
Jack Enrile: Not his Father
If Aquino and Poe are steadily moving up, one candidate which has slowly but surely gone down in recent surveys is current Cagayan Congressman Jack Enrile, who placed as high as 3rd during the early surveys done last year but is now in danger of ending up outside the winning circle of 12. The recent SWS survey had him placing 13th while the Pulse Asia Survey had him placing 12th.
One factor why he has suddenly gone down is that people are now more aware that it is not his more popular father, current Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who is running. Many initially thought that it was the older Enrile who was running that is why they were inclined to vote for him.
Another major issue that is being thrown against the younger Enrile is his lackluster legislative track record while he was in the House of Representatives. It doesn’t even help his cause that more people now are finding out that he was absent for almost half of all the sessions. Many people are saying that if he doesn’t attend sessions while he was in Congress, what will assure voters that he will be more prudent in attending sessions when he becomes a Senator.
A challenge to our candidates
Clearly, we are seeing that the Filipino voters are now becoming more discerning when it comes to choosing the right leaders for our country. Hopefully, our candidates will also be able to level up the kind of campaign that they are running by focusing more on highlighting their platforms, stands on particular important socio-political issues and their track record in terms of public service rather than proclaiming empty promises that our voters are growing tired of.
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Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government and is also the Lead Convenor of the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.