By CARMELA FONBUENA
To see some of the top campaign and media strategists, political party officials, and senators’ political staff in one room talking must be a sign that the country has really entered the 2010 presidential campaign season.
During the recent launch of the book, Selling Candidates, some of them confirmed to abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak that they have been approached by prospective presidential candidates.
Campaigns and Grey president Yolanda Ong, for one, said she has been approached by four camps. She would not divulge the four camps but she confirmed that "some" of them are senators.
But she has not agreed to a candidate yet. "I’m not ready to commit because I really would like to study who I’d like to support," she said. In past elections, Ong had worked for senators Manuel Villar (2001), Benigno Aquino III, the late Senator Raul Roco, his wife Sonia Roco, and former Senator Ralph Recto.
Senator Manuel Roxas II’s 2004 campaign manager Marilou Tiquia likewise confirmed that she was approached by at least one camp. The head of Villar’s advertising agency in 2007, Jacinto Puno of TBWA, was also present.
Among rumored 2010 presidential candidates are former President Joseph Estrada, Vice President Noli De Castro, Senators Villar, Manuel Roxas II, and Loren Legarda. [Read related story: 2010 Polls A 5-Way Race—Forecast]
It was a powerhouse conference that was also attended by Lakas stalwarts executive director Rey Roquero and VP for Christian-Muslim Affairs Francis Manglapus, former Speaker Jose De Venecia Jr.’s chief of staff Noel Albano, former Rep. Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad of one faction of the Liberal Party, and Nacionalista Party’s Senator Alan Peter Cayetano and former Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla, Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong, former senator Heherson Alvarez, former Surigao Del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay among others.
abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak sighted several campaign strategists, whose work required them to keep a low profile. One confirmed he was also hired by a losing senatorial candidate in 2007 who will run for the same position in 2010. Local government officials, NGOs, and academics were there to discuss the past elections and the upcoming 2010 presidential elections.
The conference was organized by the German foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), in partnership with Newsbreak and the Ateneo School of Government.
KAS country representative Klaus Preschle said the whole day affair was meant to deepen the campaign and make it more substantial and strategic. He also invited polling experts from Germany to share the new trends in voter demographics. Ong and Tiquia shared their knowledge on political advertising.
RP campaigns moving forward
"Most of them have realized that 2010 elections will be decided by media," Preschle said. "Political ads is rather a new development. It’s a new world of political campaign."
According to Ong’s estimates, about at least 70 percent of the campaign pie is spent on communications.
Campaigning in the Philippines has moved forward, Tiquia said. Until 1992, candidates were using direct mailers to pump up their campaign. Now, candidates have also learned to utilize the new technology—web sites, blogs, media. "Something is moving. I think that is good for Philippine democracy."
She also said that it’s only right that campaign strategists should start to prepare the organization, which she said is very crucial in campaigns.
Tips to 2010 candidates
Among the tips given to prospective national candidates were:
· Have at least P50 million. "If you do not have P50 million, don’t run."
· Running for the Senate is quite different from running for the top position of the land.
· The best candidate is an "able and qualified candidate with not too many secrets."
· Don’t manage your own campaign. "This is wrong. Candidate does not have the required distance and objectivity. You cannot run your campaign and be the product itself."
· Product ads are different from political ads. "Make sure the ads are not a waste of your money."
Both Ong and Tiquia said they don’t mind sharing the techniques to their possible competition. "In the end it’s in the execution," Ong said.
Way out for GMA
Abad believes that "after overcoming one crisis after another, more and more people are becoming convinced that the way out of this leadership is the 2010 elections," Abad said.
"The anti-GMA sentiment died down a bit. [The election fever may be] a momentary diversion," Abad said.