Till Victory

Sta. Ana coordinates Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph). This piece was published in the April 5, 2010 edition of the BusinessWorld, pages S1/4 to S1/5.

At this mature stage of the campaign, Noynoy Aquino’s lead over Manny Villar by nine percentage points in the latest Social Weather Stations survey is hard to reverse.  The survey came even before the explosive news that debunked Villar’s supposed poor origin and uncovered Malacañang’s secret support for him. Expect Villar’s score to decline further.

Villar’s attempt to refute these charges has boomeranged in the face of incontrovertible evidence.  Documents on his family’s property and on the hospitalization of his late brother show that the Villar family was far from being poor.  The more Villar tries to explain his side, the more his story becomes inconsistent.

And how can Villar avoid the ”Villarroyo” tag when Gloria Arroyo’s most rabid followers are candidates of his Nacionalista Party?  Here’s a preliminary roll call of Arroyo loyalists who are allied with Villar: Chavit Singson, Mike Defensor, Jocjoc Bolante, and the Garcias of Cebu.

Villar’s group is a bizarre collection of political personalities—the Arroyo loyalists, the Marcos family, and candidates of the radical Left. It is a collection that is better seen at Madame Tussauds’s wax museum. This grotesque arrangement is unsettling for the many who advocate good governance. Even the Left’s sympathizers and followers are uncomfortable with such an alliance; it will crack the so-called command votes of the Left.

Villar is on the ropes, and all it takes to knock him out is a follow-up combination of jabs and hooks.

The margin that Noynoy now enjoys indicates a landslide.  If elections were held now, Noynoy’s votes  would almost equal the share of votes that Joseph Estrada obtained when the popular actor won the election in 1998.

But the victory we want is not just by getting the plurality of votes. The fighting target is to garner the majority of the votes. To use the boxing analogy again, we want Noynoy to win not through points but through knockout.

A president elected by the majority will be in a better position to unite the country as our people tackle the complex challenges—the repair of institutions, the accountability of wrong-doers, the creation of jobs, the increase of revenues together with the higher spending for human development and infrastructure, among other issues.

So what can be done to get a smashing victory?

The first task is to lure away votes from Villar and transform them into Noynoy votes.  These are the votes of the masa, from the D and E sectors.  Voters leaning towards Villar are attracted by his pro-poor posture, but this image has been shattered in light of the exposes against him.

To strengthen Noynoy’s pro-poor position, his campaign must persistently explain the link between corruption and poverty. It must flesh out Noynoy’s statement that corruption “deprives the poor of the services they badly need.”

In addition, the campaign has to highlight the elements of Noynoy’s pro-poor platform that have not been widely publicized.  An example is the program to sustain and expand the conditional cash transfer (CCT) to the poor.  The program provides cash subsidy for the poor, conditional on sending their children to school and availing themselves of public health services. A well-designed CCT administered by a transparent and honest administration will do away with the patronage that characterizes the trapo (traditional politics) system.  The CCT has a double dividend—it provides immediate relief to the poor at the same time that it paves the way for long-term poverty eradication.

Further, to solidify the support in rural areas, Noynoy can follow up his promise to subject Hacienda Luisita to land distribution. A credible commitment, in the form of a symbolic gesture or a bold step, will enable peasant groups, including those in Luisita, to throw their full support behind Noynoy.

The second task is to strengthen the mass movement component of the electoral campaign. Amplifying Noynoy’s pro-poor platform, as discussed above, also serves the purpose of energizing the mass movement.

Events that mainly cater to the middle class (e.g., the Friday walk on Ayala Avenue or the noise barrage in commemoration of the April 6 mass action against the dictatorship; who among the younger generation or among the poor know the significance of April 6?) should be combined with activities that underscore the participation of the masa. Encourage the matronas and the tech-savvy generation to campaign in the slums and barrios.

Solid organizing and intensive voters’ education at the grassroots complement the nationwide sweep of Noynoy’s campaign.  Additionally, civil society organizations, including the informal associations or loose networks, have a critical role to play in backing up the party machinery to get people out to vote and defend the votes for Noynoy.

A strength of the Noynoy campaign is the army of volunteers cutting across classes and sectors. People power is rising.

Raise the sky.?We got to fly over the land, over the sea.?Fate unwinds and if we die, souls arise.?God, do not seize me please, till victory.—Patti Smith.

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