The presidential race has taken an unexpected turn. Long-time Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is now the leading presidential candidate. If he keeps his momentum, and it seems he will, Duterte would be the next president of the Philippines.
Three reasons for Duterte’s sudden surge:
One, branding. He is seen as the law and order and anti-corruption candidate. Crime and corruption are the two biggest problems of this country. The reason why the Philippines has more than 26 million poor Filipinos is corruption. A third of the P3-trillion budget is stolen. Because P1 trillion is stolen, money that could have gone to hike food production, send more kids to schools, and improve basic services is missing. Because 26 million are poor, they have no recourse but turn to drugs and crime to survive. Because government officials are corrupt, illegal drugs and criminality are rampant. People are frustrated with BS Aquino III for having failed to tackle these major social problems. They see Duterte as their savior, their last card in an economic game of chance.
Two, Visayans are hungry for power. Since 1962, all Philippine presidents have come from Luzon, particularly its Tagalog, Pampango and northern regions. This has given rise to imperial Manila because the national capital is in Luzon. Duterte is the nearest for Cebuanos to have their own president. The last time they had that chance was in 1965 with then-Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez but then Ferdinand Marcos defeated him in a controversial party convention. To be sure, Luzon has more than 55 percent of the national population but the people of Visayas and Mindanao consider that kind of talk BS.
Three, Grace Poe has failed to surge following the Supreme Court ruling that she is qualified to run. This failure might have been due to the controversial nature of the high court decision which lacked clarity and had no basis in the Constitution.
In the Social Weather Stations survey of March 30-April 2, 2016, Poe now only has a 23 percent voter preference, down from 34 percent on March 30, 35 on March 22, 33 on March 18, 29 on March 8-11, and 27 percent on March 4-7.
In the same SWS surveys, Duterte went up from 21 percent on March 4-7, 23 on March 8-11, 24 on March 18, 26 on March 22 before settling at 31 percent on March 30, second to Poe’s 34 percent.
The senator from Manila and Pangasinan is losing ground. Perhaps, she should recast her branding outside of being a Fernando Poe Jr. daughter who will continue what he stood for.
Decency? It cannot solve crime and corruption. Fresh face? It cannot solve crime and corruption. Toughness and no-nonsense leadership will do it.
It is the same situation with Senator Chiz Escudero who has lost the vice presidency to Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., 22 vs. 28 percent in the Pulse Asia poll of March 29-April 3, and 21 vs. 26 percent in the SWS poll of March 30-April 2.
In the last Pulse Asia (March 29-April 3, 2016) survey, Mayor Duterte is the choice of 30 percent of voters, up six percentage points from his 24 percent in Pulse Asia’s polls of March 1-6, 2016 and March 15-20, 2016.
The frontrunner since February 2016, Grace Poe is losing ground. About 28 percent of voters wanted her had elections been held during Pulse Asia’s March 1-6 and March 15-20, 2016 surveys. But by March 29-April 3, 2016, the senator had lost three percentage points.
Given the right race at this point of the campaign, a lead of 5 percentage points (Duterte’s 30 percent minus Poe’s 25 percent), per the Pulse Asia March 29-April 3 poll, is quite comfortable for Davao’s presidential aspirant. It is equivalent to 2.17 million votes, assuming a voter turnout of 43.44 million.
All the candidates have reached their highs—meaning for a candidate to gain, he or she must eat into the voting shares of his/her rivals. There are only two percent undecided, about 868,000 voters and I suspect they will remain undecided up to election day, May 9.
Comparing Pulse Asia’s March 15-20 and March 29-April 3 surveys, Duterte got his additional voters from Mindanao which went up a huge 12 percentage points for him from 43 to 55 percent; Balance of Luzon (Luzon except Metro Manila) which rose four points, from 15 to 19 percent; Visayas which is up five percentage points, from 20 to 25 percent. These are substantial numbers.
In just two weeks, Duterte gained additional 2.85 million votes, broken down into: 1.5 million votes in votes in Mindanao (the 12 percent gain), 772,800 in Balance of Luzon, 565,750 in the Visayas, and 50,000 in Metro Manila. That’s a tremendous surge in popularity.
Filipino voters look at personalities rather than policies and principles when electing their president.
That is what happened in 2010 when some 15 million voters elected Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III as president, out-distancing the second placer former president and movie icon Joseph Ejercito Estrada by about five million votes. Erap was another personality-driven candidate.
By now, many Filipinos would have regretted picking Noynoy Aquino over Estrada and over the third placer, tycoon-turned-politician Manuel Villar Jr. who got a measly five million votes.
At the time of his election in 2010, BS Aquino had little to show in terms of solid achievements, in his nine years as congressman and barely three years as a senator of the republic. As an employee, Aquino had little management experience outside of helping manage their vast hacienda (which has been money-losing for 20 years), and selling the three “s”—shorts, shirts, and shoes, for Nike, in his younger days.
Yet, BS Aquino took the job which his predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo once described as “the most difficult in the world.” “Everything in you is tested,” says Barack Obama of the presidency.
On April 1, I wrote that Mindanao could elect the next president of the Philippines. On May 9, more than half of its voters will do it for Duterte.