POSTSCRIPT / March 7, 2004 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Poe borne by protest votes, not popularity

DUAL SURVEYS: This observer does not give much weight to the published survey results as indicators of who is likely to win a presidential election if ballots were to be cast today. Because we know how and why they are conducted.

There are two kinds of political surveys: One for publication (or propaganda, if you will) and another for the confidential use of the person who commissioned it. Both are paid for.

But the surveys do not necessarily have the same figures. This is much like a small businessman maintaining two books, one for BIR (bureau of internal revenue) and City Hall inspection, and another for his personal reference.

Our unsolicited advice to fellow voters: Do not let published survey results influence your votes on May 10.

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IT ISN’T POPULARITY: In the case of Fernando Poe Jr., we are not convinced that his box office popularity (which is supposedly bloating his standing in the surveys) is enough to carry him on Election Day.

Some of our reasons for this:

  • Most of the survey votes for Poe are not a result of his box office popularity, which we think is overrated. They are just protest votes cast by people who have grown tired of traditional politicians, if not of the Establishment itself.
  • Poe still has to solve the big problem of translating his votes in the surveys into actual votes at the election precincts on May 10 — and having those votes correctly reported in the official tally.
  • The effect of the voter education campaign being conducted by various groups, including concerned civic organizations, is now being felt. The enlightened voter is not likely to vote for Poe.

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SWITCHING PREFERENCES: For voters using the ballot to protest the neglect and their exploitation by politicians in cahoots with the ruling elite, Poe just happened to come along as a convenient vehicle for that protest.

If the aggrieved masses find another vehicle, say an evangelist whose ringing rhetoric echoes in their hearts, they can easily drop Poe.

The switching away from Poe of the protesting masses could also happen if the Arroyo administration is able to (1) smooth out the causes of the discontent, and (2) show the national disaster that a Poe presidency could bring.

This requires machinery, money, time and adroit handling. But then, having all these ingredients is no guarantee for success.

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BOX OFFICE OVERRATED: Poe’s box office popularity is overrated. It cannot be credited for his lead in the earlier surveys, assuming the surveys were reliable.

How many of the older voters have seen a Poe movie? And of those who had seen one, how many would vote for him on that basis?

We ask the same questions of the younger voters (35 years and younger), who are in the majority among the 40 million or so Filipinos of voting age. Only an insignificant few have seen, or are dying to see, a Poe film.

So where is the actor’s supposed box office popularity coming from except from the fertile minds of imaginative propagandists?

It cannot be because of the actor’s reformist platform of government (none), or his credentials (embarrassing), his blinding oratory (mumbled one-liners) or the support of local political leaders (most of whom are already in the pocket of Malacanang).

E kung mandaya? somebody behind me just asked. No, Poe’s camp is not the type who would cheat. Although the neophyte has some slick operators hovering around, we doubt if they could neutralize or match the magicians by the Pasig.

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SWING VOTE: We do not know if the Arroyo administration buys our theory that Poe’s survey showing is buoyed mostly by pent-up protest or disillusion with government, and not by his alleged box office popularity.

If the theory has basis, the urgent task of President Arroyo is to win back the disenchanted. If they cannot be won over, maybe they could be shunted to another non-trapo, somebody like Eddie Villanueva who is not a threat anyway.

Such a courtship can run parallel to the ongoing campaign to convince the sizeable crowd listed as “undecided” in the surveys. The “undecided” bloc could just be a swing vote.

One problem of President Arroyo is that her image might have hardened already in the minds of those casting about for an alternative.

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COMMAND VOTES: This discussion presupposes, of course, that the process follows the theoretical lines of free debate in a democracy where the superior idea wins.

When the moment of truth comes, which is May 10 and the days immediately before and after it, all that theory will be flushed down the drain as local leaders move to deliver the votes they had been contracted to produce.

At this point, many local politicos — who are themselves in the running and in need of big bucks — have already opted to maintain their symbiotic relations with Malacanang.

They have received the “down payment” and some installments, and are primed to expect the rest of it if they play along. They and Malacanang have perfected the give-and-take nature of their political relationship.

Only a few local politicians will turn their backs on Malacanang patronage. Who among them would clutch at promises and try experimenting with a new horse-trader in town in the person of Poe?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 7, 2004)

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