[OPINION] Reality check on Otso Diretso’s volunteer-driven campaign

Mara Cepeda
[OPINION] Reality check on Otso Diretso’s volunteer-driven campaign

maria Salvador Tan

Is ‘all out, all heart’ enough?

This is a #PHVote newsletter sent to Rappler subscribers on May 9, 2019.

I am Mara Cepeda, Rappler’s reporter for the Office of the Vice President and the House of Representatives. For the 2019 elections, I am trailing the Otso Diretso senatorial candidates.

On Wednesday night, May 8, I witnessed how loyal Otso Diretso’s supporters were: it rained on the slate’s thanksgiving concert (they didn’t want to call it a miting de avance), yet they stayed to listen to all candidates speak. The rain-soaked audience cheered for every candidate who took to the stage to thank them.

Undoubtedly, the heart of Otso Diretso’s campaign is its volunteers. They have thousands of supporters from all walks of life, including a cancer patient, a constitutionalist, and even a 5-months pregnant woman named Johanna Balliad, whom I met in Cebu City. They knock on doors, spend their own money for the slate, and even create posters out of cardboard boxes.

“Kahit ano’ng mangyari, nanalo na tayo. Tayo ay nakapagtayo ng napakalaking pamilya – ang pamilya ng Otso Diretso. Simula ngayon hanggang Mayo 13, ang pangalan nating lahat ay Otso Diretso,” candidate Florin Hilbay told the crowd at the UP Sunken Garden.

(No matter what happens, we’ve already won. We have formed a big family – the Otso Diretso family. Starting today until May 13, our names are Otso Diretso.)

But a reality check is in order. 

The strength of volunteers alone is not enough to bring all 8 candidates – candidates opposing a very popular President at that –  to the Senate. Yes, awareness ratings have been steadily increasing for the ticket’s lesser known candidates, but there has been minimal movement in their voter preference ratings – the numbers that will play a bigger role come election day.

Several factors are at play here. Politicians are too scared Malacañang would retaliate against them if they are seen raising the hands of Otso Diretso. Deep-pocketed donors would rather place their bets on the leading administration candidates, too.

It doesn’t help that Otso Diretso’s more veteran candidates – reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino and former interior chief Mar Roxas – are campaigning separately from the rest of the slate. 

The optics get worse when candidates in a senatorial lineup calling for unity against President Rodrigo Duterte are seen together on the campaign trail only 3 times.

But I do agree with Otso Diretso about one thing: it ain’t over until the Fat Lady sings.

When you go out to vote on Monday, May 13, think about what kind of country you want to live in for the next 3 years. Do you want to be led by people who promise not to steal from you, or do you want to bring back to the Senate people who already have? – Rappler.com 

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.