Senate bets aid campaign with COC monikers

Ayee Macaraig

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From 'Cynthia Misishanepbuhay' to 'Benigno Bam,' candidates choose nicknames to boost name recall

UNIQUE NICKNAME. Former Las Piñas Rep Cynthia Villar chooses "Cynthia Misishanepbuhay" as her nickname in her certificate of candidacy. Photos from Mrs Villar's Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – What’s the use of political ads and social media accounts promoting her as “Cynthia Misishanepbuhay” if voters won’t be reminded of that nickname when they scan the ballots on Election Day?

Quite basic, but this is a strategy that the camp of Nacionalista Party senatorial bet Cynthia Villar didn’t overlook: the moniker you use in the campaign should be indicated in your certificate of candidacy (COC) and should also appear as part of your official name that would appear on the ballot. You sustain the name recall; you don’t confuse the voters.

In filing her COC last Tuesday, October 2, Villar, a former Las Piñas congresswoman, wrote “Cynthia Misishanepbuhay” as her nickname. Just below that, in the portion where a candidate is asked what name he or she wants to appear on the ballot, she wrote: “Villar Cynthia,” followed by “Misishanepbuhay” and her party “NP.”

All reminders are present. The advertisement of the family’s foundation goes: “Hanep na ang buhay dahil may hanapbuhay. Maging Mrs Hanepbuhay sa Villar Foundation.” (Life is great because there are jobs. Be Mrs Hanepbuhay with the help of the Villar Foundation.) The Filipino word “hanep” is loosely translated as “wow.”

The nickname also rides on the branding of her husband—she is the “misis” of Manuel Villar Jr, former House Speaker, Senate President, and 2010 presidential aspirant bet who made it in life from being an entrepreneur to a housing magnate.

Other senatorial aspirants don’t have the standout nickname that Mrs Villar has, but apparently learned the strategy of enhancing name recall from past electoral exercises. They used their last names in their nicknames to make sure voters don’t miss them. These candidates then have nicknames like “Loren Legarda,” “Jamby Madrigal,” and “Risa Hontiveros.”

As opposed to just using nicknames like “Migz,” “Koko,” and “Sonny,” Legarda, Madrigal and Hontiveros included their family names in the nicknames to be clearly identified.

In the past, lists of candidates were posted outside polling precincts, indicating the real names and registered nicknames of candidates, to help voters remember associations. In fact, during elections when voters had to write down the names of their choice candidates, they could just write the registered nicknames and these were counted by the election officers.

Now, candidates’ names are printed on the ballot and the voter only need to shade the corresponding ovals, thus the need for those names to bear the nicknames that the aspirants are known for.

Family branding

Another aspirant, San Juan Rep Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, is relying on family branding. In his COC, he wrote “Estrada JV” as nickname  and Joseph Victor Ejercito as his name on the ballot.

Estrada is the stage family name of his father, actor-turned-politician former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada.

“My father has been insisting that I use Estrada because he feels that in the rural areas, especially in the mountainous areas in the countryside, they do not know Ejercito,” he told Rappler.

ESTRADA FACTOR. Rep JV Ejercito is using the Estrada name in his campaign. He says his father told him it is known more in far-flung areas. Photo from Rep Ejercito's Facebook page

Ejercito began using the nickname in the September Pulse Asia survey. From 6-9 in May, his ranking rose to 3-5 with the Estrada name.

“I hope the Comelec will allow me to use Ejercito Estrada. It’s not just an alias. Everybody knows my father is President Estrada, but I’m known as JV. Nobody can dispute that.”

Others are also relying on family association. The President’s cousin, Bam Aquino, chose the nickname “Benigno Bam” to go with his official ballot name of Paolo Benigno Aquino IV. The name Benigno Aquino has been used by generations of Aquino politicians, owing to the popularity of the late Sen Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr (Bam’s uncle) and his son, now President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

The same goes for another presidential relative. Returning Sen Ramon Magsaysay Jr included his last name in his nickname, “Jun Magsaysay.” He is the son of the late popular President Ramon Magsaysay.

'BENIGNO BAM.' LP senatorial candidate sticks with the "Benigno" brand, choosing to include the name in his ballot nickname. Photo by Don Regachuelo

Name confusion

Pollsters have admitted that some politicians’ nicknames tended to confuse voters. Pulse Asia president Ronald Holmes cited as example Cagayan Rep Juan Ponce Enrile Jr of the Nationalist People’s Coalition. He had the nickname “Enrile” in the September Pulse Asia survey. He is the son of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

“People might think that Jack Enrile is the Senate President. The confusion might still be there,” Holmes told the ABS-CBN News Channel.

Yet in his COC, the younger Enrile dropped that very element that boosted his name recall; he opted to use his real nickname, “Jack.” The name he indicated on his COC is Juan Ponce Enrile Jr.

Movie and Television Review and Classification Board Chairperson Grace Poe-Llamanzares, an Independent, is another case of an aspirant foregoing the built-in advantage of family branding. The daughter of the late action star and presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr used the nickname “Grace.” This was even after the Pulse Asia surveys listed her nickname as “FPJ,” the initials by which her very popular father was called.

HE'S JACK. Unlike Rep JV Ejercito, Rep Juan Ponce Enrile Jr opts to go with his real nickname "Jack." Pollsters admit some respondents confused him with his father, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Photo by Joe Arazas/Senate PRIB

‘Automation solves name problems’

Names and nicknames have caused controversies in past elections.

In the 2001 senatorial polls, the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino asked the Comelec to declare invalid votes cast for names like “Mr Sharon Cuneta,” “Kiko Cuneta,” and “Sharon Pangilinan,” and for “Mr Vilma Santos,” “Vilma Recto,” or “Ralph Santos.”

This was in reference to candidates Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Ralph Recto who are married to popular actresses Sharon Cuneta and Vilma Santos, respectively.

In the 2007 elections, Sen Alan Peter Cayetano also encountered a problem in relation to his name. A nuisance candidate registered as Joselito Pepito “Peter” Cayetano, confusing voters.

The senator told Rappler: “There was no ‘Peter’ in the name of Joselito Cayetano, but he put that because many know me as either Peter Alan, Alan Peter, or Peter. I’m really more known either for my last name or first name except the First Couple really targeted me in 2007.” He was referring to then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, who he had been criticizing for various controversies.

Cayateno then had to come up with advertisements asking people to write his full name on the ballot, to make sure the votes would be credited to him.

As in 2007, Cayetano is using “Compañero” as his nickname for his re-election campaign this time. He inherited it from his father, the late senator Renato Cayetano, who became known for his public affairs program, “Compañero Y Compañera.”

Cayetano said that with automation, he expects that he will no longer encounter the problems he and other candidates did in the manual polls.

 “I’m hoping with the automation, this problem will be solved. Even if 5 Cayetanos run, if they don’t have exactly the same names, there will be no problem.” – 

More from #PHVote, Rappler’s coverage of the 2013 elections:

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