HOWIE G. SEVERINO, GMANews.TV
By combining Noynoy Aquino’s powerful narrative with running mate Mar Roxas’ campaign organization, the two heirs of political dynasties have suddenly become the team to beat, banking on an array of advantages that makes the 2010 elections “theirs to lose,” according to analysts.
But a spokesman for previous front runner Manuel Villar dismisses the new excitement over the Aquino-Roxas tandem as a “carryover of the Cory-mania from the passing of Cory Aquino.”
“We are keenly observing if this will last,” said Gilbert Remulla of the Nacionalista Party.
Aquino was not even on the radar screen until last month, with no one candidate having a commanding lead. But his mother’s death on August 1 and the phenomenal crowds that turned out for her wake and funeral changed the political landscape.
Aquino’s disadvantage of entering the race this late was canceled out by his team-up with Roxas, who has been campaigning unofficially for months, with an organization and network of donors that Aquino can now harness.
There was certainly plenty of “Cory-mania” at the historic Club Filipino yesterday where Roxas, who abandoned his own presidential bid to give way to Aquino, formally accepted Aquino’s offer to be his running mate in next year’s elections. “Mabuhay si Cory!” was shouted by the yellow-clad crowd several times.
The location and atmosphere of the Liberal Party event were in fact part of a conscious effort by his campaign to associate Roxas, 52, with the so-called “Cory magic” that has drastically changed the dynamics of the presidential race and pushed the son of the late former president Cory Aquino, Noynoy Aquino, to the top of the surveys. Mrs. Aquino took her oath of office at the same venue on February 25, 1986.
While Roxas’ acceptance speech focused on the nation’s “collective thirst for change,” the event also harked back to earlier eras. The two senators’ fathers, the late senators Gerardo Roxas and Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., were both LP leaders who opposed former dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s.
But the era that the event most recalled was the anti-Marcos struggle that followed Ninoy Aquino’s assassination in August 1983 and culminated in the people power uprising that ended the Marcos regime in February 1986. Many in the standing-room-only crowd seemed to be aging anti-Marcos activists or die-hard Cory loyalists and their children. Beaming in a seat beside Roxas, Noynoy was conspicuously still in mourning-black, with a yellow ribbon pinned to his chest.
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One of those who witnessed and studied that era was political scientist Dr. Mark Thompson of the University of Erlangen in Germany, who was also at Club Filipino yesterday for Mar Roxas’ announcement. He believes the rise of Noynoy and his team-up with the technocratic Roxas signifies the “revival of reformism.”
“This re-establishes the electoral connection between Philippine dynasties with the masa, versus the populism exemplified by Erap, with its rich-poor dynamic. Now it’s good government versus evil again,” Thompson said, recalling the campaign of Cory Aquino in 1985-86. He said the days when movie stars could simply bank on their popularity to get elected are over.
Thompson added that a successful candidate needs a powerful narrative, or life story, which Roxas may have lacked but which is Aquino’s primary strength, with a martyr and a democracy icon as parents. Aquino’s “inherited charisma,” according to Thompson, makes “the election his to lose.”
Before Aquino entered the race, Manuel Villar appeared to be the only candidate with a convincing narrative, with his rags-to-mega-riches story. Combined with his enormous wealth from real estate development and a bombardment of TV ads, the narrative kept Villar atop the surveys until early this month when Aquino started to overtake him.
A Social Weather Stations survey in early September revealed that an astounding 50 percent of respondents would choose Aquino if the elections were held then, with Villar a distant 14 percent. Private surveys conducted around the same time in Cebu province and Davao City by local politicians not allied with Aquino or the Liberal Party reflected similar results, apparently debunking statements by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and others that voter enthusiasm over Aquino was limited to Luzon.
Remulla acknowledged that “there is a little tweaking going on” in response to the Aquino-Roxas ticket, but he said the core message stays the same: “Galing sa mahirap, tumutulong sa mahirap.”
“With 8 months to go to election day, we expect so much to happen to alter the political landscape,” Remulla said. “In the end, it’s the communication of the right message and imagery that will matter. Whoever can connect with the masa with that will win the elections.” GMANews.TV