POSTSCRIPT / May 16, 2013 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Grace Poe slips past Top Three of surveys

‘TOP 3’ TROUNCED: Having urged readers not to vote for the senatorial candidates being assigned by the survey firms to the Top Three rankings, I am happy that Grace Poe shot from below them and grabbed the No. 1 post, besting the surveys’ lead pack.

I am also glad that Poe is not a dynastic candidate. Postscript has campaigned against dynasts. I am frustrated, however, that half of the likely 12 newly elected senators are members of political dynasties (per my definition of a dynasty).

The phenomenal victory of the 44-year-old Grace Poe, an independent, can be attributed to: the power of television, the magic of the FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr.) label, support from both/all political camps, and her self-effacing yet competent image.

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TV POWER: The power of nationwide television was again demonstrated in the Poe sneak-from-behind case.

Less than 0.5 percent of the 52 million voters throughout the archipelago have personally encountered Poe, but — thanks to TV — more than 15 million Filipinos seem to know her and appreciate her image as self-effacing, sincere and competent.

But positive qualities of a candidate will have minimal impact if not communicated on time to the public. This is where the media come in, the most potent of which has been shown to be television.

Of the P2-billion political advertising expected in the just-concluded election, preliminary figures have it that ABS-CBN has cornered around P1 billion. Its rival GMA Network Inc. got almost P300 million, and TV-5 even less.

In the 2007 mid-term election, political ad spending was recorded at P1.2 billion, compared to this year’s P2 billion.

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AD REVENUES: Political ad revenues were boosted by the Supreme Court decision junking a cap set by the Commission on Elections at 120 minutes for political ads for every candidate on all channels.

More restrictive than the 120-minute limit for every candidate on each channel in 2010, the idea was to level the playing field where the richer candidates enjoy a built-in spending advantage.

Every three years, the giant networks corner the lion’s share of political ad budgets, leaving only around 30 percent to the print media.

Payment practice in most media, I was told, is “pay as you enter,” meaning that advertising must be fully paid before publication or broadcast. Experience has it that it is very difficult collecting payment after the elections, whether the candidate won or lost.

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FPJ MEMORY: A potent content of the Poe campaign is the memory of FPJ, who died shortly after losing in the 2004 presidential elections. Many voters may have wanted to vindicate FPJ by voting for his daughter.

Some sectors may have found it a cheap shot for Grace to dwell on the “Poe” name – as if exploiting the label more than the content — but all is fair in war and politics.

Poe’s voting base is her father’s following, which was at least 11,782,200 voters in 2007 before the dagdag-bawas operators went to work, in some places giving the popular figure a statistically improbable zero score.

This time around, Grace Poe improved on her father’s record, garnering at least 15 million, which is 1.4 million insurmountable votes above those of the second-placer.

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POWER EQUATION: Grace Poe also benefitted from the open support of both the Liberal Party-led administration coalition and the United Nationalist Alliance.

The UNA had dropped Poe together with two other adopted candidates Loren Legarda and Chiz Escudero, because of their inability to join party rallies. But former President Erap Estrada, one of UNA’s troika, continued to endorse her.

Crossing party lines is not surprising in Philippine politics where party affiliation has become irrelevant with political butterflies flitting from one flower to another.

With her topnotch performance at the polls, her being acceptable to all camps, coupled with the vanishing product differentiation of contending political brands, Grace Poe will figure prominently in the power play in the coming Senate.

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MRT STOPPAGE: The recent suicide leap of a man at the Guadalupe, Makati, station of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), and of earlier similar cases, causing a stoppage of train runs and the stranding of thousands of commuters, has been a growing concern.

In the two-hour stoppage last March 19 at the Magallanes-Taft area, the initial suspect was a Meralco wire. Further investigation showed, however, that the real culprit was a surge protector, something like an antenna or automatic voltage regulator serving the system.

There is usually an inspection of surge arrestors twice a year (December and July). The last inspection was December, so how come it conked out as early as March?

Incidentally, the old maintenance provider was Sumitomo, while the present contractor is PH Trams-Combuilders, which we have learned was not even registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission at the time of awarding of contract.

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SLOW REACTION: In the March incident, after the surge arrestor broke down, the breaker tripped (the first reaction of the system). Normally before resetting, the line must be inspected first to see what went wrong, like was there grounding?

Some technicians opined that tripping the breaker without inspection — resulting in a second tripping and a two-hour delay in the resumption of services — exposes the entire system to irregular voltage.

To commuters, who had to walk on the tracks between stations – a most dangerous thing to do — the main complaint was the slow reaction time or intervention. It was recalled that with Sumitomo, such intervention lasted no longer than 30 minutes.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 16, 2013)

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