IT WAS a lopsided match if the competition organized by CNN Philippines last Saturday (April 27) was a clash of teams from political parties.
The candidates endorsed by President Duterte’s PDP-Laban and his daughter Mayor Sarah Duterte-Carpio’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago were outgunned in number and fire power. Many of the ruling party heavyweights though chose not to attend the CNN senatorial debate. Only 11 of 62 aspirants for the Senate showed up and seven of them were known administration critics.
But the six Otso Diretso senator wannabes and one independent bet who took part showed skills that must have made many voters wish they occupied the Magic 12 in voter surveys. On the most hotly argued topic of China loans being a “death trap,” the ruling party’s stand was badly beaten up, with the likes of Bato de la Rosa and Raffy Alunan putting up a feeble defense.
But how would “deserving” senatoriables such as Chel Diokno and Erin Tañada fare in the polling places on election day? The prospects are not high.
There’s the dispiriting effect of those surveys that seem to have converted Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations into powerful, all-knowing arbiters of public mood. Although we know they merely gauge voter sentiment during a given period, which could change on election day, it must annoy candidates that their fates are being sealed long before election day, on the basis of a sampling of 1,800 adult representatives, out of 61.8 million registered voters.
And some depressing facts of election history, ticked off by election historians and cited in stories forecasting the May 13 election, including two from ABS-CBN News and Rappler.
Odds against ‘newbies’
Consider the odds against newcomers:
Since 1995, “newbies” who managed to get into the 24-member Senate ranged from two to eight: two in 2010, five in 1998, 2007 and 2016, six in 2013, seven in 1995 and 2001, and eight in 2004.
And the latest survey for the 2019 batch include no newcomer from the opposition. And only reelectionist Bam Auqino and returnees Mar Roxas and Serge Osmena barged into the circle of 16 to 17 who have statistical chance of winning.
Since 1987 when 22 out of 24 bets endorsed by then president Cory Aquino and her Lakas ng Bayan party won, the trend has been this: a popular president gets more would-be senators elected
In 1995, Fidel V. Ramos’s Lakas-Laban had nine out of 12 seats,. In 2001, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s People Power Coalition won eight of 13 seats. It was in 2004 and 2007 that GMA’s party won only two of 12 seats, reflecting on her unpopularity at the time. In 2013, Team PNoy won nine out of 12 seats.
All that affirms a fact of recent history: a popular president gets most of the Senate seats. Which is not good for the Otso Diretso candidates.
The critics can win a debate hands down but may not beat the odds against them: lack of voters’ awareness of their name and person, compared to incumbents, reelectionists and returnees; the surveys that highlight their poor chances, and the magic of a popular president.
The Duterte factor in 2019, like the Cory “magic” in 1987, could work. The raising of hands of candidates, in both local and national fights, by both the president and his daughter even seem to double the administration thrust to control the Senate and most of the local governments.
The opposition though appears not to have lost the will to push on. It pins hopes on the voters not behaving as they did in the recent past.