May 21, 2019
EXCEPT for some isolated pockets of good stories, the result of the 2016 midterm elections was practically a disaster for the political opposition. Among the few bright spots are Arlene Bag-ao who dethroned the Ecleo political dynasty and became governor of Dinagat Islands, and Kid Peña who denied former vice president Jojo Binay a House seat in Makati. And the Makabayan bloc in the House is still assured of representation, due to the complicated formula of apportioning party-list seats as decreed by the Supreme Court.
But everywhere the LP suffered significant losses. Butch Abad lost his bid to represent Batanes in the House. Teddy Baguilat failed to win the governorship in Ifugao. It is expected that there will only be 18 LP members in the House, and some of them are expected to align with the super-majority supporting the Duterte administration.
In addition to the 18 House members, the LP will only have two governors, five vice governors, four mayors ad one vice mayor. This means that the midterm elections yielded only 44 elected officials for the LP, which is roughly only a third of what it obtained in the 2016 elections.
The LP debacle is most dramatically felt in the senatorial elections where the Otso Diretso coalition which it led failed to land a single seat. Bam Aquino failed to win a second term as he languishes in the 14th spot. Mar Roxas’ performance is even worse as he trails in the 16th place, thereby failing to make a comeback and earning for him the record of losing three national elections. Roxas’ story is really amazingly tragic. From being topnotcher as Mr. Palengke in the 2007 senatorial elections, he fell from grace and lost in his bids to become vice president in 2010, president in 2016, and now his bid to return as a senator.
The opposition Senate slate performed significantly well only in Camarines Sur and Naga City. In fact, Naga City, which is the home city of Vice President Leni Robredo, is the only place in the entire country where every Otso Diretso candidate made it to the Magic 12. In Camarines Sur, only Florin Hilbay failed to land a spot in the winning circle.
Aside from Naga City and Camarines Sur, the political opposition performed very well in Twitter and in campus mock polls. If it is the bailiwick effect which was in operation in Naga City and Camarines Sur, it was the “woke” generation that propelled the high numbers of the Otso Diretso candidates in campus mock elections, and in Twitter, with Samira Gutoc earning the distinction of being the most tweeted candidate. Unfortunately for the political opposition, many of those who participate in campus mock elections are not registered voters, and if so, did not vote.
The main reason why the Otso Diretso candidates failed is because they were unable to shake off their image as an elitist coalition that is out of touch with ordinary voters. They draw their support from the privileged classes, and the results of the elections showed this. The opposition coalition garnered high support from among the voters in the exclusive and gated communities of Metro Manila. Bam Aquino topped the elections in posh villages, which included Greenhills, Forbes Park, Bel-Air, Ayala Alabang, Urdaneta Village, Dasmariñas Village, White Plains, San Lorenzo, Magallanes, Corinthian and Green Meadows. Chel Diokno was second in all of these, except for Forbes Park, Urdaneta Village and Dasmariñas Village where independent candidate Grace Poe placed second. All the other Otso Diretso candidates also landed in the top 12 in these gated enclaves of the rich.
In contrast, the Otso Diretso slate was overwhelmingly rejected by the overseas Filipino workers, denying all of them a spot among the top winners. Results of the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) in the Middle East, Hong Kong, China and other places reveal a strong preference for pro-administration candidates. Jiggy Manicad, and even candidates not in the PDP-Laban and Hugpong ng Pagbabago slates such as Willie Ong, Glenn Chong and Larry Gadon ranked higher than any of the Otso Diretso candidates.
These results are writings on the wall which the political opposition must carefully read, reflect on, and learn from. President Duterte’s popularity rubbed off on his candidates simply because he embodied the frustrations and resentments of a big majority of the people against elite rule and elitist worldviews. If the opposition still wants to have a place in the political landscape, its members and followers should begin to reimagine themselves so that they can offer constructive alternatives to which ordinary peoples can relate.
However, initial reactions coming from the opposition ranks appear to show that they haven’t learned at all. They once again take the path that can only spell doom, the same way they were nearly swept away in the midterm elections. Instead of trying to understand why people voted for pro-administration candidates, opposition figures and supporters take on the more destructive path of looking down at these voters by calling them “bobotantes.” Instead of assessing why the rest of the country rejected them, they want to leave and migrate. Even if these are just expressions made in the heat of despair and frustration, they do not sit well with the people, many of whom, like the OFWs, leave to help the country, not to abandon it.
Instead of trying to assess their weaknesses, and what went wrong with their strategy, the political opposition now cry fraud without providing any evidence. These are the same people who in 2016 defended with vigor the automated election system as tamper-proof. This angers the ordinary people who can see through their hypocrisy of not crying fraud when it was a Marcos who lost, but now do so because an Aquino and the rest of their preferred candidates are the ones losing.
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