Beaten 1-7 in 1971

"This was what happened to the administration’s Senate slate nearly five decades ago."


A debate has long raged as to whether pre-election poll surveys have the effect, intentional or otherwise, of conditioning the minds of voters as to the winnability or non-winnability of specific candidates. In the case of the 12 Senate seats that are up for grabs, the leading polling institutions—SWS (Social Weather Stations) and Pulse Asia—draw up and release a “magic” list containing the names of the candidates that their supposedly representative 1,400-1,800 respondents determined to be likely victors in the May 13 election.

The two polling institutions have just released their latest Magic 12 lists. Reflecting the character of this country's electorate, the two lists are virtually identical: the names in the lists are those of re-electionist and returning senators, show business personalities and endorsers of the President of the Philippines. To the 2019 Magic 12 lists a fourth category of favored senatorial candidates—individuals facing plunder and/or graft cases before the Sandiganbayan.

Excluded from the Magic 12 lists of SWS and Pulse Asia were all the Otso Diretso candidates and other qualified candidates without records of Senate service or showbiz credentials or presidential endorsements. In the two institutions' senatorial surveys, they rank from No. 13 all the way up to No. 30. The candidates ranked No. 13, No. 14 and 15 are said to have a statistical chance of eventually ending up among the Magic 12.

Is this the end of the 2019 Senate election story? Is in a case of “Game over?” Are this country's 61 million registered voters to accept the survey choices of 1,800 supposed-to-be-representative men and women as the probable outcome of this year's Senate election?

The answer to these questions is No. As they say in sporting circles, it isn't over till it's over. Proof of this is the senatorial election of 1971, the last election held before President Ferdinand Marcos placed the nation under martial law and padlocked Congress. The election was taking place at a time of political tension and social instability. Obsessed with the desire to be the first re-elected President in the post-World War II era, Mr. Marcos waged, in 1969, an electoral campaign that sent the economy into a tailspin. The subsequent fiscal restraint, high interest rates, inflation and unemployment provoked bitter political oppositions to, and generated much popular disaffection toward, the Marcos administration.

But the recovery program gradually took hold and by the time the November 1971 polls came around the Philippine economy was again in good shape. The Marcos administration was now riding high, pouring hundreds of millions of pesos into its no-expense-spared campaign for its candidates, especially its senatorial candidates. It fully expected to run over the Liberal Party. The Liberals held their breath and hoped for the best.

Even with the early election results, a massive victory for the underdog Liberal senatorial candidates was taking shape. Liberal candidates were dominating the Magic 8—in those days eight senators were elected every two years—places and the Nacionalista candidates hogged the succeeding eight spots. When the final vote was counted, the Liberal candidates were shown to have won no less than seven of the eight Senate seats that were at stake. Only Ernesto Maceda survived the Liberal blitzkrieg.

Ferdinand Marcos and his partymates were stunned; they didn't know what had just hit them. All the gold, all the glitz—yes, showbiz personalities also performed at political rallies five decades ago—and all the guns could not stop the electorate from expressing its disgust and disdain by shunning virtually all of the pro-Marcos senatorial candidates.

Fast-forward to the coming election. Is it “game over” for Otso Diretso and the rest of the Opposition now that SWS and Pulse Asia have announced their Magic 12 Senate lists? Should the electorate just say “Amen” to the two lists and blindly fill their ballots with the names on those lists?

Not at all. Given the vast superiority of the ruling Nacionalista Party in the 1971 senatorial election, the pollsters gave the opposition hardly any chance of getting even one of it's candidates into the Magic 8. But things turned out the other way around; only one administration-backed senatorial candidates made it to the Magic 8.

It isn't over till it's over. This year's electorate, fed up with showbiz personalities, returning former senators and individuals with judicial problems may well decide, like the 1971 electorate, to place all eight Otso Diretso candidates in the Magic 12 on May 13.

Such a replication of Philippine political history is entirely possible.

Topics: Rudy Romero , Social Weather Stations , SWS , Pulse Asia , Senatorial candidates , Otso Diretso , May 13 election
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