This essay gets published on the day of elections. I do not intend to argue with readers regarding the choice for President. For the many who fear Duterte, the handwriting is on the wall. The credible surveys — Pulse Asia, Social Weather Stations (SWS), and Laylo — all show a resilient Duterte, holding on to an almost insurmountable lead.

But it is a different story for the race for Vice-President. Readers who have followed my columns know that I have ardently campaigned for Leni Robredo for Vice-President. Robredo and Marcos, Junior are neck and neck, and I hope all the anti-Marcos voters, regardless of their choice for President, will ultimately vote for her.

Ronnie Holmes, Pulse Asia president, says that 25% of votes may change on the day of elections. In a tight race, like the one for the Vice-President, these are the swing votes.

For the presidential race, Duterte, is ahead by approximately 4.5 million votes from his nearest rival. In this light, the variable of 25% will not be enough to change the result. Only an outlying, strange, or improbable event can prevent a Duterte victory.

Let’s do a little, rough exercise, which will show that it is next to impossible to overhaul the Duterte lead. According to the Commission on Elections, there are 54,363,329 registered voters for the 2016 elections. We assume a voter turnout of 75% (also PA’s estimate). It is a reliable estimate, based on the turnout of 74.98% in the 2010 presidential elections and the turnout of 77.31% in the mid-term elections. A turnout of 75% of total registered voters is equivalent to 40,772,496 voters.

We factor in the Pulse Asia data from the 2010 elections, showing that 15% of the voters changed their voting preference on the day of elections itself. Further, the latest Pulse Asia survey (conducted from 26-29 April 2016) indicates that 25% of those registered who will vote will likely change their vote or are undecided whether to change their vote.

We use the higher figure of 25% for our estimation of voters who will possibly change their preference. This is equivalent to 10,193,124 voters. Their original votes are spread out among the five candidates. Similarly, the changed votes will be diffused among the five candidates.

But let’s assume the extreme case — impossible, but which I explore to see what the effect will be. The extreme case or assumption is that these voters, approximately ten million, are original Duterte voters. Their changed votes will benefit the other candidates. Fortunately, the Pulse Asia survey has data on second-choice candidates and their distribution among the five candidates for President.

Duterte leads the Pulse Asia survey, with a share of 33% of total votes, equivalent to 13,453,923 votes. Roxas has 8,969,849 (22%), Poe has 8,562,224 (21%), and Binay has 6,931,324 (17%).

The lead of Roxas over Poe is insignificant, for it falls within the margin of error of +/- 1.5%.

I would have preferred using the SWS data because it is the most recent (conducted from 1-3 May 2016) and has a margin of +/-1%. But I do not have the SWS data for the second-choice vote.

It is worth noting that in the SWS survey, Duterte leads Poe by 11 percentage points. In the latest Laylo survey (conducted between 27 April and 1 May 2016), Duterte leads Poe by seven percentage points. It is still a big lead, equivalent to more than 2.8 million votes, but the distance is narrower, something which can invigorate the Poe campaign.

But to go back to my main point, assume the extreme that the 25% of voters who may change preference are all Duterte voters. How will the 10 million original Duterte votes be diffused?

We use the Pulse Asia survey, which it calls “Presidential Vote Diffusion, First Choice to Second Choice.” Poe gets 40% of the 10,193,124 Duterte votes that may change, or an additional 4,077,249 votes, or a total of 12,639,473. Roxas gets 10% of the original Duterte votes, an additional 896,985 votes, or a total of 9,866,834. Binay gets 17% of original Duterte votes or an additional 1,178,325 votes, or a total of 8,109,649.

In short, in the impossible scenario of an unlucky Duterte absorbing the 25% of total votes that would change, Poe would win.

A plausible scenario can be drawn from Pulse Asia’s “Second Choice Presidential Preference.” The changed 10 million votes will be distributed among the five candidates, namely: Poe, 31%; Binay, 16%; Duterte, 13%, Roxas, 12%. The effect is Poe gaining a net of 18% of the 10 million changed votes over Duterte. That translates into a gain of 1.8 million votes, but that is insufficient to overhaul the approximately 4.5 million lead of Duterte.

What about the role of the machinery? The fact is, the machinery effect should be captured by the recent surveys. In truth, the machinery should have been working even before D-Day (or should it be E-Day?) and hence its effect on voters will be captured by the surveys.

Furthermore, the machinery is as good as the politicians behind it. But the conventional wisdom is that traditional politicians shift allegiances before E-Day, abandoning the also-rans and moving to the leader(s). Thus you have the Remullas abandoning Binay in favor of Duterte, Salceda transferring to Poe, and the Pinedas (based on inside information) stealthily supporting Duterte.

What perhaps the surveys have not captured is the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) vote, although it might have been part of those categorized as undecided voters. The INC vote favors Duterte (and Marcos, Junior for Vice-President).

Can cheating do the trick to defeat Duterte? The most discreet type of cheating is buying votes. In a situation, where Duterte leads by a wide margin, tampering with the vote-counting machine will be exposed by the credible exit polls.

On buying votes, the optimal way is to target at least 2.5 million Duterte voters. That is impossible to do. In the first place, the briber does not have exact information on the Duterte voters. And even if the briber can pinpoint the Duterte voters, he has to know with certainty those who will accept bribes and who among them will change votes. In effect, the number to be bribed will be way beyond 2.5 million voters. That means the briber has to scatter helicopter money, and that will no longer be discreet. Obviously, this is very expensive. Worse, it is a recipe for revolution.

Perhaps cooperation will work — Poe and Roxas joining forces. The optimal and rational move is for Roxas to give way to Poe, given the data that show that Poe is running second, especially after factoring in the distribution or diffusion of second-choice votes. In giving way to Poe, Roxas should exact big concessions, including demanding Escudero to withdraw, which will boost Robredo’s chances of winning in a very tight race. But this is all water under the bridge.

And here’s the rub. Even if Roxas and Poe joined forces, regardless of who gives way, Duterte will still win. The PA’s data on diffusion of second-choice votes suggest that either Poe will get 41% of Roxas’s votes or Roxas will obtain 26% of Poe’s votes. Either way, the additional votes, a maximum of 3,677,638 votes for Poe, will fall short of what is needed to overtake and defeat Duterte.

But then, the unity of Poe and Roxas can have a qualitative effect, resulting in a sum larger than its parts. Whether it can translate into victory is a guess.

To summarize, the 25% of votes that may change on the day of elections will not likely topple Duterte. The realistic scenario of diffusion of the 25% of changed votes will still result in a Duterte victory. An alliance of Poe and Roxas will be insufficient to overhaul the Duterte lead, unless its effect is qualitative, not quantitative. The alliance is also worth trying, if only to prevent Marcos, Junior from winning the race for Vice-President. Sadly, the talks about cooperation turn out to be all noise.

Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III coordinates the Action for Economic Reforms.