By PERRY DIAZ
Just a few weeks ago, the man to beat for the presidency was Jejomar “Jojo” Binay. As a sitting vice president, Binay had the advantage of incumbency. He used his position as second-in-command to President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III and as the administration’s “Housing Czar.” It was no wonder then that his popularity ratings were consistently high in all the years he was residing at the Marcos-era Coconut Palace, a “gift” from his erstwhile friend P-Noy. Indeed, his power was so immense that when he declared his intention to run for president early in his term, he was considered a shoo-in for the presidency. Indeed, he was on top of the world. His time was about to come. But as the presidential campaign period goes into the homestretch, his world turned upside down! What the hell happened?
Call it fate — or misfortune — but Binay lost his primacy in an election that was his to win, but he blew it. With Election Day just a month away, the presidential race has narrowed down to two candidates – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte and Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares — who are now statistically tied in the latest surveys. However, what is interesting to note is that Duterte – who placed fourth two months ago – has surged to three percentage points over Llamanzares. What does that tell you? Any political pundit would tell you that Duterte is pulling ahead to victory in a tight sprint against Llamanzares.
But like any other presidential election, nobody has a crystal ball that accurately predicts the winner. It’s a game of political survival where the “cheatest” wins. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all candidates have to cheat in order to win. An honest candidate can still win if he or she could muster the resources to prevent other candidates from cheating. But how do you prevent your opponent from cheating?
The fact that Duterte (30%) and Llamanzares (27%) are only 3% apart in the latest survey conducted by Laylo Research Strategies, the election could go either way. The rest of the survey shows Mar Roxas with 21%, Binay with 18%, and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago with 2%. The survey has a national margin of error of +/- 1.8%. But here’s the stinger: If you look at the trend, Duterte’s campaign is gaining momentum – he was in fourth place several months ago — and if the upward trend is unbroken, he could win the presidency.
Forget about Binay; his quest for the presidency has already gone south. He’ll never recover, not with Duterte and Llamanzares tying for first place and he a distant fourth place with Roxas in precipitous third place. With luck, Binay might be able to overcome one or even two of the three. But to deal the front-runners — Duterte and Llamanzares — a debilitating blow would take a miracle unless he resorts to massive election fraud.
Duterte vs. Llamanzares
So let’s forget about Binay and Roxas and look objectively at a Duterte-Llamanzares face-off:
1. Family background – Duterte’s father was a former governor. Llamanzares’ adoptive father was a movie actor.
2. Citizenship – Duterte is a natural-born Filipino. Llamanzares is a foundling with unknown parentage.
3. Education – Duterte is a Bachelor of Laws graduate and a lawyer. Llamanzares supposedly took a teacher’s licensure in the U.S. but did not pass it.
4. Judiciary experience – Duterte was a former Prosecutor and Fiscal. Llamanzares has none.
5. Legislative experience – Duterte was a former Congressman. Llamanzares is a neophyte senator elected in 2013.
6. Chief executive experience – Duterte is Davao City Mayor for more than 20 years. Llamanzares has none.
7. Campaign donors – Duterte only accepts donations from the people. Danding Cojuangco, who was known as the “King of Cronies” during the kleptocratic Marcos regime, reputedly finances Llamanzares’ campaign.
8. Presidential theme – Duterte will fight corruption, criminals, and drug traffickers. Llamanzares said that she would continue what Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) had started, which makes one wonder: Other than acting, what had FPJ started that has to do with good governance?
I don’t have to convince my readers whom I believe would make a better President and Commander-in-Chief between Duterte and Llamanzares? But in a democracy, whoever gets the majority of the votes wins.
But here is the rub: In most presidential elections since 1946 when the Philippines became a republic, various forms of election cheating were used. In the early years of the republic, vote-buying and the infamous “flying voters” were keys to winning the election. Then, cheating became more sophisticated with the use of dagdag-bawas (add-subtract) system where electoral results were manipulated to give favored candidates majority of the votes with the connivance of Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials. During the 1960s, election-cheating took a quantum leap when “Guns, Goons, and Gold” (3 Gs) became the rule rather than the exception.
But elections in 2010 changed all that. Well, “3 Gs” was still popular in intimidating, terrorizing, and bribing the voters. However, the introduction of the automated Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) vote-counting machine improved the speed with which votes were counted and tabulated. Assuming that the PCOS machines were programmed correctly and insulated from manual manipulation, vote-counting is reliable.
But here is the caveat: Like any automated system, the rule of thumb is GIGO, which means “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” Although cheating was never proven during the 2010 and 2013 elections, there were numerous complaints, particularly in the 2013 elections when a citizens’ group claimed that the PCOS machines were programmed to generate what came to be known as “60-30-10,” where certain candidates were pre-programmed to get around 60% of the votes. Thus, the pejorative term Hocus-PCOS was coined. This also came to be known as “electronic dagdag-bawas,” which would be hard to detect and expose.
In a tight election, a small amount of cheating could make the difference. And this is where Digong and Grace have to make an effort to stay on top to prevent or discourage cheating. Needless to say, preventing the other candidate from cheating doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she wouldn’t resort to cheating. It is not unusual for the financiers of a certain candidate to resort to cheating – without the express knowledge of their candidate – to protect their “investments.” They know that if their candidate loses, they’re not going to receive “dividends” on their capital. Is it then fair to presume that if there were no big-time financiers to a candidate then the probability of election cheating engineered by financiers is virtually nil?
At the end of the day, while money may still reigns supreme in an election; there are no substitutes to vigilance and a strong grassroots campaign. And if you ask me, “Can Digong beat Grace?” my answer is: With Duterte’s ability to draw large and enthusiastic crowds anywhere he goes, my answer is an unqualified “Yes.”