The Good Life
with Eli F.J. Tajanlangit
It’s been two years since we had the Presidential elections, and that already feels in fact like ancient history. But with the upcoming local elections next year, this book assumes significance, especially for the lessons it imparts.
Titled “Ambition, Destiny, Victory: Stories from a Presidential Election”, it is written by investigative journalists Chay Hofilena and Miriam Grace Go, and exposes the workings of the campaigns of eventual victor Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr.. Joseph Estrada, and Gilberto Eduardo Gerardo “Gibo” Teodoro Jr.
In fact, the book is divided into five chapters, with one chapter devoted to each candidate: “Torchbearer” on Noynoy; “The Businessman as Politician” on Manny; “Champion or Rogue? The Sequel” on Erap; “Wrong Turn for Mr. Right” on Gibo. The last chapter discusses “Lessons from a Presidential Election”, which analyzes how statistics and media strategy were used in 2010 and how effective these were in the over-all campaign. “Media magic or ‘magicking’ media?” the book asks.
Of course, the juiciest parts are the ones which answer a lot of nagging questions that the campaign raised and were never satisfactorily answered. Among these questions is the one on Mar Roxas’s stunning upset and how an extremely popular candidate, who was way ahead since the start of the campaign, can unravel on the last two weeks and eventually lose.
An answer to that, as the book relates, was his campaign’s overconfidence. There is the story of a fatwa issued against voting for him by the ulamas in Marawi over his stand on the Memorandum of Agreement over Ancestral Domain, which the previous government had wanted to sign with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. His Liberal Party leaders were reportedly urging him to clarify this issue early in the campaign, but he refused, so the edict forbidding believers not to vote for him stood. Four days before the elections, when it was clear his campaign was in danger, they tried to reach out to the ulamas but it was already too late.
The book also details the inability of the Mar campaign to build a clear image for him. It also writes about the process of how the man eventually gave way to Noynoy for the presidency. Sadly, the image of Mar that emerges from the book is that of a good-mannered, well-intentioned man unable to cope with the ways of politics.
There is also Gibo, who was literally left out by the Gloria Arroyo administration to fend for himself, even when he was supposedly the administration candidate. Interestingly, the book narrates how, at the start of the campaign, they were shown a map of the Philippines indicating the loyalties and preferences of the governors and mayors. Yellow of course stood for Noy, green for Gibo. This map was green all over, indicating an overwhelming local governments’ support for Gibo.
Even when Gibo’s ratings never rose to double-digits, his party men kept pointing to this map as an indication that victory would be theirs eventually.
There are plenty of vignettes and lessons to be learned here, but I think the boldest was Villar’s decision to pull the plug on his campaign weeks before D-Day. He saved plenty of money in that, and it speaks of a cold and scientific mind who knew when it was time to stop. That, of course, is one quality that is required of a President, like Gibo’s decent handling of the way he was treated by his party leaders.
But as they say, the Presidency chooses the Man, not the other way around.*
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