In his Manila Standard piece “The narrative”, columnist Lito Banayo focuses on the candidate’s narrative as the selling point. He highlights what, at first, seems to be a disturbing fact in Philippine politics…
It will not be the facts enumerated today; nor even the truths we will either believe or dispute. It will be the narrative of the candidate, his or her life story, and how he or she can build upon it to better people’s lives—that is what will the voter give the candidate a “yes!” come Election Day 2022.
This has worked well in past elections but it may not be as potent as it was for the 2022 election cycle. The dynamics of voters have changed with their exposure to social media. Witness how Rappler was born in 2012 as a result of the need to “manage” the impeachment trial of then Supreme Court Chief Justice, the late Renato Corona. Optics was vital but the administration of then President Noynoy Aquino wasn’t confident that it would succeed in its goal of putting public pressure on the Senators. This was why the so-called “Disbursement Acceleration Program” (DAP) — essentially pork barrel thinly-disguised by a nonsensical acronym — was the last resort to get the Senators to convict.
In the Corona camp was formed the first of the so-called “bloggers,” the social media influencers who could sway public opinion with their posts. Jojo Robles was its father. This is what I encountered when I decided to go back to writing in 2013. If I found an interesting article, I would post it on my Facebook account with my own short take on the content. It was inevitable that I wrote about politics because, I have to admit, I’m a political junkie. The Opposition to the Aquino administration was born on social media. Traditional political operatives didn’t see the trend because most of them were Luddites. Since then, the social media political landscape has expanded by leaps and bounds. It was Nic Gabunada who saw the trend and made it work for then candidate, Rodrigo Duterte, specially for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Other candidates’ operatives didn’t have a clue how social media worked. Their basic construct was to post news stories from envelopmental journalists on Facebook.
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Facebook has evolved since then. It is now hard to develop an organic following unlike before because Facebook now wants you to pay for the following. Back in the day, it was likes and shares which got you noticed. This pattern was confirmed by the latest Pahayag survey of Publicus. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno’s and Senator Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao’s popularity numbers are down. The President’s trust and approval numbers are down as well. But this is to be expected as the pandemic is foremost in the minds of Filipinos. Their hopes were dashed by the surge in March through April and there is now the Delta variant to contend with.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA) wasn’t dramatic in its focus on the pandemic. Naysayers will always be negative. But the truth is, the measures passed pre-pandemic had an impact on softening the blow on the citizenry. If there was no free tertiary education and universal healthcare, where would Filipinos be now? The President made mention of e-governance in his tasking to Congress. This is digitization. It is really up to Congress because the budget season begins in August. If there is to be any implementation of a law that is to be passed, the budget will be needed as well. The President’s SONA was about what had been achieved. He will do what he can in the time he has left but the visioning for 2022 and beyond will have to come from those who are running in 2022.
It’s now up to the candidates to present their vision and how they intend to achieve that vision. Enlightened voters will not fall for motherhood statements anymore. Recall during the 2016 campaign how Duterte had the same messaging for each and every sortie and rally. The only difference was in the stories he told each crowd. Tipong nag-kukuwentuhan lang na mga kapitbahay sa kantong tindahan. This is what appeals to voters and this is why narratives won’t sell like they used to. Negative campaigning is also out. It does not take a genius to figure out that the more you hit Duterte the more his base rallies around him. In case most of you forgot, particularly the Opposition, he’s still the President. You think he won’t campaign for the administration ticket for 2022? Potential candidates who will still not move today are out.
The next goal post is October which is the deadline for filing of Certificates of Candidacy. Any serious candidate should have a campaign organization in place by that time. The way it looks, the Ping Lacson – Tito Sotto tandem has the edge. It has laid claim to the centrist label by declaring first. Lacson could’ve easily won re-election to the Senate and even become Senate President but he has decided to go all-in for a Presidential run. Looks like Banayo won’t have Isko as a candidate anymore. Pac-Man should run for re-election under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and away from the clutches of Koko Pimentel and Ron Munsayac. Vice President Leni Robredo is finished. It’s back to the province for her. She should take pity on her “supporters” and stop leading them on by making her decision known. Former Senator Antonio Trillanes is the biggest loser of them all. Isn’t it ironic that the three Senators then who did the demolition job on former Vice President Jejomar Binay are all out? Pimentel, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Trillanes. Jojobama is running for Senator under the NPC. A one-on-one race benefits all Filipinos in these uncertain times.
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