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Sunday, September 25, 2022

[ANALYSIS] Is Bongbong Marcos unstoppable?

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josef san jose
an ordinary man trying to do extraordinary things

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., the only son and namesake of the late Dictator, leads with more than a majority of 2400 survey respondents of the Pulse Asia Survey conducted from December 1-6. Vice President Leni Robredo made the biggest jump with a 12 percentage point from 8% to 20% among all Presidential contenders.

Other survey firms had similar results for Bongbong. Octa research Tugon ng Masa survey had him at 54%, the Pulso ng Masa survey at 43%, the Pahayag survey by Publicus at 51.9% and the Laylo survey at 58%. These surveys where conducted during the first two weeks of December.

Political convention would dictate that with the North (Marcos) – South (Daughterte) alliance, the support of political dynasties, the well-oiled Marcos machinery, and the catchy messaging make BBM a sure winner for the 2022 election. Not to mention that he seems to be entering a Teflon-candidate status. He has this sort of Road runner-versus-Wile E. Coyote knack, where you think the boulder is going to fall on and crush him and he escapes just in the nick of time.

As a frontrunner, old and new allegations hound his campaign yet nothing seems to stick as if the voters accepted a flawed candidate wholeheartedly. From lying about his school records to the sins of his father’s regime to tax evasion that could result to cancellation/disqualification of his candidacy, nothing seems to change the mind of his supporters. Even President Duterte’s tirade that Bongbong is a weak leader and spewing innuendo that the latter is a cocaine user wouldn’t move voter support. His candidacy is something similar to what Erap had in 1998, that other prototypical Teflon politician.

But is Bongbong unstoppable?

Hypersocialized environment raises survey unpredictability.

In this day and age of social media, many voters are in a constant whir of socializing using multiple screens, gadgets and digital accounts or personas. And this hypersocialization gives rise to the possibility of ever changing shifts in voter preferences. The job of survey firms becomes more difficult as they ask a future decision from their respondents whose preference can change in less that 24 hours by a positive news or viral scandal of a candidate. A scandal or breaking news turned into a viral meme can make or break a candidate that makes surveys useless.

Raul Roco was a viable candidate in 2004 before the news of his prostate cancer. The tililing and brenda was the campaign reference to Miriam Santiago in 1992 which could have been the reason why she lost, with a very small margin, to FVR. The rape allegation by a male prostitute against John Osmena, ranked in the upper five of pre-election surveys, damaged his campaign and lost his reelection. All this happened before the dawn of Facebook and Twitter, just imagine what a viral meme could inflict a candidate, not even a “teflonic Bongbong” could survive.

Leni’s surge and Isko’s gamble.

VP Leni Robredo is the most dismissed and belittled candidate of 2022. Before she filed her candidacy, pundits would discount her as a serious candidate. She has no money, no machinery and a badly damaged political brand from relentless attacks from Duterte and DDS/loyalist bloggers. But Imee Marcos was right when she said Leni Robredo should never be underestimated. Just a few days after she filed her candidacy for President, a movement was born. People would donate to her campaign, print their own campaign paraphernalias, organized event and when you see voters shelling out money instead of asking for politicians to buy their support then you know you have an armor against the well oiled machinery of money politics.

Good governance voters galvanized into VP Leni’s corner creating the core support of her campaign organization. These voters are swayed by her effective pandemic response, good housekeeping in OVP (COA/CSC thumbs-up approval), and reinventing the OVP to cater pro-poor programs that we haven’t seen in previous VP occupant.

In 2016, Leni only reached the 20 percentage support in January, she started at 1% upon filing, and for quite a while stagnant at 20% support, she zoomed by April 2016 at 29% and beat Bongbong by less that 240K votes come election day. Can Leni replicate 2016? The environment is different and difficult for VP Leni but that is the joy of the fight in the political arena, the variables change yet it does not guarantee anything.

In the same Pulse Asia survey, the survey firm asked their respondent for a second choice for President and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno got the highest support at 23%. This is where the possible disqualification of Bongbong would come to play. The attack on VP Leni, the sudden kowtowing of Isko to Duterte after months of attacking the Palace, is part of their strategy to get voter support in the event of a Bongbong disqualification. They believe Bongbong voters would shift their support to him, discounting the fact that in a disqualification (not cancellation) another Marcos may substitute for Bongbong and could retain support for the Marcoses.

Both Leni and Isko could potentially derail a possible Marcos win though 2022 is slowly becoming a repeat of Robredo versus Marcos of 2016.

Black Swan.

The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. Every election has a potential black swan event and Bongbong’s disqualification or cancellation of candidacy could be it. FPJ and his daughter Grace survived a disqualification case in courts albeit it raised doubt as to viability of their campaign, so no one is betting that Marcos would be disqualified. But what if the unthinkable happens?

Again in the recent Pulse Asia Survey, respondents were asked if their original pick end up not pursuing his/her candidacy, 23% went to Isko, 17% for Ping, 14% for VP Leni and 11% for Manny. Theoretically, if BongBong’s COC is cancelled Isko will get an additional 12.19%, Ping 9.01%, Leni 7.42%, and Manny 5.83%. Recalculating the Pulse Asia Survey, well have Leni with 27.42%, Isko with 20.19%, Ping with 15.01% and Manny with 13.83%. And that’s the start of the horse race without Bongbong.

So, is Bongbong unstoppable? It may seem so but not quite. In politics, a lot could happen in a week and we still have four months before the election. Bongbong should pray a lot because the Presidency is won not just by getting the most votes but unforeseen factors and interchange of events could scramble the electoral play. The god of destiny decides, the nation’s karma, for better or worst.

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