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MANILA, Philippines – Even with less than two months left before voters cast their ballots, the national elections remain close and unpredictable, with voters still likely to change their minds even as D-Day nears, according to political communications expert Clarissa David.
“What makes this exciting is it’s so close. The figures change so quickly, and we’re very close to election day,” David said in an interview with Rappler on Sunday, March 20, ahead of the second presidential debate to be held in Cebu City.
“I think nobody thought it would be this unpredictable. So many things are happening that will affect the votes,” she added.
David said that the upcoming elections have been met with controversy during the campaign period, including the suspense over whether or not certain candidates would continue their bids in the national polls.
For instance, pre-election survey front runner Senator Grace Poe had been facing disqualification cases due to questions on her citizenship and residency. The Supreme Court, however, recently ruled in her favor.
David said that in previous elections, citizens knew more or less the candidates they would be backing. But the 2016 elections, she said, are different.
“You get a sense now that you can still change people’s minds,” she said.
One of the things that could affect voters’ changing preferences are candidates’ participation in campaign sorties. Even with the reach of the Internet and social media, David said that physical contact with candidates is still highly valued among Filipino voters.
“It’s very difficult to change someone’s mind once they see them in person, especially in rural areas, provinces far from Manila, bcause there’s a sense that it shows that these national level politicians are paying attention to their issues,” she said.
Social media also plays an interesting role since it allows more people to have greater access to information.
But it also has its downsides. Since most young Filipinos get their news via social media, David said it is possible that they won’t get exposed to issues or candidates that their own friends are not interested in, or have not shared on their Facebook feeds.
“The question now is, what is the nature of the information that gets on their feed?” she said.
Expectations for the 2nd round
A panel of some of the Philippines’ best debaters and adjudicators said they hoped to see clearer platforms expressed by the candidates.
Rappler contributor Nicole Curato, former captain of the UP Diliman Debate Society, said she wanted the debate moderators to help bring out the differences of policy among the candidates. (READ: No sparks: ‘Not a debate, but speed dating’)
“I expect them to frame policy differences. I’d like to see precisely what sets the candidates apart on policies on agriculture, climate change…You can’t bring that out if you ask generic questions,” she said.
For Worlds Finals adjudicator Joan de Venecia and Asian Grand Champion Glenn Tuazon, the candidates should be able to provide clear policy directions and a more in-depth analysis of the issues.
They also acknowledged the different strategies employed by the candidates in the first debate held in Cagayan de Oro City.
De Venecia pointed out that some candidates were effective even when they went with motherhood statements, while others, who opted to be more detailed with their responses, came across as more prepared.
She also noted how Poe mixed data with pop culture references, while the metaphors used by administration standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II fell flat.
“Roxas’ metaphors can be tweaked a bit to appeal to a broader section of population,” De Venecia said.
Only 4 presidential candidates will be participating in the second presidential debate. Senator Miriam Santiago earlier said she will be skipping the event to undergo a clinical trial for an anti-cancer pill. – Rappler.com