POSTSCRIPT / November 17, 2009 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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It’s just a perception game for 2010 polls

INFO WAVE: Perception is the name of the game in the campaign leading to the May 2010 national elections. And the vehicle on which perceived images are delivered is mass media, particularly television.

The average voter has not met or dealt directly with the candidates for president and other high offices. What they know of the men and women running for national office are usually reflections they see on the TV screen, hear on radio or read in the newspapers.

The tragedy is that the image bounced off mass media may at times be incomplete, often contrived, or even distorted.

We seem to be on the crest of a huge Information Wave that has the potential to swamp almost everybody watching on the beach.

Who rides and rules that big wave, and stays on till it breaks, will win the game.

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NOYNOY LEADING: I was starting to unreel that line about an Information Wave when on my computer screen appeared late yesterday a copy of Pulse Asia’s October Ulat ng Bayan survey report.

The survey results are out — and Sen. Noynoy Aquino (Liberal Party) is leading all presidential aspirants with 44 percent to the 19 percent of second-placer Sen. Manny Villar (Nacionalista Party).

Pulse Asia used a nationwide sample of 1,800 adults aged 18 years and above who were personally interviewed Oct. 22-30. The survey has a plus/minus 2-percent error margin at the 95 percent confidence level.

The reason cited most often in expressing preference is the candidate’s clean public image (“malinis”) or his not being corrupt (“hindi kurakot”). This plays into the LP battle cry that the coming elections are a showdown between Good and Evil.

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AFTERGLOW: Since not all those polled have had an encounter with Aquino in the flesh, the preference expressed for him is likely a mere reflection of perceptions bouncing off mass media, mostly TV.

It is also a carryover of the good image of his parents — especially his late mother Cory whose funeral drew throngs of admirers and dreamers who pined for the Camelot-like days of EDSA-I that brought down the dictator Marcos.

Is it fair for Aquino to cash in on the afterglow left by his beloved parents? Of course it is. In politics, anything legal is fair.

If his rivals for the presidency want similarly borrowed value-added points, they have to invent something to catch up.

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TRAILERS: Behind the lead duo of Aquino and Villar are Sen. Chiz Escudero (13 percent) and former President Erap Estrada (11 percent) who have managed to stay above the psychological two-digit barrier to remaining in contention.

The aspirants trailing far behind with single-digit ratings are Vice President Noli de Castro (4 percent) and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro (2 percent) of the administration Lakas-Kampi-CMD coalition.

De Castro, who recently berated live on TV (!) some delinquent applicants for government housing, suffered the biggest drop (-12 percent) in voters’ support from the August to the October surveys.

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NEWS CONTEXT: To see the survey results in the context of what was flashing on the media screen during the interview period, note these news events at that time:

* The announcement of Estrada’s presidential bid and the questions raised regarding the legality of his running.

* The declaration of Sen. Loren Legarda’s vice presidential plans and Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo V. Puno’s withdrawal from the vice presidential race.

* Escudero’s departure from the Nationalist People’s Coalition, which had planned to launch his presidential candidacy.

*The continuing search for a running mate by presidential aspirants Teodoro and Villar.

* The long lines of registrants catching the last days of listing up of voters.

* The resignation of Public Works and Highways Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane.

* The relief and rehabilitation efforts after devastating storms.

* The government order freezing the prices of oil products and basic commodities.

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PASTORAL CONCERN: The pastoral letter of Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, Manila archbishop, on what he called the “structure of sin” behind the proliferation of squatter colonies in the capital should open a holistic review of the problem.

The cardinal defended families living near esteros and waterways in the metropolis being blamed for floods brought by typhoons and heavy rains.

Among other things, he said that poor urban families put up dwellings even in dangerous areas because they have to find space near where they make a living.

Making a living has been a common excuse of squatters building dwellings on any vacant space they fancy and also in returning to the capital after being transferred, with state assistance, to relocation sites.

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SQUATTERS’ DEMAND: Many squatters talk and act like the government must provide them jobs near where they have chosen to live.

When migrants come to try their luck in the capital, is the government duty-bound to welcome them, create jobs, provide housing and extend essential services as they flock in?

Instead of following and serving squatters wherever they build shanties, the government should reverse the process. Livelihood and other opportunities should be spread to the provinces, and the need for housing made to follow to the countryside.

Btw, if the Church wants to help it can offer its wealth and vast landholdings to the homeless and jobless.

Right outside the high walls of the archbishop’s palace in Mandaluyong City are squatter colonies. The good Cardinal might want to give them lots, dwellings, jobs and essential services.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 17, 2009)

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