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Erap says popular will won, 'machinery' lost

June 5, 2007 4:51pm

Detained former President Joseph Estrada writes for Newsbreak online magazine that the May senatorial elections was a case of the popular will defeating the political machinery of the administration.



By Joseph Ejercito Estrada

(Published June 5, 2007 on the Newsbreak website)

In the recent 2007 midterm senatorial elections, the Filipino electorate was presented with a range of choices among the GMA administration’s ticket, Team Unity or TU, the mainstream opposition ticket, Genuine Opposition or GO, and several independent candidates and small parties. What was more significant, however, was that the Filipino voters were given an opportunity to express their opinion on the GMA administration. As accurately grasped by the Genuine Opposition, the elections would be a referendum on GMA and her administration.

Pre-election surveys by SWS and Pulse Asia indicated a strong disapproval and distrust of GMA and a strong preference for a large majority of the GO senatorial candidates. Given its limited campaign resources, GO had to rely on its ability to ride on the people’s strong anti-GMA sentiments in the most cost-effective way. TU, on the other hand, was very confident and boastful of the “command votes". The elections, therefore, became a classic contest between political machinery and popular sentiment.

On many occasions before the elections and through various forms of political messages, GMA’s Team Unity tried to depict the senatorial election as a proxy fight between GMA and me rather than as a referendum on GMA. It was for this reason that prior to the start of the campaign period I asked my son, J.V. Ejercito, to withdraw from the senatorial race and requested my wife, Senator Loi Ejercito, to forgo her reelection bid.

Yet in spite of these, the GMA administration still tried to demonize me during the last few weeks of the campaign period in a desperate effort to make the voters go against the GO candidates. This would turn out to be unsuccessful.

The GMA administration also tried to banner its so-called “economic gains" as Team Unity’s campaign pitch. Go, however, was able to punch holes in TU’s economic boast and, in addition, pointed out that human rights violations have worsened under GMA. These messages would resonate in the people’s hearts and minds.

With Comelec’s latest official canvass of senatorial votes (as of June 1, 2007) pointing to eight from the Genuine Opposition, two from Team Unity, and two Independents likely to land in the winning circle, it is very clear that the Filipino people have decided to vote overwhelmingly in favor of GO’s senatorial candidates and to ignore GMA’s political machinery.

Moreover, if we consider that the two winning Independents (Francisco Pangilinan and Gringo Honasan) and the two winning TU candidates (Edgardo Angara and Joker Arroyo) are really latent oppositionists whereas GMA’s true blue loyalists and favored candidates like Mike Defensor, Prospero Pichay, and Chavit Singson are among the losers, then the election’s outcome signifies a humiliating rout for GMA and a loud rejection of her administration and platform.

This is also the general consensus of political analysts and columnists. They agree that the midterm senatorial election of 2007 was a referendum on GMA’s presidency and that its results indicate the Filipino people’s resounding repudiation of her programs, policies, and priorities.

The people have spoken loud and clear. They are fed up with GMA and her administration. Their preference for GO’s candidates and rejection of GMA’s favored candidates signify a protest vote against GMA.

It also means that the people do not want the Senate to be abolished or controlled by GMA. They want to have a strong, independent Senate that will serve as a counterbalance and countercheck to an increasingly abusive and oppressive President.

Nothing could be more evident of this anti-GMA protest vote than the election of GO’s Antonio Trillanes who was branded by re-electionist Senator Joker Arroyo as “the poster boy of rebellion" for leading the 2003 Oakwood military demonstration. Trillanes’ victory is a big slap to GMA and a clear proof that many of our people are willing to support military interventionism just to get rid of her. It also confirms the SWS’ first quarter survey of 2006 indicating that most Filipinos would like to see GMA go, whether through resignation, people power or coup d’ etat.

But why did the vaunted political machinery that enabled GMA to “win" the presidential election of 2004 fail to deliver the “command votes" for her senatorial candidates in 2007? The reason for this can be found in the militant vigilance of the people, the media, PPCRV, NAMFREL, and various election watchdogs (like LENTE, BANTAY BOTO, KONTRA DAYA, and others) in guarding the votes, watching out for any forms of cheating (particularly, dagdag-bawas at the canvassing level), protesting any electoral irregularities, and exposing to the public through the media any anomalies.

Having learned the painful electoral lessons of 2004, the Filipino people have finally stood their ground and succeeded in thwarting the large-scale cheating attempts by the GMA administration’s cheating machinery. Again, this was a case of the popular will defeating the political machinery of the administration.

The election results also seem to indicate that the “dynasty issue", which was raised one-sidedly by some quarters against some GO senatorial candidates through numerous negative advertisements, was not much of an issue to most Filipinos voters. In fact, many candidates on both sides of the political divide and at all levels who were vulnerable to the “dynasty issue" (including GMA’s two sons and brother-in-law) won or lost in their election bids primarily on the basis of other issues and not on the “dynasty issue".

The primary lesson of the senatorial elections is that a political party must be able to know what the people feel and want and to make its campaign messages resonate in the hearts and minds of the voters if it wants to win an election. This entails the creation of a strong coherent electoral team consisting of a well selected ticket of candidates acceptable to the electorate as well as a good campaign general staff capable of formulating and executing the correct electoral strategy effectively and efficiently.

The Genuine Opposition was fortunate in having a good senatorial ticket that was well liked by the voters as well as a superb campaign general staff that was able to identify the people’s sentiments correctly, formulate the right campaign strategy, communicate its political messages effectively, and implement the strategy efficiently.