It seems “vice president” Leni Robredo, presumptive “leader” of the entire “united” Philippine Opposition, had finally found it in her blessed heart to engage in a bit of inward reflection. Following the dud of an over-hyped “announcement” issued by Opposition coalition 1Sambayan Saturday, Robredo has come out with an apparent attempt to finally kill the failed good-versus-evil narrative of her camp. In his “report” that screams “Robredo urges supporters: Don’t think we’re the only ones who are good”, Inquirer “reporter” John Eric Mendoza provides the following English translation of Robredo’s statement which she “said in Filipino in ‘BISErbisyong LENI,’ her Sunday show on AM radio DZXL.”
“We are in this situation not because of just one person. It’s not just because of the president. We need to understand that,” she added. “We need to understand why many are attracted to the President. Why are so many attracted to this kind of politician? We need to recognize that.”
“It can’t be said that we are the only ones who are good — that, you know, we are the only ones who are sensible [‘matino’ was the term she used]. That cannot be,” she went on.
Welcome to the 2022 election campaign, Madame “vice president”. Perhaps Robredo’s small band of rabid followers can now recognise that winning an election is an exercise of addition and not subtraction. Under the leadership of the Liberal Party (a.k.a., the Yellowtards), the Opposition had, over the last five years since President Rodrigo Duterte’s ascent to power in 2016, habitually framed themselves as the “good guys”, effectively excluding the vast swathe of Filipino voters who disagree with this pompous self-appraisal or accord it mere bemusement.
The catastrophic loss of the Yellowtard-backed Otso Diretso coalition in the 2019 midterm elections demonstrated the fatal folly in this approach. Despite this, no lessons had been learnt. The video streamed by 1Sambayan last Saturday was marked by the very same election-losing themes — songs of Filipinos’ victimhood provided an annoying background din to grim images and video footage depicting the “casualties” of a purported conspiracy by state forces to murder Filipinos en masse. It is one thing that these tired claims that the Philippine government is a “fascist” state and, Duterte, a “tyrant” had long come across to most Filipinos as bratty cry-wolf sloganeering coming from a bunch of butthurt crybaby little girls.
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One wonders who really failed the Yellowtards in their ineffective five-year campaign to demonise the Duterte government while they canonized their lot. Was it their public relations machine? Was it the legendary community of social media “influencers” who inflated social media Retweet and Share stats to the point of misleading their people into thinking they had the upper hand in the popularity contest? Was it their Big Corporate Media henchmen who eroded their brand equity by constantly making themselves and their celebrity “journalists” the stars of their own “news” stories?
Perhaps. But a lot of what contributed to the reduction of today’s Opposition to a sad punchline is on Robredo herself. Robredo, de facto face of the Philippine Opposition for the last five years, routinely conducted herself in a tone-deaf manner under the limelight and in front of a complicit broadcast media industry, often using disasters and human suffering as stages for her media whoring.
So, ok, the Yellowtards are no longer the only good guys in Philippine politics according to Leni Robredo. What then? There is still the job of crafting an inclusive platform and designing a campaign that seeks to convert voters instead of alienating them. More importantly, at a time when mounting traditional campaigns that involve a lot of face-to-face engagement and baby kissing is no longer possible, the battle for hearts and minds will be fought digitally. With that, will come immense opportunities to collect sentiment data and apply modern data science to its analysis. Seeing that the Yellowtards’ political machine has proven to be utterly incompetent at taking a modern approach to election campaigning it’s high time heads roll. The broader Opposition should start seriously considering whether Robredo’s head should be among them.
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