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Philippines Free Press
May 17, 2004
Perception is King
by Manuel L. Quezon III
IN the Philippines, perception is king, and plausibility is queen. If things are perceived to be, then they are, regardless of reality. At the same time, if something is plausible, it is viewed as probable –again, regardless of reality.
The reality is that the counting isn’t over, and only the counting will reveal what is true. But until the counting is done, the battle over perception and the campaign to enlist plausibility in aid of the campaign continues.
This early on, however, certain trends can be deduced from the recently-concluded national elections.
The first is the return of the importance of machinery, and an accompanying crisis of confidence in media driven campaigns. The failed campaigns of Ramon Mitra, Jr. in 1992, and of Jose de Venecia in 1998, convinced many observers that the era of the party machine had passed. Succesful campaigns, it was thought, would succeed or fail based on a combination of media savvy and shrewd back room operations (including dirty psychological warfare tricks). The campaigns of Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada were supposed to bear this out.
On the other hand, the dizzying success of Joseph Estrada’s 1998 campaign brought to the fore the importance of show business and personal charisma. The concept of effective communication being essential to a campaign is as old as politics itself: but the fact that Estrada was an actor seemed to indicate something new. The result was that the 2004 campaign suffered from the perception that popularity, in particular show-biz popularity, would rule the roost. This was a particularly dangerous delusion to suffer from on the part of the opposition, but it also put the administration in a demoralized position at the start of the campaign.
What everyone forgot was that the Estrada campaign had succeeded because it combined the old and the new; it had its own machine and its candidate (Estrada) spent as much time cultivating his media image as he did on doing the rounds with provincial kingpins to enlist their support. In that fight, his opponent had machinery but no charisma, and so, all things being equal, electoral success was actually determined by the tried and true electoral formula, “politics is addition.” The candidate with charisma and popularity could do well if he had a serviceable machine; the candidate with machinery alone, however, wouldn’t be able to sustain his momentum in the face of charisma.
The administration carefully cultivated the impression it had all the machinery, when in fact, had the opposition paid more attention to its own machinery, it could have seriously wrecked the administration efforts. The President was viewed not only as a party outsider, but an unpopular one, at that. But when the hustlings began, she did what her opponent failed to do: assiduously court the support of local kingpins. They could not wait in the wings forever. By imposing her personality on her campaign leaders, the president showed more inclinations to act as a leader who understood the rules of the game, thereby becoming palatable to local leaders. She did not shrink from the traditional role national leaders play in elections, which is to act as broker and referee in closely-contested local races. She therefore created a political infrastructure while being careful to give the impression it was there all along, even while she was cobbling it together.
The opposition’s main contender, on the other hand, either refused, or was unable, to play the game, and alienated local support. He stood to inherit the Marcos political machine as reinvigorated by Estrada. Instead, he squandered his opportunities by ignoring local leaders and refusing to mediate their various quarrels. Leadership for him was a zero sum game in a system in which the leader who can dole out the most gravy to everyone comes out ahead.
Fernando Poe, Jr. and his handlers bet on showbiz glitz and bet big. Not even Estrada had done so. When the President, having consolidated her machinery, then took the fight into the very field Poe’s people assumed was theirs for the taking, real trouble began. Taking the fight to Poe’s home ground points to the next trend observable in this election.
The second trend is a generational shift in national, and even local, politics, with interesting implications for the future. The strength of Poe was anchored on his ruling the showbiz roost. But as the campaign dragged on, his kingship was seen to be a titular one. The showbiz elite, in general, it is true, answered his call. Out of loyalty or fear, the majority of the powers that be gravitated to his campaign. But his command was eventually exposed as limited, not all-pervasive. In the first place, while only a small minority of showbiz personalities openly defied him, showbiz insiders did whisper that a significant number of actors and directors and producers kept a discreet silence. More significantly, the minority that did dare to go against him tended to come from the ranks of younger celebrities. Celebrities who, it must be remembered, had already demonstrated their capacity to eclipse Poe at the box office. Such was the case with Ai Ai de las Alas, whose “Tanging Yaman” had killed Poe’s “Pakners” at the box office, and whose own following was mobilized through her endorsement of President Arroyo. Raul Roco and Bro. Eddie Villanueva, too, had their own cast of showbiz supporters, generally young, generally more in tune with the audiences whose votes were being courted.
That audience –the electorate- it must be remembered, is predominantly young, and speaks a different language from its elders, whose rhetoric it despises. Poe’s fans are increasingly aging; his political lieutenants political dinosaurs; his machinery, aging as well. His opponents were more vigorous, and perhaps, more ruthless –certainly, more creative. The class-based rhetoric of Poe belonged to an earlier age, and was somewhat ineffective in light of a less rural, more mobile, and more sophisticated citizenry which had already rejected the two past masters of fostering class divisions, Marcos and Estrada. The numbers to whom this kind of rhetoric appeals, it is true, is significant, but still, a minority. And that minority, which could have spelled overwhelming victory if it had been nurtured, was disgruntled by their candidates inability to put up a strong fight. Those really wanting an iron-fisted leadership clung to Lacson, while those who disliked the incumbent, but also disliked her predecessor, either supported Villanueva or Roco. The President, fairly young herself, and surrounded by more young people than Poe, was better able to entice the young.
The third, and final, trend, is a longer, more strategic view of campaigns on the part of certain candidates. New forces have been unleashed, for whom the 2004 campaign was merely a prelude for 2007 and 2010. These include first time voters, and those slightly older, but for whom their first political experience was the Estrada impeachment. They include a new class of younger entrepreneurs and the remnants of the middle class, who want strong, even authoritarian leadership. And it includes those who have rejected traditional religious institutions, becoming, instead, born again Christians. The Roco, Lacson, and Villanueva campaigns were the most creative and demonstrated the inroads alternative machineries can make in traditional politics. Their techniques will have an impact on the techniques of their more traditional colleagues. Their electoral failure must be balanced by the surprising cohesion of their supporters, and their remarkable showing in the polls. They have tasted blood, so to speak, and their thirst for more will be hard to quench. They will, to a significant degree, affect the lay of the political land for some years to come.
Whatever the surveys say, the campaign was a closely contested one, and the eventual outcome still holds some surprises. The battle for perception continues, because try as they might, the two leading contenders weren’t able to conjure up the perception of an overwhelming, or at least, inevitable, victory. At present the administration is trying to preserve its gains, but the closely contested national contest is being replicated in enough local contests to offer the opposition the opportunity to raid the squabbling local groupings of the administration, some of whom may be desperate for help, any help, to bring them victory. Therefore, the administration is busy guarding its machinery to ensure it doesn’t break down, while the opposition, back against the wall, is ruthlessly attempting to deny the administration a plausible victory.
The surveys prior to the election, and immediately after, offered the administration the chance to declare its victory plausible. But the manner in which the Commission on Elections bungled the voting, in particular the disenfranchisement of voters estimated by the Social Weather Stations to have reached 900,000 individuals, offers the opposition the chance to declare that enough people couldn’t vote to put the results of a close race in doubt. The collapse of the Namfrel quick count, too, places its efforts as an antidote to cheating –or the perception of cheating- in doubt. Monkeying around with the results on both sides becomes that much more plausible. The result is the denial of the administration of the perception of the inevitability of its victory, and affords the opposition a second wind –one coming at the heels of its blitzkrieg effort in the closing 10 days of the campaign, when its candidate finally came out swinging in a blizzard of ads. The effects of those ads, it seems, can be directly correlated with the closeness of the race. Smart money remains on a victory by the President. But in the continuing battle for perception and plausibility, the opposition is showing a startling resilience.
Winding It up
by Quijano de Manila
The Second Time Around Is Marked by An Intensive Use of the Helicopter (To Overcome The Limitation On The Campaign Period), The Computer (To Get The Proportions Right Between Effort And Geography), The Public-Opinion Survey (To Check On Mileage) And A Controlled Budget, Meaning, Says President Marcos, “Limited Funds.”
November 1, 1969–The Helicopter has become today’s campaign symbol, as the jeep was in the ’50s, the railroad before the war. It is an apt symbol. When the man-made cyclonew appears in the air, turning and turning in a narrowing gyre, things fall apart, mere anarchy is loosed, the ceremony of innocence drowns in a tide of dust, and the blinded crowd leaning to the whirlwind gropes in sudden darkness to greet the good who lack conviction or the bad who reek of passionate intensity.
It’s pentecostal scene. First that crowd gathered round an open space, hot and bored from waiting. Then a faint whirr in the sky. Heads lift eyes squint exclamations become a roar, children jump up and down pointing to the tiny gleaming spiral in the air, to the swelling windmill, to the violent cross abruptly, deafeningly, overhead, blotting out the light. And suddenly a mighty wind plunges into earth and explodes into whirled fog, a typhoon of dust. The crowd falls apart, screaming. People stagger, crouch, press hands to eyes; but even those who have run to cower behind wall or tree cannot escape the hot blast of wind or the clattering fallout of soil. All at once the pall of dust lifts, the wind sinks, and people gray with dust from head to foot straighten up and slap at their clothes, looking foolish..
Meanwhile, the arrived candidate, himself immaculate, descends on his ravaged welcomers, is garlanded, poses for pictures with the local satraps, is escorted to the transportation. The crowd surges after him. Sweat has turned the gray of dust they wear into trickles of mud on face and neck.
Left behind on the field is the helicopter, now looking too small and innocent to be capable of the tornado it stirred, that moment of unloosed anarchy, dark and dangerous as a election campaign, disrupting the ground and leaving on the body of the people a film of filth. Centuries of stony sleep now vexed to nightmare every two years.
“The Helicopter,” says President Marcos, “has completely revolutionized campaigning. When I first ran for President I went around the country twice – and each round took me one whole year. In this year’s campaign I will have gone around the country three times in one year and it has been less tiring, less fatiguing, than in 1964-65.”
Air travel in earlier campaigns had been limited to places with airports. “And our airport system was very, very deficient.” But now you can enplane to an airport and from there fan out by helicopter to areas inaccessible by plane. “You can get into towns within range in 20 or 30 minutes, places that perhaps would take hours to reach by car, like Isabela, the Mountain Province, Cotabato. The helicopter ranges anywhere in 210 or 30 minutes. You cut travel time by almost two-thirds…”
Enabling the President to complete three national round trips in this campaign.
“I am on my third round. And the First Lady is also on her third round. She has a separate schedule.”
From mid-October, when the wind-up phase of the campaign began, the President could afford to take it easy. He stayed oftener at home base (which was no relief, because the Palace was always crowded with callers) and stumped closer to home. He made his first borough appearance in Manila at a Roces miting in San Nicolas; breezed through an afternoon tour of Cavite; devoted a Saturday to Laguna; went on flying trips to the South. He was hoarding up energy for the orgiastic miting-de-avance period.
Every variation in tempo is according to plan.
“We have reached the point,” explains the President, “when we are gathering the, shall we say, most speed. This is the last phase of the campaign, when every campaign is geared to reach its peak, at least as planned. As we planned it, the first phase was supposed to be an intense campaign to bring about awareness, raise enthusiasm. This slows down to a second, organizational period. But there should be enough momentum to carry you into the third phase, when you build up to a climax.”
Graphed, the progression would begin with an upward curve (turning the voters on) that would level off to a plateau (organization, consolidation) and then escalate to a peak (the climax).
How well has the plan worked?
“We have exceeded targets,” says the President.
And he cites as an example the second, or “in-between,” period when “we stopped campaigning” but what should have been a slowing down, or “plateau,”proved to be an acute escalation itself. During the first phase the Marcos camp fielded a plethora of mass-media advertising. Much of this material disappeared during the second phase and the interpretation of observers was that the Marcos camp, feeling confident, had seen the surfeit of propaganda (especially the radio jingles) as overkill and decided to stop. President Marcos denies this: there was no stop, it was all part of the original schedule.
“When I say we stopped campaigning I mean a stop in the handout of materials for radio, TV, the press. This was practically unnoticed becausewe spaced out what advertising we had. No (new) billboards; no (new) nothing; pure organization. We were just moving around in the provinces and asking: Are there any changes, any reaffiliations? Expenditures were also kept to the barest minimum.”
Logically, during this lull, there should be a drop in the candidate’s poll rating. But, says the President, the surveys taken of this period told a different story,
“I might just as well be frank. I called in experts from abroad to conduct the surveys for me. They were the ones who thought out the questionnaires and prepared the forms. Objective. The surveys. And when they showed that, instead of slumping. I had started steadying up a gradual incline — up the plateau, you might say — I questioned the surveys. I said: There must be something wrong here, because we stopped campaigning. They said: No; but, all right, we will take another survey. They took another survey after l5 days – and it was the same thing. So, it was either that the candidate of the opposition was not being accepted or that we were doing the right thing. For, as we had planned, the mementum was carrying us through. Now, we have our funds for the last phase of the campaign still intact and the surveys indicate that we havenot been hurt by this.”
To clinch the matter, campus straw-vote polls in the Manila area taken at the end of this “plateau” period likewise had the NP team ahead by a least a 2-1 margin. (These college polls also showed Vice-President Lopez consistentrly out-polling the President.)
“So, then , we can conclude,” says the President, “that, as generally planned, the campaign has really been effective.” The plans were prepared by several groups. “But the matter schedule was prepared by me. I had to go over the arrangements, the schedule. because it affected me, because it is I who know what I can do. For instance, at a given time, I can say that I can visit 16 towns in one day. The other day I went through Nueva Ecija and the Mountain Province: 14 towns. And that is regular.” In pre-helicopter days the safe average would be four or five towns. “But because of the helicopter the First Lady and I can visit anywhere from 10 to 16 towns in one day. I cut down my speeches to 20 or 30 minutes; so I have an allowanceof an hour per town. I sleep five minutes on the helicopter between stops and I feel rested all day. Still, it is a hard schedule. The first month, I was fagged out, and so was Imelda. No matter how tough your stamina, when your schedule is to speak in 15 or 16 towns- it’s tough. But you get used to it, you get the hand of it. Then your speaking habits get attuned to it, too.”
The President says he doesn’t actually get hoarse — “unless I drink cold water or catch cold from the weather or the air-conditioning.” He drinks tap water and thinks of his father.
“I’m happy I am endowed with this kind of voice I can use 24 hours a day. I think I inherited it from my father. When he was congressman and governor I heard him deliver speeches, without a mike to crowds as big as ours. He could throw his voice to the limit of the crowd and yet never lose his voice. Unbelievable, those old people. Fantastic. I had some training in school in elocution but actually this was developed in us from as early as five years old. Father used to teach us how to throw our voice.”
Though the campaign plans were made flexible, they have proved to be so practical the President has deviated from schedule only some five times.
“Twice because ofthe weather, once because of my health, once at the request of leaders who were prompted by political circumstances, and once at the instance of the planning group. This last change was when Imelda and I split up. We decided to do so when we noticed we could cover more ground that way and were just as effective.”
His health forced a change in schedule only once.
“That was in late July, when I sprained my ankle in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental. The reception there were kind of hysterical. At the heliport, teen-agers, young girls, rushed me. They tried to kiss me; some succeeded, I think I lost my footing, slipped on pebbles, and sprained my right ankle tendon, But I went on that night as usual and kept my schedule for three days, until I couldn’t stand the pain any more and the doctors practically knocked me out of the campaign. My ankle was swollen and the pain was almost unbearable — but I have an unusually high level of pain tolerance. So, nobody noticed, though I was already limping. I used crutches, but only in private. In public I always walked straight. I was afraid to be marked out as the lame candidate!”
If his campaign strategy has turned out to be so workable it’s because it was planned well in advance and made use of campaign lessons learned in ’65 and ’67.
“This isn’t a spur-of-the-moment campaign. It was planned way back in 1968 — no , it has been in the planning since 1967: 1967 was the trial run. We tried them out: the techniques, the different organizations. We discarded those that failed; we adopted the methods that succeeded. And we have a complete file on the elections of 1967 and 1965, though of course my studies, my own knowledge of politics, go further back.
“I take notes of what happens in every election: the issues raised, where we were weakest, our deficiencies, how our supporter acted. There are many secrets in a campaign that must not descend to the lower-level leadership, that I must keep to myself. If, for instance, this or that leader promises me that at such and such a time his group will declare for us, I must make a note of that, and also record, when the time comes, if he has kept our agreement or has turned against me.
“The old politicians kept all this in their heads. That’s the difference between them and modern politicians. The gentlemen of the old school relied on the personal word of honor. They didn’t have to keep records. That’s not always an advantage. They had memory, but we have records, and the records are precise and computerized.”
For example, after the ’65 victory, a “critique” was made of that year’s campaign.
“One of the things we discovered in our post-election critique was that we spent too much time in small provinces; we had attempted to follow the example of Macapagal. We spent as much time in a small area like Batanes as in a big area like Pangasinan. This, of course was not correct. Manila has over 600,000 voter and Rizal over a million — but we spent the same amount of time campaigning in Marinduque, a smaller province, as in Rizal. So, we decided that, in l967, we would try out a new schedule, proportioning time to each area according to its size. And not only time but also funding. The funding in l967 had been scattered gunshots — no system to it, none of the delicate accuracy of aim required.”
So, the ’67 polls were used to apply lessons learned from the mistakes of ’65, and also as a trial run for strategies contemplated for ’69.
“There were many things we tested in l967. However, when you are in politics, always, after an election, the question comes up: How could we have improved on this? Or you say: This should not have happened.”
And what happened in ’67 that should not have happened, that certainly must not happen again in ’69?
“Manila. We were pushed into participating in choosing a local candidate. The national leaders must not be pushed into that. There should be a middle body to absorb the shocks. So, we created a mediation committee, an arbitration committee of the junta, which chooses the candidates.
“A second mistake was, again, funding. It was coursed only through a few men, If any of them turns against you, the lower levels are lost, you are lost. So, there had to be a re-routing a re-channeling of funds, materials, campaign instructions. There must be alternatives; in the armed forces you call them lines of communication. In politics there must be an alternate organization to take over in the event of a crisis.”
The President says he doesn’t specifically have the Salas crisis in mind.
“I use the word crisis to mean any unexpected stoppage in communication between those above and those below, since on that continuing communication depends the effectivity of an organization. Stop that and it’s the end of the organization. So, you must have alternate lines of communication.”
It’s to be inferred that the campaign was not delayed in the takeoff stage by the Salas crisis because the “alternatives” realized as necessary in ’67 had already been established — and that these “alternatives” can also prevent “stoppage” in case of, say, a Lopez crisis.
From the trial run of ’67, work moved on to the actual planning of the ’69 campaign, which is marked by an intensive use of the helicopter (to overcome the limitation on the campaign period), the computer (to get the proportions right between effort and geography), the public-opinion survey (to check on mileage) and a controlled budge, meaning limited funds.
“I want that clarified,” says the President, “because ‘unlimited funding’ is one of the fables of political history. People think we have an unlimited amount of money. That is not true. I am trying to limit expenses.”
But so rooted is the belief there’s a fear to buck it; one might be dropped in favor of someone willing to continue the fiction.
“That is why most Presidents, I mean their leaders, want to give the impression of having unlimited resources. They are not to blame at all. But it is apocryphal, legendary, a myth. It is not true that a President has unlimited funds. There is never any limit unless you set a limit. Even President Magsaysay, President Garcia and President Macapagal, they themselves told me, this I got from them, because I wanted to know, and they said that the money is never enough, no matter how much you think you have, there is never enough. Unless you set a budget and stick to it. Because they will assume the sky’s the limit and if you don’t come across you’re dead. Unless you tell them point-blank: the myth is only politics.
“In the first place, where’s the unlimited funding to come from?” Graft? “As far as I am concerned, I will not call on anyone who’s asking for a forest concession.” Contributions? “You can’t blend your friends white. No matter how hard you try. They can only give so much, they won’t go over a hundred or two hundred thousand. And how many people are in a position to contribute?” The ten per cent of the population that controls the wealth. “Yes, and the ten per cent are the most selfish, the most self-centered people in the country. They will start contributing on November l — if they are more or less sure you are in. They will contribute only if you are in. I have had the experience of having to refuse contributions from people who I know represent selfish interest.”
The only solution to the problem of funds is to set a limit on funds.
“There is no other way. Why? I know the consquences. If they expect more and you can’t deliver, you are dead. That’s the end of the campaign. So, at the start of the campaign, I told them: “We will raise only this much, we will commit ourselves only this far. Beyond that, no more. At the start of the campaign I told them what the limit was and I warned everybody. Too bad if you exceed this because I won’t be able to bail you out after the limit is reached.”
The President claims he has already enforced the budget. “For instance, you may have noticed that, beginning September, there were no more jingles, no TV.” This slow-down in propaganda matched a slow-down in handouts. “That was when you heard all those rumblings, charges, etc.” The leaders were reacting to the rationing with threats of rebellion. “The only thing you can do is be quiet and take it.” The crisis passed. “They are now convinced that I was correct in limiting the budget.”
However, the President admits that the limit he set is subject to change any time the enemy shows signs of fiscal power. “We were watching the opposition. If they ever raised enough money we would take a risk and spend more. We would at least keep up with them. But there was no move on the other side. Apparently they didn’t know what was happening among us.” This was not to say that the opposition was broke, after all those trips abroad. “They got a little, they got something. And they are trying to bring in more, this from our intelligence.” But the President is glad he took the risk of enforcing his limit. “We have taken many gambles in this campaign but they were deliberate risks. We are not experimenting. We experimented already in 1967 — though of course every election is always something of an experiment.” He did feel nervous over this “plateau” period of risk and nation — until the survey showed the outcome. “It was better than I expected. I never imagined it could be so good. And I became frightened.” Which is why he ordered a re-survey.
The second outcome being just as encouraging, the President has this precise computerized confidence to draw on as he climaxes his campaign, winding it up with gusto.
He can now even look back on the various crimes as ” not hurdles” but as spurs to the momentum.
The Vexing Nightmares
None of these crimes, thinks the President, really hurst his campaign — certainly not the first of them, the Salas resignation, though it seemed so damaging at the time. “Because in this country,” shrugs Mr. Marcos. “small things can be built up into a big event.” But the resignation created no problems.
“I let him go. He was inistent. He was the one who wanted it. Many doubts have been cast as to the reason for his resignation. I think everybody knows what it was. Let us say he had problems with his immediate family other than his wife — yes, with his relatives.”
The campaign then already on the launching pad, lost nothing with the Salas withdrawal.
“He had already contributed his share to the planning.”
Nor did the rice crisis create a campaign crisis.
“As we expected, the whole thing blew off. It affected me only mildly because I knew the situation. I was convinced that the figures on the rice harvested were correct; we had quite enough. But because of deficiencies in transportation, distribution and ware-housing, the supply would seem to be short. I immediately convoked a meeting; it was a secret; no one knew I had taken this up with the millers; the problem of distribution in Bulacan and Manila. The decisions made there proved effective.”
Then why the continuing rice queues?
“The RCA Pl.40 rice is the cheapest you can get; so everybody is lining up to buy it.”
For the increase in sugar prices, the President has a different explanation: it’s not really a current event but something decided on by sugar planters and millers a year ago.
“You will remember that I established what we call an amelioration fund for sugar tenants and sacadas — three pesos per picul — which I asked the millers and planters to set up for the exploited sacadas, so they can have schools, hospitals, playgrounds, better housing facilities, and perhaps, in certain instances, 50% of the fund in cash. That was one of the conditions I imposed on the sugar planters and millers when, about a year ago, they told me they were going to increase the price of sugar. So, 50% of the price increase goes to the sacadas.”
If this be hard to swallow, in the light of the exposes on sacada misery, the President has a quick, rejoinder: there are haciendas implementing the sacada-amelioration agreement. “They are not written about.” Only the haciendas where there have been no improvements get written about. “That’s why I feel like going after the people who have not implemented the agreement.”
The price explosion in general, thinks the President (somewhat forgetting the stick he beat the dog with in ’65), cannot be a legitimate campaign issue because it’s the campaign itself that creates the problem. In other words, the LPs, just by campaigning, are as responsible for the high prices they condemm as the NPs.
“We talk of index products, like rice, that affect the prices of other goods. But it’s not only rice that affects prices. This is a very strange thing, but an election campaign affects prices. The leaders are buying and buying: they have to stock up on rice and canned goods. Do you know how many leaders in, for instance, Caloocan City are funded by the party? Let us say there are 4,000. And all these 4,000 leaders will be buying enough stocks for one or two months. What will this do to prices? It will increase prices. The merchants always take advantage when there is a demand. It’s a natural law. In a small town, a capitan del barrio suddenly receives P2,000. You say to his barrio people: “You asked for this money; we give it to you; you decide what you want to do with it.” That’s the democratic way. They decide they want an irrigation system, or a schoolhouse, or a library, or a multi-purpose center. What does this mean? You gotta buy wood, building materials, etc. With the demand, the prices go up.”
Then the President is damned for not bringing down prices.
“I haven’t the power,” says Mr. Marcos. “Very few people know that I can’t control prices.”
As he sees it, the issue of high prices is actually an issue against the kind of election campaign we hold, the extravagance of which was not really stopped by the Tañada-Singson law, since that law, as the President points out, limits a candidate’s personal expenditures but not the expeditures of political parties. A reasonable limit should be set on what both a candidate and a party can spend. “When I was in Congress I filed a bill to that effect. When I became President I recommended it. There has been no action taken on this. If, God willing, I am reelected, I will push it.”
The bomba of high prices is actually a double bomb, according to the opposition. If prices are high today, when the NPs, to enhance their chances, are trying to keep them down, wait till after the elections, when, if the NPs win, there will be no more reason to check prices. Then they will really run wild.
The President doubts this.
“Prices go down after an election, they usally do; they did after previous elections. After the Macapagal loss, prices went down by around four per cent. There was this behavior again in 1967: prices went up a little, then stayed down after the election. Christmas may affect prices, but for consumer goods in general, prices will go down, especially for food.”
The other bombas have been more stink than sting.
Of the Haruta letter, the President will say only that he refuses “to go down to the level of a false document by commenting on it.” But he thinks the fuss ” strengthened my position and weakened that of my opponent.”
“A man who runs for the presidency should be discriminating enough to know what is a false charge and what is genuine., what is a valid issue and what is not. But here you have a man fabricating charges against me. They are laughing at him in the provinces, because it fits in with his character, with his background: claiming to be a guerilla when he is not; running for mayor and refusing to sit as mayor and then selling the property of the city; and you hear things about the reclamation project and the De la Rama shipping. You know, our people, whatever politicians may try to think, are realy a sensible lot. Never underestimate the people.”
To the charge that there’s a breakdown in peace and order, Mr. Marcos has a blunt reply: “All over the country crime has gone down, except in two places: Manila and suburbs, and Central Luzon. ” And the Crisologo-Singson scrimmage up in the North was no longer merely political. “What we have there is personal enmity. Do you know that they are uncle and nephew? But such hatred. You can feel the hatred. That’s why I took Msgr. Gaviola and others of the clergy up there. This is not just a political problem; it is a personal problem.” Anyway, Mr. Marcos feels no need to be partisan in that strife. “You see, my hold on the North is not because of any leader. It’s not because this or that leader supports me but because the North identifies me with the nobler things that have been done there, beginning with the liberation of those nine provinces from the Japanese. After Liberation I had the burden of re-organizing civil government there, making all the appointments, from janitor up to governor. They have always identified me with authority. If they had family troubles I was the referee. I built schools for them. That was how the Marcos type of schoolhouse started. Now there’s this fear that, because the Crisologo are so strongly entrenched politically, they may become dictators; and so I have stepped in and authorized the investigation of cases involving the family, even a case against the son. That will be prosecuted to the very end.”
On the recurrent rumor of a rift in the NP team, the President remarks that there’s alway talk of estrangement but it’s only a figment of the imagination.” He and Vice President Lopez worked in tandem harmoniously. “We plan together, we move together. Our expenditures are completely coordinated. He will get a little more than I in the South, as I will get a little more than he in the North, by a few thousand.” The supposed Montelibano incident was just a put-on by the enemy. “They were the ones who distributed the copies of the alleged telegrams sent by Montelibano. When we checked with him he immediately asked who had been distributing telegrams.”
As for the boycott movement of the young:
“They are just too tired to think. I am not the type of man who folds his arms to decide a problem. You have choose one way or the other.”
But he doubts that the boycott will go through.
“It may be a national movement, I do not think they have a national following. The majority of the young will vote, they are against non-voting. I have seen them all over the country, I go out of my way to meet them, and they are just as active, if not more so, than their elders.”
Anyway, the boycott movement might mean the beginning of a new kind of politics.
“Of a new party system or a new approach to old questions. Maybe they want a parliamentary form of government, or fewer elections, or a longer term for the President. Whatever their point, I say let them voice their sentiments. We should not be afraid of ideas. After I encourage them to speak out, how can they say I am against them? Even when they demonstrate supposedly against me, I encourage them, because it indicates they are indicates they are interested in their government, interested enough in the country.”
Mr Marcos sees the validity of the contention that the two presidential candidates do not really represent a two-paty system and he is willing to aid the emergence of a real opposition, though that be the
Communist Party — which, he points out, is not outlawed in the Philippines.
“Republic Act 1700 is not a law which disauthorizes or makes illegal all communist organizations. It outlaws only one particular communist organization, that of the Huks, because it seeks the overthrow of the government. As an organization intending to destroy the government it is illegal, but not because it is communist. A communist party utilizing the democratic processes to attain power would not be illegal. Both a socialist party and a communist party intending to take over the government through democratic processes would be as legal as any other political party.”
And the way Ferdinand the Bull is feeling now, he can’t be rattled by Red or any other color opposition.
The current appetite to take on any and all comers is based on computer’d majorities that are rising, says the President, to close to three million.
“At the start of the campaign, according to surveys, I was leadingt by a little more than a million. As I said, during the ‘plateau’ period, my lead rose to 1.7 million and settled there, or its vicinity. The latest surveys, done not by our men but by commercial houses, show that my lead has gone up to 2.7 million. The latest figure. I didn’t believe it myself.”
If he does win by a two- or three-million majority, how will he think he did it?
“Exactly as we had it planned: foresight.”
The Second Coming?
The wind-up phase through the last half of October has meant shorter trips and longer siestas. The crowded Palace was a wondering smile one afternoon when he slept on and on. But once up he’s non-stop, distributing himself among several rooms to different groups. glimpsed every 15 minutes, or so as a streak of speed in the aisle, a flurry of paper at a desk. Boy Scouts to be inducted. “Do you still accept invitations like this?” Or leaders wanting to present surrendered Huks. “Na naman! Matagal na raw sumurrender ‘yan ah.”
On the road the confidence shows as waggish humor, a merriment that didn’t falter even during his afternoon in Cavite, though the crowds there were thin, the reception cool, and the stump looked perfunctory: no arches, no brass bands, no mammoth stages, no climactic miting on a city plaza. But the President showed himself a trouper by staying in fine form in the family hostile atmosphere of theMontano terrain. Evidently, not even the First Lady, who was stumping there the day before, had been able turn it on,
Mercifully, the ordeal was brief. The President helicoptered into Indang town at high noon. Excuse my dust. He was met with placards asking for a sugar central. Then lunch at a leader’s house, a huddle with the press, an appearance at the plaza, where his polo barong was set off by a colorful entourage. Vice-President Lopez was in Boy Scout green; congressional candidate Fernando Campos in U.P. maroon: Linda Campos in blue Lady blue; Inday Garcia in orange candy-stripes; and Senadora Helen Benitez in a pink-and-white terno. The town mayor, though a Liberal, was gallantly present to do the honors. The President took one look at his audience (either too young or too old) and wryly laughed out an opening line: “Bata at matanda, may ngipin at wala . . .” He supposed that, this being harvest time, the working population was in the fields. The picketers rattled their placards. The President asked if the town really wanted a sugar central. A faint murmur from the crowd. “Mahina ang sagot,” said the President. It was indicative of the Cavite response.
At around three the President was in Dasmariñas, on a bit of platform, addressing a streetful of the grade, and high-school young. He set them to doing arithmetic. If the LPs had built 200,000 kilometers of road in four years and the NPs had built 200, 000 kilometers in three years, how much more road had the NPs built? Then he held up a box and called for a captain del barrio. No response.”Nawala nang lahat ang captain del barrio?” Finally somebody shutfled sheepishly onstage and the President explained that the box he held was a health kit being distributed to the barrios and containing medicine for colds, flu, headaches, stomachaches and other aches – “except heartaches.” No medicine there for the love-stricken: “Ang puso ng nagliligawan.” As his listeners giggled, the President, still holding up the box, grimaced: “Para na akong ‘yang mga nagbibili ng gamot sa Quiapo.” Off the fringe of the young crowd were knots of male adults, stolidly watching.
The crowd was bigger in Bacoor, though still predominantly school-uniformed. It was around half-past four and the President had picked up the Caviteño intonation. Campos had become ” si Campus,” pronounced with a grin. Here again, the President had good news for the capitanes del Barrio. They had already received P2,000 each: “Kailangan pa ng dagdag?” A roar of young voices, “Ang sumagot ay hindi mga capitan del barrio.” The President proceeded to the revelation that was the glad tidings of his Cavite stumps: a dagdag of P2,000 more for every barrio. And he handed out — or seemed to be handing out — the checks. “Symbolic lang ‘yan. Matagal nang ibinigay ‘yan.” The second helpings had been released beforehand to escape the laws moratorium on such moneys.
Evening had fallen when the President reached Cavite City, his last stop in the province. The traffic jam on the highway had people wondering if this was sabotage, but the jam had a natural explanation: the line of trucks outside Kawit waiting to haul people to the miting in the city. Yet the miting in the premier city of the province offered the most disheartening crowd of all. It was a mere street-corner miting and the stage was a couple of bare planks between four posts – no roof even, no backdrop even. It seemed incredible that this was the President of the Philippines speaking on what was practically a sidewalk soapbox. But, to the credit of Mr. Marcos, the rude stage in what was certainly not a poor barrio in no way depressed his spirits. he showered praise on all the dalaginding who had met him with flowers and kisses: “Mga nanggigil. Meron pang kumukurot.” This was a domestic problem. He had consulted Mrs, Marcos on the problem of girls kissing him and she had said it was all right. “Huwag ka lang gaganti.” Throughout his Cavite tour the President stuck to Tagalog and his easy colloquial command of it was quite a revelation.
Happily that stump ended on friendlier ground, in the suburban towns of Las Piñas and Parañaque, towards midnight. Up with the dawn the following day was the President, for a whole day of campaigning in Laguna. Like Cavite, Laguna is traditionally oppositions, but on that Saturday of the President’s stump the crowds in Laguna made up for Cavite by being large and responsive. The traditionally oppositionist may spring a surprise this time around by going administration.
The tail-end of the campaign has had other surprises: the swelling pro-Marcos sentiment in supposedly rebellious academe; the Iglesia’s rumored junking of Serging. Yet the Ferdinand Marcos moving through the terminal hustings is a man increasingly bemused by the comedies of Philippine political campaigns. As he looks around at horde and hoopla the thought often crosses his mind that he would like to write a book on campaigns.
“I have the notes down in writing, indexed. Because I’ve been toying with the idea of writing such a book. It should make interesting reading.”
He would call the book “How To Win An Election Without Money” and it would be for all the young people dismayed by our money politics.
“In my mind, I think of such a young man, a young man disillusioned by the situation, the set-up, and asking: ‘How can I go into politics without money?’ That is one of the interesting possibilities we should look into.”
The answers would be partly based on Mr. Marcos’s experience. “I went into my first campaign without money; I won with only 5,000 bucks in my pocket.” And he won the 1964 NP presidential convention on, he says, practically nothing. “Everybody was expecting we would start buying. But what could you use for buying when you’re in the opposition?”
The main answer would have to be a reform of our political system, an abolition or editing of its greedier traditions. For example: “When we won the convention in 1964 our first problem was how to put up an organization. That means money.” Because, to have a nation-wide organization, one felt obliged to enlist every delegate to the convention. Yet it turned out that these delegates, even taken all together, did not represent the party as a whole, let alone the nation. “We discovered that, having them, we still did not have enough of a nucleus. A convention is supposed to be an assembly of party leaders, but many of these leaders did ot necessarily represent the stronger elements in the party; they might be there only because of election in a previous campaign.” Yet these delegates are one big reason every Filipino who goes into politics has to be loaded.
The President inists on his “heresy.”
“I am telling you that the delegates are not necessarily the stronger leaders of the party.”
What, then, is needed to make a convention at once more representative and less costly?
If Mr. Marcos is earnest, the next NP convention should really be heretical.
But first this campaign. As he winds it up the President himself doesn’t look winded. There are bags under his yes but a sparkle in the eyes and his tan has pink tones to it.
“Shall we say I am well-preserved? I have none of the minor vices. And, he concludes with a twinkle, “shall we say I have no heavy sins burdening me?”
By Napoleon G. Rama
Party strategists are junking old doctrines, Imelda is busy wooing votes for FM, Ninoy and Salonga are on the offensive for Serging.
November 1, 1969—THE old doctrines and certitudes on how to conduct and win a presidential campaign seem to be giving way to unorthodox theories. Many of the old notions and articles of faith on when, where and how to corral votes are collapsing.
One such notion is that a campaign of personal and platform persuasion just a month before Election Day is an exercise in futility. For by then, it is argued, the voters will have already made up their minds. Thus, the more rewarding strategy for the month immediately before the big day would be to consolidate party forces and refuel the political machine for mopping-up operations. But the way President Marcos and Senator Osmeña have been crisscrossing the country, raising fresh issues and hurling new charges at each other just a few weeks before Election Day, shows that they and their strategists have abandoned the old doctrine.
There seems to be sound logic behind the new strategy. A decade ago, transistor radios were as rare as Asian blondes. Television was a novelty and the TV audience was very limited. Now transistor radios are as common as coconut trees even in remote barrios. In the Visayas, tuba-gatherers climb palm trees with a transistor set strapped to their waist in order not to miss their favorite radio programs and commentators. And today, there are perhaps more TV and radio stations in the Philippines than in any other country its size. Now you can even hear two stations on one meter band.
Furthermore, a nationwide radio or even TV hook-up is no longer unusual. TV and radio audiences are now assured of receiving programs with few interruptions and little static, even in remote areas. Scientific breakthroughs, like the development of inexpensive videotape and tape recorders, have prompted the revision of campaign strategy and the updating of campaign timetables. To the electronics people, the new strategy is no surprise. They are also among the happiest people in the current campaign. One can build a radio station during the campaign and recoup his capital before Election Day.
Thanks to TV, radio, helicopters and fast planes ferrying the day’s newspapers, it’s never too late for a candidate to raise a new issue or throw a new bomba at his opponent.
The old notion was that it took at least two to three months before an issue or an idea could seep down to the vote-rich rural areas. Now you can talk about a Japanese businessman in Plaza Miranda and people in Jolo will be commenting on it the next day.
Last week, just three weeks before Election Day, the presidential candidates were still developing new election themes, minting new slogans and unwrapping new charges. There has been no letup in the punishing pace since the campaign officially started a few months ago. President Marcos was in Laguna and Leyte, hopping east to west and back; covering both Leyte provinces in an exhausting sweep that originally included Cebu and Iloilo. LP presidential candidate Serging Osmeña visited Negros Oriental, then leapfrogged to Siquijor Island before invading ube-shaped Bohol.
The Marcos persuaders announced in Leyte that the Iglesia Ni Cristo, the monolithic socio-politico-religious sect that claims a solid following of over 500,000, was all set to support Marcos. The Osmeña camp also let the nation know that an OK bandwagon trend was under way. President Marcos spoke of beefing up revenue allocations for the rural areas and bringing more progress to the barrios.
Osmeña went on television to detonate a new bomb—the “Balao Memo”—giving a new wrinkle to his Plaza Miranda reparations-kickbacks charge. President Marcos cited new achievements and enunciated what was billed as a new foreign policy touching on American bases and investments.
As of last week, the propaganda people of both camps were still setting up posters and billboards along the highways, on the theory perhaps that nowadays people travel more and farther.
One notable new feature of the current campaign is the uneven propaganda battle of billboards, leaflets, pins, buttons and television time. The battle of the billboards is no contest. The Marcos billboards far outnumber the OK signs. In fact, in many provinces, Osmeña billboards are nowhere to be seen.
Osmeña operates on the theory that billboards in the presidential contest serve little purpose. Billboards, he maintains, are necessary for the senatorial candidates because the voters are apt to forget some names in a field of 16. But in the presidential competition, Osmeña continues, no voter need be reminded of the names of the two protagonists.
The Marcos boys have another interpretation: “It’s simply that the OK camp hasn’t got the logistics.” To which taunt the Osmeña persuaders reply “since we haven’t got kickback money, we are using our logistics where they count most.”
All over the land, the landscape is dotted with Marcos or Marcos-Lopez billboards and streamers. The Marcos billboards are multi-colored, larger-than-life affairs, the largest and the most elaborate on the campaign scene, and perhaps the most expensive ever put up by any presidential candidate.
The November polls will put to the test Serging’s theory that billboards are of negligible importance in presidential elections. The outcome should settle a question of great interest to future budget-conscious presidential candidates. Billboards represent one of the biggest items in the candidate’s budgets. Confirmation of Serging’s theory would save future presidential aspirants a tidy sum.
While the propaganda contest is unequal in many other respects, the Osmeña persuaders are not far behind the administration drumbeaters in radio blurbs, jingles and commentaries. Because of limited resources, opposition propagandists take care to feature on radio and TV only effective impact programs or “spots.”
What has Malacañang worried is the phenomenal rating of a radio commentary program conducted by Cebu’s top radio commentator: Natalio Bacalso. Until the start of the current campaign Bacalso was a ranking official in the Malacañang Press Office. His program, which has been beamed in simultaneous broadcasts to all parts of the Visayas and Mindanao for the past several months, enjoys a fantastic rating: from 80 to 90 percent of all radio sets in most Cebuano-speaking provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Bacalso, a virtuoso on the platform, was top campaigner for Marcos in the Visayas and Mindanao in the 1965 elections. He had a falling out with the First Couple at the start of the current campaign and volunteered to campaign for Osmeña.
More than any single propaganda effort, it’s Bacalso’s radio commentaries, according to Malacañang intelligence reports, that are hurting the NP presidential campaign in Visayas and Mindanao. Indicative of Malacañang’s apprehension over his program and respect for Bacalso’s lethal gift of gab is the recent frantic attempt of administration men to woo Bacalso back into the fold, a little too late in the day. Bacalso’s astounding success as a political commentator is traced to his talent for working magic with the Cebuano language. The consensus among the political persuaders, LP and NP, is that Bacalso’s radio program is worth more than all the NP radio programs and gimmicks in the Visayas and Mindanao put together.
Bacalso’s success proves that it takes more than money and radio programs to achieve maximum propaganda impact. One good radio program is worth a hundred mediocre ones. The old saturation theory of radio propaganda may well be on its way out.
In the television battle, NP programs outnumber LP presentations 20 to 1. The NPs run several half-hour television political dramas featuring top television and movie stars. But the scripts, more often than not badly written, concentrate on name-calling and vulgar language instead of issues. Even Marcos partisans are critical of these programs.
Teodoro Valencia of the Manila Times, who is certainly not an Osmeña fan, is unhappy about such programs. Last week he wrote: “Radio, television and press propaganda can be overdone. The NP seem to be overdoing the media advertising and propaganda. The ‘overkill’ can work in reverse. As it is, the NP have a 90-10 advantage in media advertising. If the propaganda can be good all the time, well and good. But if the tempo or the quality declines some more, the preponderance of propaganda can boomerang.”
LP strategists meet the TV onslaught with one-minute spots depicting crime and poverty, and, occasionally, television interviews with the LP presidential candidate himself or top LP leaders. Newspaper columnists are agreed that Marcos is not as effective as Osmeña on TV. Here is columnist Apolonio Batalla of the Manila Bulletin on the two presidential candidates as TV performers: “The other evening we watched Senator Osmeña being interviewed on TV in a program sponsored by the UP Institute of Mass Communication. His manner was forthright, his answers were sensible and direct, and his exposition was simple and spontaneous.
“We also watched the President being interviewed in Malacañang. Although he revealed what to us is significant—the Philippine economy has ‘taken off’ (probably in the Rostovian context), he was as usual lisping and groping for words. The delivery of the message was not effective. He would create the impression that he was merely relaying the message and that he did not know much about it. Considering that he could have made capital of the ‘take-off’ study, his delivery was tragic….
“We have sneaking suspicion that the President declined the proposal of some student groups to share the same platform with his rival because he had been told that he would be no match for Osmeña on TV. In that case his advisers observed correctly. On TV, Osmeña would make mincemeat of the President.”
The observation is a bit exaggerated. But the point made has not been lost on the LP bright boys, who have scheduled more TV appearances for Osmeña.
Newspaper columnists and opinion-makers sympathetic to the incumbent President and the First Lady outnumber those inclined to Osmeña, 8 to 2. What is keeping the Cebu senator from being buried is his headline-baiting tactic of making provocative statements during his daily press conferences with newsmen covering his campaign.
“Some people have been complaining that Osmeña gets into the news more often than Marcos does,” said veteran newsman Feliciano Magno, whom the Daily Mirror assigned to cover the Osmeña campaign. “We can’t help it. Osmeña is quicker on the draw and makes superior, more newsworthy statements at press conferences.”
Imelda Marcos is still the most effective campaigner for the President. She has not lost her bewitching popular appeal. While she merely sang or delivered five-minute messages in 1965, now she goes campaigning on her own, accompanied only by some Blue Ladies, distributing goodies and making hour-long political speeches. Her enchanting style is said to have softened many Liberal leaders in the provinces.
Osmeña’s answer to Imelda is the potent LP duo, Senators Benigno Aquino Jr. and Jovito Salonga, whose political oomph and oratorical skill have been mesmerizing the rally crowds. Ninoy has been making sorties to all parts of the country, plumping for Osmeña’s presidential bid. Osmeña has appointed him commander-in-chief of the Central Luzon campaign. Ninoy has promised to deliver the region’s votes to the Cebu senator.
One reason why the Tarlac senator is going out of his way to campaign for Osmeña is that Malacañang has threatened to file anti-subversion charges against him. Broad hints have been dropped that after the elections, Ninoy will face criminal charges for his alleged ties with the Huks.
Ninoy has not passed up any invitations to pro-Serging rallies, even in Osmeña country. Cebuanos are still talking about “the most dramatic platform performance” they have seen so far in the current campaign. At a rally early last week, an inspired Aquino appealed to Cebuano pride and ethnic sentiment so skillfully that instead of mere applause, he drew fervent cries of “Osmeña Kami!” from his Cebuano audience.
His electrically-charged pitch: “If we in Central Luzon, so far away from Cebu, are fighting and dying for the cause of your favorite son, Serging, there’s no reason why all the Visayans and all the Cebuanos should not unite for the victory of Osmeña this coming November.” His impassioned appeal simply bowled over Cebuanos, whether pro- or anti-Serging.
Salonga’s performance as Osmeña’s chief legal counsel in the Haruta case and his forays into the Tagalog provinces have alarmed NP tacticians. They had figured on a sulking Salonga, nursing the wounds acquired during the vice-presidential tussle, and having nothing to do with Osmeña’s presidential campaign. There was apprehension at NP headquarters when word came that Salonga was appearing at the LP Plaza Miranda rally, and consternation when he accepted the legal assignment and started campaigning in the Tagalog provinces for Osmeña.
But whether or not Ninoy and Salonga are effective enough to counteract Imelda and the inexhaustible resources of the Marcos camp remains to be seen.
A most interesting question that Election Day will answer is whether a well-oiled party machine, plus unlimited resources for politicking and propaganda, plus Imelda, plus the Ilocano vote, plus the P2,000 to barrio captains can be beaten by the poverty vote, plus the Cebuano vote, plus the Salonga-Aquino combine, plus charges of kickbacks aired by a presidential candidate running on a shoestring budget.