You can say it, here I go again. But I can’t help it. Apart from that, the indications calling for a distinct kind of politics are there. We would definitely need a different tact if we hope and we would like real change to happen these elections. Call it wishful thinking, but well, there’s only one country we have anyway, we have to do everything to get to where we would like to be. It is not much of a choice. Some have already opted to leave and find opportunities in other countries, but I suppose those who remain are still into working for real change.
The election period has started and we have already seen casualties. There is still time but it will be uphill to those who have already considerably lost. I'm speaking especially of Senators Manny Pacquiao and Koko Pimentel. Two political heavyweights who have taken so much beating recently with no one to blame but themselves. To my mind, it all started with the wrong reading of what people have been wanting to see and hear so as to deserve the people’s support. In the first place, we have seen outgoing presidents before who remained quite popular but could not transfer their popularity to their anointed. It may be different now because of the expected administration candidate herself; but if there’ll be a different candidate, I seriously doubt the President’s popularity to have weight.
Ill-fated from the start, it would appear that Senator Manny Pacquiao’s foray into the public’s elections consciousness was not given much preparation and thinking. That political expedition could have been substantially anchored on the very image of the would-be candidate himself, pretty much known even in the whole world as the “People’s Champ”. Capitalize they did on this image, but belatedly, when the response from the public and the target of the campaign have been fiercer than probably expected, they wretchedly failed to be consistent. They had every advantage; contrary to popular belief that it would be unwise to declare much earlier compared to the others as you will be the target of political attacks, they could have seized the opportunity to be the one dictating the terms of engagement as precisely the others are still just lurking.
To be able to do just that, however, requires preparing fully well for as much possible all issues that will be thrown their way, especially knowing and acknowledging thoroughly well what Pacquiao's strengths and weaknesses are and putting these to good use. If they did, they would not have made the good senator act and speak like someone else entirely. The statements he has been making since are obviously not his; if he’s the one delivering, it made him uncomfortable and impossible to carry on off script. If it was printed and disseminated, the first thing the reader did was to scrutinize it, precisely as it's quite obvious the words were not his. If it was a perfectly constructed letter, it could have been dismissed, if it wasn’t and with errors, it would also just be cast aside as unimportant. Bottomline, the intended communication could not be completed. There were messages sent, no doubt, but how it was received, if it was received, was not the way it was intended to be received.
Communication is most basic, most especially in politics, especially if you are making an introduction. Your objective is to make people listen so that they can get to know you better, a lot more than they think they already know. This has been negated from the get-go as explained in the foregoing. The Peoples’ Champ could have started with issues and statements he personally knows so that he can speak freely, comfortably and confidently and ultimately connect with his audience. I could not help but ask why Senator Pacquiao spoke about the West Philippine Sea as the very first issue of choice, one that is quite technical; it is not only essentially legal, it is also a complicated security issue.
Of course, he could and would understand it, especially given time and effort but it could not have been the very first issue he would have wanted to speak about in his effort to introduce himself as a presidential timber. Definitely it’s an issue for everyone, as it is fundamental an issue as it is our sovereignty; it is an issue of our rights as a people and a state. It is not the kind of issue however that many expect to be taken on at the outset by Senator Pacquiao. It is not necessarily a question of competency but more of consistency. He has not been heard saying anything about it before in the first place.
Again, if they anchored their efforts on the very strength of Senator Pacquiao, he could have started speaking about poverty and recovering from this pandemic, things which are very much not only in his wheelhouse, but certainly something that everyone would be interested to listen to. His rise to fame and fortune could have certainly served as a sturdy footing to whatever he has to say about the current difficulties most are experiencing. Perhaps, the objective of their political gambit is to distance from the President, from the current administration, but which miserably failed. It was seriously amiss not to have considered that from day one of the Duterte presidency, the People’s Champ has been very much identified as a staunch supporter.
As a result, instead of gaining support from the public, likely the people who are critical of the administration, a group they must have thought to be substantial, it only elicited jeers if not disbelief. If the West Philippine Sea had to be the issue to start his campaign, it could have been calibrated to suggest a clear policy direction, one that went beyond personalities, and certainly not to just suddenly break away from the current dispensation. If the response is to ask why now, and suddenly differing from the administration, the answer could be that because it was such a complex issue, it was given much thought that now an alternative is being put on the table. It would still be a long shot compared to starting off with very basic question as poverty, but it could have been relatively free from accusations of politicking.
The point I am making in all these is that it is advisable to pursue a more positive, that is, policy-driven political campaign instead of the empty, negative, personality-based political campaign. It will offer an entirely different branding to the public that can only bring out a positive response. At the very least, the public will be listening and will not be quick to dismiss as just an attempt to chip off the popularity of another, especially the administration. Remember in the first place that the President remains popular. Whatever and however that is explained, if the surveys are to be a gauge, many remain appreciative of the President. It will not only be difficult to diminish that popularity, it is a different question entirely if the decrease in popularity would necessarily mean support for the opposition or whoever is critical of the government.
One must ask the question why the President remains popular despite so many issues against the government, starting especially with how the pandemic has been and being handled. Yes, undoubtedly, it has been a disaster all over the world, even in those countries that were initially reported to have already triumphed over the virus. Still, it could have been a lot better if the government was more responsive. Let’s start with the national government failing to closely partner with the local governments from the very start and allowing them to contribute significantly to the effort. Remember several local government units last year volunteering to put up their own facilities but were prevented by DOH?
The pandemic is the most potent issue against the government but it has not been seriously considered by would-be candidates nor by critics of government. It is no doubt a very complicated issue, but it is one that will surely be compelling to the people, enough to generate considerable attention. It is the one single issue that is most comprehensive as to include poverty as it is about employment, national security, health, and, of course, economic recovery. Regardless of status and socioeconomic standing, it is one issue that everyone would be wanting to hear about.
Whoever will be able to offer something concrete to address problems caused by the pandemic, one that would be easy to absorb, would surely have a good standing with voters this coming election. The government is a huge organization that requires reorganization for example; it is one fundamental answer to many of our problems including dealing with the pandemic head on, but for some reason, it has not been easily understood by many of our political leaders that it has not been seriously considered and sincerely pursued. Remember that it was the one key issue that led to the once local chief executive who was not known to many when he started, but with many still wondering how and why from just being number 5 in the surveys before, he has become the popular President we now have. Sadly, that was all there was to it now—a campaign promise.
If there is anything to learn from the successful election of President Digong, it was his campaign on issues and avoiding to gain mileage from attacking another. It's quite amusing that what only resonated is his officially joining the Presidential race rather very late in the day, more than a month after the official filing of candidacy. If we take a look even closer, what did it was the candidate himself, capitalizing on his real person, not trying hard to be someone else, and campaigning on issues that were close to him as he knows it by heart and thought as it was simply from experience.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.