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Focus on bailiwicks: Analysts on LP bets

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By Camille A. Aguinaldo and Charmaine A. Tadalan
Reporters

THE Otso Diretso senatorial slate of the opposition Liberal Party (LP) should bank on their strengths and bailiwicks to increase their chances in the 2019 midterm elections, analysts said Sunday.

Analysts were sought for comment on the heels of poor showing by the LP’s candidates in recent surveys, in contrast to the increase in rankings among candidates associated with President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

“Negative ads do not usually work. The opposition candidates should not waste their time and money on negative campaigns. They have to capitalize on their strengths and must stick to the main issues like how they will ensure press freedom, put limits to, if not eliminate disinformation, how they will manage inflationary prices, and how a military solution will never bring us peace,” political science assistant professor Perlita M. Frago-Marasigan of the University of the Philippines told BusinessWorld in a phone message Sunday.

“They will have to stress how democracies need checks and balances. That a democratic Senate should not be monolithic. And if elected, how will they ensure that an all-too powerful president will not thrive in this country. They should just focus their campaign in regions where they are strong. Keep their base solid.”

The Otso Diretso lineup consists of reelectionist Senator Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV, former senator and interior secretary Manuel A. Roxas II, Magdalo Party-List Representative Gary C. Alejano, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel I. Diokno, civic leader Samira A. Gutoc, former solicitor-general Florin T. Hilbay, election lawyer Romulo B. Macalintal, and former Quezon representative Lorenzo R. Tañada III.




Of the eight senatorial aspirants, only Messrs. Roxas and Aquino made the cut of the top 15 candidates preferred by the public, three months ahead of the May polls.

“It’s a difficult position for the opposition candidate, for so many reasons: number one, the admin parties remained popular. ‘Yung popularity ni Presidente (the popularity of the President) has rubbed off on the candidates they’ve endorsed,” Political Science Department chairperson Dennis C. Coronacion of the University of Santo Tomas said in a phone interview Sunday.

“Number 2, itong mga (these) opposition senatorial candidates, some of them are not in the national political arena. Eh alam mo naman ang (you already know the) voting preference ng (of) Filipinos, they’ve always voted for the established political names.”

BAILIWICKS
Mr. Coronacion said Otso Diretso candidates should take advantage of their bailiwicks and regions.

Mr. Tañada could focus on the vote-rich province of Quezon, Mr. Roxas on Negros and Iloilo, and Ms. Gutoc on the Lanao area.

“Concentrate on their bailiwicks, para doon sa mga walang bailiwicks (so that for those who have no known bailiwicks), like Attorney Macalintal, Attorney Hilbay…I suggest that they concentrate on areas which have historically voted for LP candidates, example, Bicol or Tarlac. Identified ‘yan as yellow region, yellow provinces,” Mr. Coronacion said.

In a statement on Sunday, the opposition slate’s campaign manager Senator Francis N. Pangilinan acknowledged their current standing in the senatorial surveys, but said they will continue to work hard to improve the numbers of its candidates.

“We recognize where we are taking off in this campaign. It is a battle with meager resources and against the giants. But we are buoyed by the support of the people that we are seeing in the first few days of the campaign. We will continue to work hard knowing we are fighting the good fight,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

In a statement on Sunday, the opposition slate’s campaign manager Senator Francis N. Pangilinan acknowledged their current standing in the senatorial surveys, but said they will continue to work hard to improve the numbers of its candidates.

“We recognize where we are taking off in this campaign. It is a battle with meager resources and against the giants. But we are buoyed by the support of the people that we are seeing in the first few days of the campaign. We will continue to work hard knowing we are fighting the good fight,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

Mr. Aquino said the opposition slate would continue with its house-to-house and consultation campaign with voters, a strategy associated with then LP vice-presidential candidate Diosdado Macapagal, who eventually was elected to that post in the late 1950s.

LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
Also sought for comment, Ateneo Policy Center research fellow Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco said via email: “I think they (opposition slate) are too focused on personality differentiation. I think they are assuming voters will not be able to distinguish the character of (De La Salle University College of Law) Dean Chel Diokno from (Ilocos Norte) Gov. Imee Marcos. In fact, the way the opposition is running their campaign is exactly the same way the administration is running theirs.”

“Very personality-based as they would always emphasize personal struggles and achievements, personal endorsements from powerful and famous people, and indeed all their campaign materials focus on their image,” he added.

“I think the opposition can distinguish itself from the administration more dramatically if they engage the electorate in a genuine dialogue, instead of just pandering to voters and pleading for their support. In this regard, they should do more townhall type of meetings and interactive podcasts,” Mr. Yusingco also said.

“Ultimately, what should matter in an election campaign is not the number of provinces or cities a candidate steps in but the number of people the candidate has connected with.”

With the current standing of senatorial candidates in the Pulse Asia’s January survey, Mr. Yusingco said the recent poll figures could not yet “be seen as gauge of their winnability.”

On the survey standing of Mr. Duterte’s aide Christopher Lawrence T. Go, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and former senators Ramon “Bong” B. Revilla and Jose “Jinggoy” E. Estrada, Mr. Yusingco said: “Their presence in the Top 12 now does not mean anything except that you can actually get in the list if you spend such a huge amount of money.”

“Note that Filipinos are notoriously known for making voting decisions as close as a day before the election,” he said.

“So this survey cannot be seen as gauge of their winnability, but it does open the four candidates to more scrutiny. I anticipate they will have a truly drama-filled campaign in the coming weeks.”

Mr. Yusingco also pointed out that “it is good to bear in mind at this stage in the campaign period that we should also be seeking a clear and viable legislative agenda from senatorial and congressional aspirants.”

“Indeed, we also need to hear from these particular candidates a firm and unequivocal commitment to pursue the necessary reforms once elected to Congress.”

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