"Hubris spelled disaster for Roxas and Poe."
The 64 percent of the electorate that didn’t vote for the PDP-Laban Party’s Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 election realized, very soon after that political exercise, that the other parties had made serious mistakes in the formulation and execution of their campaign strategies and that lessons had to be learned if a 2016-type outcome was to be avoided in the coming election.
By far the most important of the mistakes made – and the lessons needing to be learned – has to do with assessment of the other party standard-bearers’ competitive situations. There was a great deal of underestimation in the 2016 political season, especially on the side of the Liberal Party – the yellow brigade was the party in power – and its allies. The biggest “underestimaters” were Mar Roxas and Grace Poe – he because of the Liberal Party’s all-out support for him and she because of her being the daughter and successor of her iconic father, FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr.) – and the main target of their attitude was the former mayor of Davao City, the PDP-Laban Party’s standard-bearer. They also underestimated the chances of Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who unfortunately was already very ill during the campaign.
While Mar Roxas and Grace Poe were campaigning with the thought that they were doing very well, Rodrigo Duterte was steadily making progress with his masa-appealing, down-to-earth campaign style. The opinion surveys showed the former Davao City mayor steadily gaining ground, but Mr. Roxas and Ms. Poe, both full of hubris, continued to underestimate Rodrigo Duterte. When the last pre-election survey results appeared, Mr. Duterte had already caught up with Mar Roxas and Grace Poe and was within striking distance of victory. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.
The 2016 episode’s lesson for the soon-to-begin 2022 campaign season is that no matter how strong the temptation to do so, underestimation of the other candidates must be avoided. Otherwise, the people of this country may wake up on the day after the election to learn that another Duterte-type candidate had been elected President of the Philippines.
Another grievous mistake made in the 2016 election by the Liberal Party and its allies has already been hinted at. I refer to the fielding of more than one presidential candidate. One does not have to be a mathematics whiz to appreciate that the combined votes of Mar Roxas and Grace Poe would have smothered the 16 million votes – 36 percent of the total votes cast – that Mr. Duterte likes to crow about. We all know, of course, why Mar Roxas and Grace Poe both proceeded with their presidential candidacies: they believed that they would take the two top places in the final tally.
With four hats now having been thrown into the presidential ring, it is late in the day for the unification of the parties involved and the emergence of a single anti-Duterte candidate. There is a Commission on Elections deadline for candidate substitution, but there is no deadline for candidate withdrawal. Of the four announced Presidential candidates, those who could possibly withdraw are Senator Manny Pacquiao and Mayor Isko Domagoso. If these two candidates were to withdraw – and that’s unlikely – there would still be two candidates fighting Mr. Duterte’s chosen candidate.
That’s one person too many.
Still another negative take-away from the 2016 election was the failure of the Liberal Party and its allies to keep close tabs on the whos, the hows and the whys of the gains that Rodrigo Duterte was making in the course of the campaign.The cause of this failure, again, was hubris, summed up by the question “How can that guy from Davao City possibly win?” Well, that guy did win.
These are the major mistakes that the Liberal Party and its allies – ultimately, their presidential candidates – made during the 2016 electoral season. The lessons to be derived from the mistakes and to be put to work in the 2022 election are obvious.
Each of the four Presidential candidates – probably five when Sara Duterte ends her disingenuous game and substitutes Ronald de la Rosa as PDP-Laban candidate – is a potential winner in next year’s presidential election. They all have their strengths; not one of them should be underestimated. Otherwise, the people of this country will find themselves stuck with a Duterte-type person as chief executive for the next six years.