Remulla cites pro-poor pitch, rags-to-riches tale
MANILA, Philippines - The recovery made by Sen. Manny Villar in the presidential race is not just due to his ad spending but also his rags-to-riches story and his pro-poor program, a spokesman of the Nacionalista Party (NP) said.
In an interview on ANC's Strictly Politics on Tuesday, NP senatorial bet Gilbert Remulla said the biggest issue for voters in the May 10 polls is poverty, and all other problems are just "side issues."
"We have been able to give the right message: it is about helping the poor, giving them housing, better education...," Remulla said, when asked by host Pia Hontiveros what the Villar camp is doing right.
Remulla said Villar's promise to help the poor, plus his rags-to-riches narrative, are the reasons why he has been able to connect with voters. (Read also: Noynoy losing support of masses, surveys show)
He said Villar is also connecting with upper- and middle-class voters who prefer someone who has more leadership experience, unlike his closest rival, Sen. Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino III of the Liberal Party.
Villar has been an entrepreneur, CEO, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Senate President.
Villar has regained lost ground from the September-October 2009 presidential surveys when he trailed Aquino by at least 25 percentage points. (Read: Villar cuts Noynoy's lead by 11 pts)
Sympathy for the Aquino family following the death of the late President Corazon Aquino last August 1 due to cancer changed the political landscape and pushed her son, Noynoy, to join the presidential race and become the favorite to win.
Support for Aquino declines
However, support for Aquino has dissipated since then, allowing Villar, with the help of a massive ad spend and marketing campaign, to catch up with Aquino. (Read: Aquino, Villar tied in Pulse Asia survey)
Remulla said voters who want to "romanticize the past" are those who will vote for his chief rival, Aquino.
A pollster has attributed the decline in support for Aquino to the bursting of the "Cory-Ninoy" bubble. (Read: Noynoy changes tack after ratings drop)
Asked whether the recovery is due to the ad spending, Remulla said it's also due to Villar's "very good narrative."
Villar has projected himself as someone who comes from the poor, went through hardships like many Filipinos, and became rich due to a successful foray in real estate.
"It's the narrative and the message," Remulla said.
He pointed out that it cannot be just the ad spending, noting that there have been senatorial candidates who spent huge amounts for ads but still failed to win a Senate seat.
"If you have a bad message, it [advertisements] would not have mattered," Remulla said.
Big ad spending
Villar has hired big advertising companies for his marketing campaign, but Remulla said the private housing developer has also contributed his marketing skills.
Remulla declined to say how much the Villar camp has spent for political ads, claiming he was not privy to such information.
However, a study has showen that Villar spent P543 million from October to December 2009 alone, landing him in 14th place in the country's top 20 advertisers in the last quarter of 2009. (Watch video: Villar spent P543-M on ads?)
Other reports say Villar has spent more than P1 billion in political advertisements. His opponents are complaining that they're being outspent by a ratio of 8 to 1. (Read: Bets gang up on Villar over big ad spend)
Remulla claimed Villar is spending his "own money he earned from business," unlike some public officials who are using taxpayers' money.
Asked how a Villar government will help the poor, Remulla said the goal is to increase the tax base from around 11% to the 17% the Philippines had already achieved during the Ramos administration.
The additional revenues will be used for pro-poor programs such as giving more funds for state colleges and universities that provide subsidized tertiary education.
With the start of the official campaign period on Tuesday, Remulla said the Villar camp will be complying with the limit on political ads of 120 minutes per TV station for the 90-day campaign period. He said this would mean a level playing field in the ad spending game.