Published on August 19, 2014.
To many, Mar Roxas’ presidential ambition is a given. I think, however, that a certain ambivalence attends his desire to occupy the one office that exceeded his father’s grasp. My Exhibit A is Roxas’ failure to run for a Senate seat last year.
I understand that if he had done so, he would have forfeited his election protest against Vice President Jejomar Binay. Was this the actual consideration? It is hard to believe that he would have traded a probable campaign advantage in 2016 for the unlikely prospect of a belated election-tribunal victory.
The last time Roxas won a national election unequivocally, he turned heads. He topped the Senate race in 2004, becoming the first candidate in our history to garner more than 19 million votes. Mr. Palengke (a political persona based on his service as trade secretary in both the Estrada and the Arroyo administrations) was suddenly presidential timber. But that was 10 years ago—an entire geological age in political time. Continue reading
Remarks at the Akbayan party-list group’s 16th anniversary program, held on January 30, 2014.
Thank you. I am honored by your invitation. At the same time, I must confess to an inconvenient concern: a journalist in a political assembly should be on the sidelines, not at the podium. So if you will allow me, I will rationalize my presence here today, in my capacity as a writer of columns and editorials, as an act of truth-telling. Incomplete, certainly; maybe even incoherent; but independent truth-telling.
It must be a time of mixed emotions for Akbayan. Your political base remains robust enough to regularly send representatives to Congress, major legislation that you support such as the Reproductive Health bill have become law, some of your leaders are serving in high government offices, and you have the President’s ear. But Risa’s second run for the Senate ended up just short again, and the prospect of a national consensus behind either party leader or political program looks less bright than a year ago.
But in fact, Akbayan did better in 2013 than it did in 2010; Risa [Hontiveros] gained over a million more votes than the first time, and her vote total in 2013 was twice that of Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna. But the rules of political arithmetic are unforgiving. Population growth, electoral cycles, and (not least) campaign funds are as much a determinant of success at the polls as candidate character or party platform.
Where does Akbayan go from here?
The last of a series of seven election-related columns, an attempt to understand Grace Poe’s stunning first-place finish in the Senate race. Published on May 21, 2013.
Apparently, there was a sympathy vote for the late, defeated presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. At least that is what many commentators, both professional and on-Facebook-only, assure us is the meaning of Grace Poe’s 20 million votes.
I can understand why the senator-elect sees her unexpected victory as vindication for her father; it is harder to understand why so many seem to think that that is the only meaning. Or why—and this is my main argument—there should be only one explanation.
Published on May 14, 2013.
I must disagree with the esteemed Randy David, when in his May 9 column he lumped election surveys together with “political dynasties, religious meddling in politics, [and] corporate financing of electoral campaigns” as obstacles to modernity.
By that measure, every single modern polity that the Philippines can possibly look to as template is premodern. In fact, given that mature democracies use election surveys even more heavily than the Philippines does, by Randy’s own criteria they must be even more backward than we are.
I must quarrel especially with his reduction of the purpose of election surveys to the general notion of trending, and thus of the bandwagon. To quote the passage in full: “Interestingly, theorists of modernity do not fret over the fact that premodern societies do not measure up to these standards. They believe that societal evolution eventually favors the emergence of autonomous political systems. In short, whether or not there’s an explicit law banning them, political dynasties, religious meddling in politics, corporate financing of electoral campaigns, and the use of surveys to sway voters are bound to become less important, or even obsolete, as society becomes modern.”
Some readers misunderstood this column as a concatenation of endorsements, less than a week before the election. My purpose, however, was to do as I did the week before the 2010 vote, and come clean with my choices. Published on May 7, 2013.
That line is from “The American President,” a political romance starring Michael Douglas which the incumbent American president recently described (for comedic effect, but not inaccurately) as “Aaron Sorkin’s liberal fantasy.”
The quote comes from a climactic speech, which to my mind best expresses the view that it is personal character—not platform or policy or ideology—that matters most in politics. (I’m tempted to rank this speech right up there with Charlie Chaplin’s, at the end of “The Great Dictator,” if only because it is less abstract, more grounded.)
A reading that proved to be erroneous, at least in terms of actual election results. Published on April 23, 2013.
The results of the April 13-15 Social Weather Stations survey are in, and for the first time two nonreelectionist candidates for the Senate have broken into the Top 4. The number of survey respondents who said they would vote for Nancy Binay and Cynthia Villar rose from 47 percent in March to 49 percent in April, enough for them to tie for joint 3rd-4th place.
But I would guess that the real story from the April results, from the point of view of the campaigns themselves, is the sharp declines in voter support for the ex-soldiers running for reelection, Antonio Trillanes IV and Gringo Honasan.
(Caveat emptor: As I have done in previous columns, I equate the voter preference of the respondents participating in these surveys with voter support, and assume that these numbers will translate, more or less directly, into actual votes. More qualifications need to be made, but that is the gist of it.)
Published on April 16, 2013.
I see that Brother Mike Velarde of the El Shaddai Catholic charismatic renewal movement is up to his favorite old trick again: preaching to the converted. With the usual fanfare, he named the first six senatorial candidates endorsed by the so-called White Vote, a bloc of Catholic Church-affiliated organizations, at a prayer assembly last Saturday. It is no coincidence that five of the six are doing well in the surveys.
JV Ejercito, Koko Pimentel, Cynthia Villar, Antonio Trillanes and Gringo Honasan rank among the Top 9 in the latest available Social Weather Stations survey; only Mitos Magsaysay is—as of that mid-March survey—statistically still outside the probable winners’ circle.
In other words, even without Velarde’s White Vote, five of the six candidates stand a good chance of winning a Senate seat. By a kind of political alchemy, many of these candidates will feel a sense of gratitude, perhaps even a sense of obligation, to Velarde for the endorsement—even if in fact they did not need it. It will be 1998 all over again.
I missed my deadline for April 2, just as the campaigns for the 2013 midterm elections were heating up; I tried to make up for it with seven election-related columns in the next several weeks. This one, published on April 9, 2013, was the first.
Supporters of Risa Hontiveros were the first to point this out to me. She was doing worse at this stage of the campaign in 2010, they said, and yet she still came tantalizingly close to winning then.
Let’s take a look at the SWS surveys from three years ago. In the January 2010 poll, she came in at 22-23, well outside the prospective winners’ circle. In February 2010, she improved to 18-20, but then lost ground in March 2010, falling to 22-24. (She would come back strongly in the succeeding months, improving to 16-18 in April and to 14-15 in the May 2010 survey, before finally landing, after the votes were counted, in 13th place.)
Her numbers in 2013 are healthier. In the January 2013 poll, she came in at 18-19. She consolidated her position in both the February and March surveys, claiming solo 18th place. This is, of course, still six steps removed from a seat in the Senate. But the campaign implications are clear: She is starting from a higher base, and if she can muster the same momentum she put to good use in 2010, especially in the second half of a 90-day campaign, she just might break into the circle of 12.