Otso Diretso poised to lose badly; Bam Aquino fights for last spot

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 14 2019 10:21 AM | Updated as of May 14 2019 12:01 PM

Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno takes a selfie with fellow opposition senatorial candidates during their final campaign rally on May 8, 2019. Otso Diretso conceded defeat to the administration slate on May 14. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- (UPDATE) Seven of 8 candidates of the opposition senatorial slate Otso Diretso were poised to lose in the midterm elections, ending an uphill battle against candidates backed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

With nearly 94 percent of votes tallied by the Commission on Elections' transparency server, only reelectionist Sen. Bam Aquino was fighting it out for the 12th and last spot with 13,637,882 votes. Former Sen. Mar Roxas was headed for a third loss in a national contest, at 16th place with 9,485,792.

The rest of the Otso Diretso slate were outside the top 20: human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, Magdalo partylist Rep. Gary Alejano, peace advocate Samira Gutoc, veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, human rights lawyer and former Deputy Speaker Erin Tanada, and former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay.

Macalintal, Gutoc and Hilbay conceded before noon on Tuesday.

Hilbay thanked his supporters on Twitter and said that campaigning under the opposition banner was a “great privilege.”

"Maraming kwento ng kampanya: stories of hope, inspiration, commitment, grit, generosity, & grace, bound together by love of country. These, we must remember. Salamat sa inyong lahat!” he said.

(There are many stories from the campaign: of hope, inspiration, commitment, grit, generosity, and grace, bound together by love of country. These, we must remember. Thank you, everyone!)

Gutoc said she was alright despite the election loss.

“Ganun talaga. Sanay tayo (That's life. We are used to it)” she told reporters when she arrived at the Liberal Party headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City a day after casting her vote in Lanao del Sur.

Otso Diretso wanted to replicate Vice President Leni Robredo's "miracle" win in 2016 against former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., that rode a grassroots campaign.

NO MIRACLE IN 2019

While it rallied thousands of volunteers, Otso Diretso, unlike Robredo in 2016, did not have the backing of the ruling party, University of the Philippines political science professor Ranjit Rye told ABS-CBN News.

"They were very much organized in that [2016] election and she benefited from that," Rye said, referring to the Liberal Party (LP) machinery.

"It had something to do with who she was at that time, the confluence of forces supporting her at that time," he added.

Robredo's husband, former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, died in a plane crash in August 2012, generating sympathy for then- President Aquino's running mate. 

No more than 5 mayors endorsed Otso Diretso in the midterm polls, while majority of local officials supported Robredo in the 2016 vice-presidential race. 

DUTERTE FACTOR

Duterte's popularity and influence were the main road blocks to the opposition slate's success, UP Islamic Studies professor Julkipli Wadi said in a separate interview.

Not even the combined endorsements from Robredo and former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III could boost Otso Diretso's chances, Wadi said.

"If you minus Duterte from the equation, may laban talaga ang Otso Diretso dahil mga baguhan din yung nasa administration," Wadi said, referring to PDP-Laban's 5-man team where reelectionist Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III was the lone candidate with Senate experience.

The Aquino government's missteps are still fresh in the public's consciousness, including the deaths of 44 police commandos in a 2015 misencounter with Muslim rebels, Wadi said.

MARKETING ISSUES

The opposition slate's collective branding likely affected the chances of its candidates, said Sev Sarmenta, a public relations lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University.

"Otso Diretso is not a party-list nor can people just vote that name. Individual names have to be shaded in the ballot," he said.

"The team concept does not give individual identities to the candidates," Sarmenta said.

Liberal Party President and Otso Diretso campaign manager Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan earlier said their camp launched a "kodigo campaign" urging voters to list down the names of all its bets to cure the branding issue.

Rye said the slate's messaging failed to resonate with large voter segments.

"Otso Diretso was trying to run a campaign based on program, platform and policy, but the electorate didn't seem ready for that alone," Rye said.

"It's possible there is nothing wrong with the message... It's just that [majority of the] people don't prefer them," he said.

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