MANILA, Philippines – Last week’s Supreme Court (SC) verdict is Grace Poe’s coup, as majority of the magistrates declared her eligible to run for president in the May 2016 elections. This is seen to further boost the presidential front runner’s standing in the surveys, but the lessons from 2010 show it’s too early for that bottle of champagne.
The social media teams of Poe’s rivals already went full steam after the ruling, focused on a key message that without a doubt resonates with many Filipinos as well: whatever the justices say, she once renounced her Filipino citizenship and pledged allegiance to the United States.
Last week’s events illustrate why campaigns are what they are: they go beyond putting candidates on the spotlight. They put to test their ability to deal with things that are seldom rehearsed in strategy meetings.
It doesn’t help that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is warning voters against the dire consequences of yet another SC ruling – the one that ordered the poll body to issue voting receipts this late in the day. The Comelec said it’s not needed; the High Tribunal said it’s a key element of honest elections. Through insights from 2010 and 2013 election data, we’ve come up with 7 ideas though on how to make polls credible.
Campaign and coco levy
Just as she was savoring her court victory, Poe was lambasted for what critics saw as her cavalier attitude toward the coco levy case involving millions of coconut farmers and the Marcos crony who misused their taxes: Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.
Asked to comment on the delayed release of the coco levy funds to farmer-beneficiaries, Poe and running mate Francis Escudero said it was out of Cojuangco’s hands and up to government. Which is partly true, of course. But a policy statement like that without context betrays short-sightedness or, if Poe’s critics are to be believed, vested interests. After all, Cojuangco, who’s now backing the Poe-Escudero tandem, and his legal minions are to blame for the 3-decade-old delay of the case. (READ: Danding, coco levy mess rile up Poe, Roxas camps)
UPLB students give it to Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte probably figured: If Jejomar Binay can do it, why can’t I?
So to the lions’ den he went – in UP Los Baños, where Binay was roasted in September 2015 on charges he pocketed public funds as Makati mayor.
Last Friday, March 11, Duterte faced UPLB students with his trademark cursing and incendiary statements. But some students were not impressed, saying they expected from him more coherent and specific responses to policy issues.
The candidate took it all in good stride, but his online supporters didn’t. They unleashed a mob that shamed and threatened students who asked questions of Duterte. Several hours after the online lynching, the Duterte camp issued a statement calling for sobriety. By then however, one UP student had been RIPd online. (READ: #AnimatED: Online mob creates social media wasteland)
Roxas’ strategy, Robredo’s numbers
Mar Roxas has said he’s not changing strategy after Poe’s court victory. But the ruling coalition is now doing a 3-in-one campaign, where President Benigno Aquino III, Roxas, and running mate Leni Robredo will be holding individual sorties to cover as much base as possible.
In Baguio City over the weekend, only President Aquino and Roxas joined the ruling coalition’s rally. It was the first Aquino-led sortie that Robredo skipped. And she’s skipping Pangasinan as well, as she campaigns in other provinces and seeks to conquer Marcos country this week through visits in the two Ilocos provinces, according to her campaign staff.
Robredo, per the latest Social Weather Stations survey published Monday, March 14, is the biggest gainer in polls, putting her just a breath away from front runners Escudero and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
The Liberal Party, on the other hand, is burdened with constant speculation that some of its key local leaders will be jumping ship to join Poe.
Binay targets CCT
As for Binay, he’s bent on re-capturing his old base, the poorest of the poor. And so from openly criticizing the government’s cash conditional transfer (CCT) program, Binay is now making a qualifier: he fully supports the program but is looking to clean up its list of beneficiaries.
What the Aquino administration has done, the Binay camp said, is pad the list to make it an election tool for Roxas. The Binay administration would expand the list to “qualified beneficiaries,” his spokesman said.
Just before the campaign period started, the Vice President has been saying he would expand the CCT program to include senior citizens among its beneficiaries.
Cebu’s Super Sunday
This week, all roads lead to Cebu, host of the second presidential debate organized by the Comelec but which will be mounted by TV5 and its newspaper-partner, the Philippine Star. (READ: Campaign trail: Where candidates are, March 14-20)
Organizers promise a different format and longer time for the candidates. “It will be a different format, definitely, and shorter commercials,” Gregg Lloren, a UP faculty member and event manager for the debate, told Rappler. In the first presidential debate held on February 21 in Cagayan de Oro City, candidates complained that they did not have enough time to speak about their platform.
The venue, UP Cebu’s Performing Arts Hall, can accommodate 500 people, but only 300 will be allowed inside. Rappler will bring the debate to you with live updates, live fact-checking and commentary, and allow you to vote for the debate’s winner. – Rappler.com
Read other election weekly wrap stories:
- #PHVote: Duterte, Poe, Binay, Roxas and a dead heat race
- #PHVote: Candidates, beware the Ides of March
- #PHVote: Poe bounces back, Duterte blows it
- #PHVote: Candidates deal with fluid survey numbers, health issues