Unconventional Campaign

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

The cast is almost complete. The major presidential candidates have signified their intent to run, except maybe for Chiz Escudero. As Noli de Castro confirms his decision not to join the administration party’s selection process, the whole field is within view. While there is much speculation about Chiz, a smaller but, perhaps, more exciting question is whether Bayani Fernando will bolt from his party to pursue his candidacy.

I watched TV last Wednesday and saw the executive committee of the administration party choose their preferred standard bearer in Gilbert Teodoro. That was anticipated and, thus, did not really excite me. What caught my active attention were faces and names of party officials involved in the selection process who loyalty themselves were suspect. Somehow, in the last few months, many members of the administration party had been playing footsies with erstwhile front runner, Manny Villar. With Gloria gone, those who thought Villar was the man to beat already found their way to him.

The shifting of political alliances is not unusual; in fact, it is fast becoming a pattern brought about by the greater need to win over the neglected need for a political ideology. It is an ugly habit of choosing self over the party because it leads to choosing self over the nation. I don’t think that many party members have any idea about what their party stands for. When Teodoro and Fernando were asked pointed questions about their views on several issues, they never referred to their personal views as in consonance to what their party stands for.

JC de los Reyes and Brother Eddie may be very grounded on the fundamental principles and visions of their respective parties, but their being so does not count with voters who do not decide on political principles and visions themselves. Philippine politics mean Filipino personalities, not aspirations, not platforms, not policies. This is a consequence of the way politics and governance have been conducted in Philippine society; like it or not, most people will vote the way of their feelings more than the way of their thinking.

The phenomenal popularity of Noynoy Aquino is not the result of a decision-making process. It is a response from the heart, so deep in its source that when it erupted, the trajectory lifted Noynoy to an awesome lead over all presidential hopefuls without even campaigning. Though the first survey to include Noynoy as a presidential possibility covered the heartland from Pangasinan to Quezon, including Metro Manila, and not the whole Philippines, the results showed 50% of voters would go for Noynoy even though he had not declared his decision to seek the presidency.

The phenomenon is less the 50% voters’ preference for Noynoy but more the spontaneous combustion of volunteerism that he has evoked. Why would ordinary citizens go out of their way to offer themselves and not just their votes when the elections are more than seven months away? Senator Enrile said he recently came from both the North and the South and noticed no enthusiasm there for Noynoy. I believe that he will be shocked when the national surveys being conducted this month will show that the North and the South share what their neighbors in the Philippines already express in very obvious ways.

It is possible that voters’ preferences change. Change, though, is not entirely capricious. Change follows patterns of human behavior and can, in fact, be influenced by those who are expert in the field of politics, religion or business. Research and marketing firms make their money by reading the sentiments of people and then deliberately trying to influence these sentiments to shift towards their clients or preferred products.

When his rivals try to influence change so that voters’ preference will shift away from Noynoy and towards them, they have to understand that it is easier for Noynoy to take away from them than vice versa. The reason is simple – Noynoy is more popular and has the greater capacity to effect change than any of his rivals. Also, his rivals are rivals amongst themselves. It is not a matter of Noynoy versus the field, but all candidates versus one another.

The overwhelming response to Noynoy is not a political achievement. It came from a collective subconscious that no political or social analyst read ahead of time, just as none had anticipated the response to Cory’s illness and death. His political rivals must go overtime in understanding where this equivalent of people power is coming from and why before they can intelligently attempt to diffuse or divert it away from Noynoy. If they fail, 50% will rise to 60%, then 70%.

The spirit of people power is evident across the archipelago. But it is a spirit that has evolved and now more refined that its predecessors. Where 1986 and 2001 people power revolutions carried with them anger and negativity, the spirit that moves in favor of Noynoy today is characterized by hope, aspiration, and an eager anticipation for change. It is not vindictive, not yet. It is better left unprovoked because the mood can quickly turn sour and militant.

Truly, the unconventional campaign that Noynoy said was the only way it would be for his presidential bid is, in fact, the management of people power in process, not people power that had achieved its purpose. Those who led different groups in 1985 and 1986, then in 2000 and 2001, to rise above their individual or group interests and converge in dramatic and powerful efforts which removed presidents in Malacañang are the only ones have the intuitive experience to bring a new people power process towards its intended destination.

Noynoy’s position is a gift from the people just as it is a gift from Ninoy and Cory, especially Cory. His line of sight to the people cannot be blocked by cordon sanitaires because that will cut him off from his source of strength. His inner moorings must stay connected to what his father and mother stood for because they, too, are sources of strength for him. Noynoy’s position is enviable because his main campaign effort is to simply honor the Filipino people, thank them for their gift of support for him, and promise them that he will love them, defend them, and inspire them to build the nation of their dreams.

“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.” —  Albert Camus

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