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Monday, May 2, 2016

Mar Roxas’s fatal campaign error: Selling continuity to a people who wanted change

May 2, 2016
by benign0
It should have been obvious from the onset. Filipinos are not happy with the status quo under which they slog through life in the Philippines. Day-to-day, they are beaten down by rampant crime, imprisoned by gridlocked traffic, cowed by Islamic terrorism, and deeply embarrassed by an inability of their own armed forces to protect their country’s sovereignity. Underneath all that is the vast foundation of systemic problems that continue to hinder progress at the grassroots — galloping population growth, intractable unemployment, and shifting weather patterns wreaking havoc on agriculture and public safety.
But despite these obvious issues that impact ordinary Filipinos everyday, the administration of Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III had consistently trumpetted “achievements” that fly way above ordinary Filipinos’ heads. “Improved” economic indicators (like GDP annual growth) and credit rating “upgrades” are the stuff macroeconomists’ wet dreams. But for odrinary Filipinos working on scraping together a day’s earnings everyday those “sound economic fundamentals” mean nothing.
Unfortunately for Wharton boy Mar Roxas, those nebulous economic numbers formed the foundation of his ill-fated presidential campaign. Perhaps, as many have observed, because Roxas is hopelessly out of touch with ordinary Filipinos, Roxas had grossly mis-read the sentiment of the public he was pitching himself to. Unhappy people generally want change. Roxas, instead, sold to them continuity.
Huu-wwwhattt?! Continue what is clearly broken??
This seems to have been the collective gasp of Filipino voters looking to the president’s Anointed One for answers upon finding out he had none such — which possibly explains why voters had now abandoned Roxas and Robredo and crushed the Liberal Party’s hopes of maintaining that much cherished but now-irrelevant status quo.
Filipinos have always been an emotional lot, which is quite ironic because the original Yellow Horde that won current President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III the presidency in 2010 knew this well. Against the cool rationality of seasoned executives like Gibo Teodoro and Dick Gordon who espoused relatively well-thought-through visions and platforms back then, Aquino rose to power on the back of the vacuous sentimentality that erupted following the death of his mother, former President Cory Aquino.
Indeed, one of the casualties of that battle that pitted Aquino’s emocampaign against the Vulcan reasoning of his rivals and detractors is none other than Mar Roxas himself. Roxas had to “sacrifice” his presidential bid to make way for the sweeping — but ultimately empty — promises of The Pedigreed One.
It seems that the lessons of that one-time Liberal Party victory failed to make its way into Roxas’s quaint campaign. The situation has now been reversed in a twist of tragic fate. Roxas is now regarded as the most rational amongst a line-up of candidates who, within their respective followings, have successfully pitched an emotional campaign. Indeed, nowhere else is this successful tapping into strong public sentiment more evident than in the campaign (or, shall we say, non-campaign) of frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte’s campaign is hardly rational. But it worked. The gaping hole of irrationality left by Roxas’s pitch to the Filipino voter was the niche grabbed by the Duterte campaign. Roxas’s continuity tagline, though logical in many aspects, merely highlighted the numerous failures of the administration that he served for six years — a government that left a legacy of crumbling infrastructure, unresolved plunder allegations at the highest levels, and botched emergency and military responses that resulted in thousands of preventable deaths.
All of these failures plus Roxas’s foolish promise to continue the administrative approach that had underlain these failures paved the way for Duterte’s irrational but wildly-successful campaign. From being an undecided and even reluctant candidate from Mindanao voted least likely to succeed just a few months ago, Duterte had risen to the top and is now poised to ace these elections.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see now that Roxas was — and is — the face of failure for the Liberal Party. The insult of being beaten to the vice presidency by Jejomar Binay in 2010 was added to the injury of having to step back to allow his chum Noynoy to run for president. The appalling PR disaster that was his role as the face of the Philippine government response to Supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013 had reduced Wharton’s child to a national laughingstock. The degeneration of the MRT, the jewel of Metro Manila’s public transport crown, into an international punchline had all but dealt a fatal blow to Roxas’s ability to issue new promises to his people. Most tragic insult of all is his being left out of the command loop by his own boss even as 44 of the Philippines’ most elite crack police commandos under his charge were slaughtered by Islamic terrorists in early 2015.
Yet Roxas’s supporters remain baffled as to why their bet is losing at the polls. Perhaps it is because, like Roxas, the Yellow Horde fail to or, worse, will not see the obvious situation before them — that ordinary Filipinos just want a change in their personal circumstances — a piece of that “economic growth” pie Roxas and his camp had myopically talked about ad infinitum but failed to make relevant to the Filipino voter.

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