Behind in surveys, opposition bets told to revise anti-Duterte strategy

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 10 2019 03:45 PM | Updated as of Jan 10 2019 03:46 PM

Members of the Liberal Party led by former President Benigno Aquino III (from left), Senator Kiko Pangilinan, Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, former Bangsamoro Transition Commission member Samira Gutoc, Vice-President Leni Robredo, Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III and Senator Bam Aquino meet during the Partido Liberal National Executive Council (NECO) Meeting at the Barangay Loyola Heights Multi-purpose Hall in Katipunan Avenue, QC on September 25, 2018. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- Opposition candidates are facing an uphill battle and could be staring at a virtual wipeout unless they tweak their campaign tack ahead of the May senatorial election, political analysts warned on Thursday.

Only two members of the opposition slate — Sen. Bam Aquino and former Sen. Mar Roxas — had a statistical chance of winning, based on Pulse Asia Inc's Dec. 14-21 survey released Wednesday.

But their ranking can be attributed more to their being “legacy” candidates, said political science professor and veteran campaign analyst Julio Teehankee, referring to members of “political clans or re-electionists who successfully transformed their names into national political brands.”

Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Manila-based Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said opposition candidates might have to shift to a “more positive” approach in a campaign that so far appeared focused on criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte.

This would mean presenting concrete alternative solutions to issues now hounding the Duterte administration, Casiple said.

Former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas files his certifcate of candidacy for the 2019 senatorial race at the Comelec headquarters in Tuesday, October 16, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

“Sabihin natin from their point of view, principled yung opposition nila. Pero from the point of view na panalo sa election, suicide yun,” he told ABS-CBN News, highlighting the reality that elections were ultimately a numbers game.

(Let's say that from their point of view, they are are a principled opposition. But from the point of view of election victory, that's suicide.)

“Kahit ano pa yung sentimyento mo, ano man yung prinsipyo mo, at the end of the day ang binibilang, hindi yung prinsipyo. Ang binibilang yung number of votes.”

(At the end of the day, no matter what your principles are, it's the votes that get counted, not principles.)

Opposition candidates earlier raised concerns over rising prices of commodities, and the killing of thousands in Duterte’s brutal drug war — issues likewise expected to dominate their campaign narratives.

But the President’s sustained popularity indicated that the opposition’s issue-based campaign, though “laudable,” was not necessarily “resonating with the public” so far, Teehankee said.

“If you complain about inflation and high prices and they start attacking the President for it then the President is popular, definitely the supporters of the President will not consider voting for these candidates,” he told ABS-CBN News.

“If I were part of the team of the opposition, I would adjust the issues being raised and redirect... the attacks on the President to raising alternatives to the problems at hand.”