Calling a spade
Business World, 15 May 2013


Random Thought Number One: The blazing finish of Grace Poe Llamanzares in the senatorial race caught a lot of people by surprise (a pleasant one, at least for me). But, as it turns out, it shouldn’t have, if we had but looked more closely at the results of the periodic surveys being carried out in the run-up to the elections.

Take the Pulse Asia (PA) surveys. In its first senatorial preference survey conducted between Nov. 23-29, 2012,the results showed that only 69% of the voter-respondents were aware of her, with 24.7% saying that they would vote for her. Her rank among the 32 “senatoriables” was 14-18. Compare that, say, with Loren Legarda who had 94% of the respondents aware of her, 69.3% voting for her, and therefore with a ranking of 1-2 (Chiz Escudero’s stats were 92%, 74.1% and 1-2 respectively).

After two months, PA’s January 19-30, 2013 survey showed Poe’s awareness rating going up to 81%, a “voting for” rating rising to 31.4%, and a ranking moving up to 13-16. At that point, both Loren and Chiz were still sharing the 1-2 ranking, but while their awareness ratings had increased (to 97% and 96% respectively), the percentage of respondents who said that they would vote for them fell to 58.0% and 54.3% respectively.

By the time of the PA’s February (24-28) survey, Grace’s awareness rating had shot up to 92%, with an approval rating also shooting up to 42.1%, and her place in the rankings improving to 4-10. The March (16-20) survey showed her keeping her position steady.

By the time the April (20-22) survey came along, Poe’s awareness rating was up to 95%, with 42.4% voting for her. Her ranking showed that she was already between 3rd and 4th place.

PA conducted its last senatorial preferences survey on May 10-11, or two days before the election. And it showed that the percentage of respondents who would vote for her had shot up by another seven percentage points (49.9%). If the elections were held then, she could have gotten the number 2 spot already (2-7), running neck and neck with Alan Cayetano.

Look at how her pace was picking up all the time. If we were watching a horse race, the Poe horse, which started out somewhere in the middle or the close to the end of the pack, would be seen steadily picking up its pace and overtaking everyone else one by one. And we would have been lustily cheering it on. The problem was that we weren’t witnessing a horse race, we were being bombarded with numbers, with either no time or inclination to analyze them. It was happening right under our noses, though.

Anyway, my warmest congratulations to Grace Poe. She impressed me when she guested with me some time ago. And she definitely passed the MGG Scorecard benchmarking exercise. Unfortunately, she was the only one of my senatorial candidates (all having gone through the Scorecard) who made it. But what a glorious finish.

Am I depressed? No. Because the Scorecard was launched for the 2013 elections only in mid-April, so there was really no time for it to catch on. But there is every hope that by 2016, many, many more voters will adopt the scorecard to evaluate the candidates for public servants that will be presenting themselves, and not be impressed by the flood of political ads and gimmickry that assault their eyes and ears.

Random Thought Number 2: There is as yet not enough time to analyze how political dynasties fared as a whole in the past elections. Initial evidence shows mixed results. In the Metro Manila area, the Aguilars and Villars of Las Piñas are firmly in the saddle (last I checked, Mark Villar got 126,000, versus his nearest rival’s less than 10,000 votes), and the Aguilars won handily all the posts they aspired for, although Cynthia Aguilar Villar came in lower than the surveys thought she would (the operative term, though, is that she remained in the Senate winning circle). The Cayetano dynasty is also alive and well, as is the Estrada dynasty. And the Binay dynasty.

Outside of Metro Manila, the voters surprisingly seemed to be much less feudal in their outlook. One reads where the Antoninos of South Cotabato got some sort of comeuppance, as did the Fuas of Siquijor, the Villafuertes of Camarines Sur, the Garcias of Cebu.

Whatever the analysis will show, it must be recognized that the fight to get rid of political dynasties, is, if one is allowed to mix metaphors, a journey of a thousand miles, on which we have but taken the first few steps.

Random Thought Number 3: The delays in the transmission of the election results by the PCOS machines have to be cause for enormous concern. Because if the results cannot be transmitted electronically, then more than likely the CF cards have to be brought manually to the municipal canvassing centers. And that’s where the opportunities for electoral fraud are at their highest. It also does not sit well with me that within a 30-hour period (from Tuesday morning to Wednesday afternoon), the senatorial count moved at a glacial pace.

There is a consolation: even if one can fool around with the CF card as it is brought from the polling place to the municipio, no one can fool around with the ballot images in the PCOS machine itself. So that eventually, the truth will out. However, when that truth will out is another matter.

Random Thought Number 4: It is, to me, an indictment on the Filipino voter that Nancy Binay was elected, while Risa Hontiveros was not. What is the basis of that indictment? Just compare their CVs, please.

Random Thought Number 5: If the Filipino voter has been indicted above, she must also be congratulated — for giving short shrift to the so-called White Vote movement of 50 (reportedly) Catholic lay organizations. Of the 10 White Vote candidates, six would have come in even without their support (per the surveys). The other four still didn’t make it in spite of their endorsement.

Dina Abad, according to her husband Butch, almost didn’t make it in Batanes because of her support of the RH Bill and the resulting, reportedly vigorous opposition by the local bishop. But she won anyway. On the other hand, you have Miro Quimbo of Marikina, who was threatened with all sorts of dire electoral consequences if he voted for the RH Bill. He did vote for the RH bill anyway (although not without palpitations). The electoral consequence? He got 95% of the vote.