Monday, July 6, 2009

Philippine Presidential Election: A Perspective

By Bingo P. Dejaresco III

Political scientists engaged for the 2010 presidential polls must take cognizance of four factors: (1) surveys (2) voter segmentation (3) imagery of candidates and (4) media coverage.

Surveys from Social Weather Station and the Pulse Asia are reliable - but at best they are just snapshots of political reality at a certain limited period of time. As we earlier said - one month in a presidential campaign can change history.

In January 2004, for instance, SWS survey placed GMA (28.7%) and FPJ (37.5%). A month later (February 2004), the Pulse Asia showed GMA (31.9%) breathing down the neck of FPJ (31.7%) when the issues of the latter's citizenship and illegitimate child took center stage. That close battle ensued until the May 2004 actual polling.

Surveys from these two credible entities are barometers to be heeded and plans adjusted to - they are not for sale in order to set trends.

On the other hand, voter segmentation is crucial in determining the direction of scant resources of candidates. For instance, the vocal and visible segment of the A-B-C market does not speak for the nation as they comprise only 18% of the voter's percentage. The E market - poorest segment - is another 18% of total but this is the voter bloc that is most easily swayed by money, threats and herding.

The largest remaining and most significant is the D Market - the upper poor - which is 60% of the market. This market segment, according to Senator Raul Roco's handlers, is made up of two kinds: the "struggling poor" and the "resigned poor". It is believed that the "struggling poor" can still be the object of successful "persuasion" or campaigning.

Bear in mind, likewise, that 60% of the age profile of the voters is comprised of people below 30 years old, of which 100% of the new voter registrants will fall under. Many progressive thinkers view this bloc as idealistic and open to reforms.

The third factor of "imagery" is very crucial as well. Pundits believed that Miriam Santiago's "dragon lady" image in 1992 nearly cost FVR the presidency (if not, some say, for the Sulo Hotel Operation). In 1998, the Erap "pro-poor" image won him 40% of the votes, the single biggest presidential vote percentage from 1986-2004. Erap's image beat the incumbent's candidate Jose de Venecia (blessed by so-called network) and the money of Danding Cojuangco.

Many political pundits still believe FPJ's "masa" image actually "won" but lost out to "Garci" in that 2004 elections.
The image-builders in the 2004 election had their hands full since it featured extremely popular political titans: GMA and FPJ.
 Cerge Remonde featured GMA as a "smart, intelligent and telegenic" multi-lingual pedigreed candidate who knows her economics. Rod Reyes of FPJ tried to downplay the latter's lack of education and experience in public office by presenting the movie actor as a "folk hero" - a non traditional politician who has picked his lessons from the downfall of his pal Erap.

Lito Banayo of Ping Lacson's camp tried very hard to sidetrack the Martial Law image of Lacson into one of an Iron Hand but to signify strong "political will" to make things happen. Yolanda Ong, on the other hand, packaged Raul Roco as an advocate rather than a pure candidate. The campaign used much of the "text brigade" and "internet campaign" long before American president-elect Obama converted it into the state of the art. They obviously targeted the ABC market segments (18%).

Finally, media coverage did matter. Either media were playing favorites in 2004 or their coverage merely reflected what was "good copy" and therefore attracted readers, listeners or viewers for newspapers, radio and television respectively. Let's take a look at a one month sample below (March 2004)

For both TV and print news headliners FPJ got the best coverage (105 articles-news coverage) followed closely by GMA (101); Lacson had (62) and Roco (54). Unerringly, the results of the 2004 election also resulted in almost the same order as above except that GMA "won" over FPJ.

But being written about in newspapers (Inquirer, Star and Bulletin) is not always good for candidates. All the four leading candidates got almost identical number of page one articles: Roco (25), FPJ (23), GMA (21) and Lacson (20).
However, independent observers recognized that 76 of these articles were slanted and 93 were judged neutral; 54 were negative articles and only 44 positive articles for the above candidates.

In that month, over 50% of the front page articles of the Inquirer, Star and Bulletin were political in nature or 173 of the 312 articles with Bulletin leading the ratio with 71 political articles of the 109 total; Inquirer 53 of 134 and Star 48 out of the 96.
Television, which is now considered the most powerful political medium, was also politically colored. In February 2004, the following had political stories in the news: ABS-CBN's TV Patrol (20.11%), Insider (40.27%); GMA's Saksi (34.21%) and Frontpage (22.19%)' Studio 23 (25.13%) and ANC's The World Tonight (41.9%).

Only the sinking of the Super Ferry in March (following month) slowed down the percentage coverage of politics in these TV stations.
These four factors are as crucial today going to the presidential polls in 2010 as they were in the year 2004. None of them have lost relative significance.

They are factors worth pondering even this early. - source: Bohol Chronicle

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