A survey says 56% of Filipino voters would vote for Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Junior or BBM. If forthcoming polls are held today, 56% accounts for 29,971,000 votes. Question—have we ever seen a presidential bet getting past the 20 million vote mark for the past few decades since the 1960s? No, there has never been a candidate who went past that vote count.
However, during the snap elections in 1986, BBM’s namesake and father, Ferdinand Marcos Senior, reportedly won the polls with 53.62% of the 20,716,075 voters who voted for president. There were 26,278,744 who turned out for the presidential snap polls, or about 78.83%. Corazon Aquino, who eventually became president, got 9,291,716 or 46.10% of the votes. Is this the narrative that the BBM is trying to make us believe?
When the snap polls in 1986 happened, the voter population was just a fraction of today’s total voter population count. Campaigning was easier back in the day, with candidates focusing on the National Capital Region (NCR) to influence other lesser populated areas of the country. Back then, the peso was still 20.46 pesos to the dollar. If you are a multi-billionaire in the day, like the Marcoses claim they are, the family can easily finance a campaign for 20.7 Million voters. Assuming a budgeting of 500 pesos per voter, that is just a 10.35billion pesos, a drop in the pan if estimates are to be believed that the Marcoses had US$36 billion in banks and properties. Of course, the actual costs of that election may only run in the multi-millions since Marcos senior only got more than 10 million votes to eclipse that of Cory’s voters. Yet, even if we assume that the Marcoses spent a billion in today’s real numbers, such an amount is a pittance for post-Marcos presidential campaigners.
The highest ever share of votes for the presidency during the post-Marcos years were for former President Benigno S. Aquino III, who, in 2010, got 42.08% of the votes or 15,208,678. Former president Joseph Estrada claims second best at 39.86% or 10,722,295 votes out of 29Million plus voters who turned out for the elections. Contrary to claims, Duterte’s 39.02% share of votes in 2016 is just the third best.
When Aquino won, 74.34% of 51,317,073 voters went to the polls to vote, or 38,149,371. When Davao mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte ran for the presidency, he got 16,601,997 votes or 39.02% of the vote, with a voter turnout of 80.69%. There is a yarn being peddled that Duterte got more votes than Aquino. Of course, dumb ass, the total voter population in 2016 is higher than in 2010 at 55,739,911.
The only post-Marcos regime candidate who almost went past 50% of the votes was when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Lakas NUCD-UMDP ran for the vice presidency, getting 49.56% 12,667,252 of the votes. When Gloria ran in 2004 for the presidency, she still got a good share of 39.99% of the votes, or 12,905,808. Arroyo won despite having a very formidable opposition candidate in the person of famous actor Fernando Poe Junior who ran under the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino with 11,782,232 or 36.51% of the vote.
If we are to account for the historical shares of votes during presidential elections in a post-Marcos regime era, it is safe to say that shares of the winning candidate hover between 39% to 42% only. Assuming that the actual voter turnout gets to 53,520 million in these upcoming elections, the real numbers show how many votes a candidate needs to take the presidency: 20,872,800 at 39% or 42% at 22,478,400. Way past this, and you will need more than 10 billion pesos to finance such a piece of well-oiled campaign machinery.
Question: Is it possible for a presidential candidate to go past 50% share of votes?
The very structure of our politics deters the majority distribution of shares of actual votes cast to one candidate. For one, our multi-party system contributes to this possibility. With more than two (2) political parties placing their bets for these national posts, specifically for the presidency, it is statistically improbable for a candidate to get majority shares of votes. The more candidates, the lesser percentage of votes a dominant political player gets.
And shares of votes depend much on the logistical machinery of the candidate. Imagine mobilizing between 20 million to 25 million voters to their precincts at current prices come election time. That entails a vast supply chain management problem. And everybody knows what happens in a national campaign—during local polls, most allied political forces at the local levels rarely even promote their federal candidates. Most local elections, particularly those running for the mayoral or council members’ posts, spend on their candidacies first before putting their monies to winning their favored national candidates.
Local political forces often disregard campaigning for their national posts, which entails tremendous costs. To assure a turnout of 20 million votes, you need to create thousands of poll volunteers who will probably both serve as voter herders and poll watchers. Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez reveals that the poll body wants to increase the number of precincts from 100 to 102,000. Just think of spending for the needs of just half of these precincts, at 50,000 poll watchers, plus paralegals and others, that already amounts to more than 100,000,000 pesos.
How do we then determine the actual voter capabilities of candidates during elections? We use their historical performances per election and account for the financial capabilities of political parties that manage their campaigns.
What is BBM’s existing voter base?
To ascertain the possible number of voters BBM would generate come May 9 polls, we need to go back to 2010 and 2016, when he ran for the senatorial and vice-presidential votes. And then account for the increase in his voter base based on the recommendations or endorsements of several oligarchs behind their campaigns. Why? Determining who supports who would allow us a sneak-peek into each candidate’s financial support, plus their capacity to manage national grassroots campaigns.
To determine Bongbong Marcos Junior’s existing voter base, let us go back to the 2010 and 2016 elections, where Marcos Junior ran for senator and vice president. In 2010, Bongbong Marcos ran under the Nacionalista Party and got the seventh position with 13,169,639 votes or about 34.52%. The total turnout was 38,149,371 voters, or 74.34% of the total registered voter population of 51,317,073.
In 2016, Bongbong Marcos got 14,155,344, or 25% of the total votes for the vice-presidential post that he lost to now Vice President Leni Robredo. So, alone, BBM’s electoral machinery can produce between 13-14 million votes for him. Is this safe against a Leni Robredo? No.
BBM’s 2016 poll performance should be the marker that we deduce his true electoral strength. His poll numbers for the vice presidency show a million more votes than what he generated from his senatorial run. Where did these votes come from? It is entirely possible that these million votes came from the Duterte camp.
BBM needs six (6) million more votes to secure electoral victory. Question: where will BBM get those six million votes plus extra? Will his political alliance with the Dutertes ensure success? Will the Lakas machinery that secured the re-election of Gloria in 2004 deliver this time to BBM. Let us analyze.
A Gloria Macapagal Arroyo could produce between 12-14 million votes based on her poll performance. That was her heyday. How can we determine if Arroyo’s endorsement would have enough strength to ensure a BBM victory this time? In 2010, Arroyo’s anointed candidate, Manny Villar, a billionaire senator, only can come up with 15 million votes, or 15.42% of the votes. Safe to say, an Arroyo endorsement could deliver at least 2-3 million more votes. That assumes that Arroyo’s anointed candidate spends. History, however, shows that despite Villar’s spending of more than two billion pesos, his efforts only got him third best. This indicates that Arroyo’s endorsement today would probably generate 2-3 million more votes.
How about Presidential adviser Jacinto “Jing” Paras claiming that a Duterte endorsement may induce a 20% rise in BBM’s numbers and result in an electoral poll? I don’t know where Secretary Paras got his numbers. Still, Duterte’s national figures and even his trust and popularity ratings do not assure that his so-called 16 million-plus voter base still exists.
Sadly, the machinery that delivered the votes for Duterte does not exist anymore. Duterte’s camp is fractured at the seams. Several of his generals already professed loyalty to Aksyon Demokratiko’s candidate, Isko Moreno. There is no PDP-Laban, thanks to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and Melvin Matibag. There are indications that a vast chunk of this 16 million is already supporting other candidates. Will a Duterte endorsement secure a BBM victory? Not necessarily. It may be possible for Duterte to at least contribute a million or two votes should Duterte flex his political muscles once more for a candidate. Mr. Duterte should remain neutral since BBM’s electoral victory is not assured despite the various surveys being peddled about in social and traditional media.
Is Robredo capable of getting enough votes to ensure poll victory come May 9 elections? Let us use the same formula that we also used for BBM: historical poll record, machinery, and endorsement.
For Robredo, the only record we have is her run for the vice presidency. She got 26%, one (1) percent tad more than BBM’s share of votes or 14Million votes. So these elections, we see two (2) candidates with the same assumed voter base of 13-14 million, give or take. For Robredo to win, she must back on the poll machinery of support groups, particularly at local levels.
With a frail Kris Aquino endorsing a Robredo presidency formally, will this generate enough for the vice president to win? How many actual votes could an Aquino family endorsement generate? Based on the poll performance of Kris’ brother, Pnoy, that accounts for 15 million votes. An Aquino endorsement in 2016 caused a 26% voter share for his anointed one, Mar Roxas. So, a mano-a-mano, an Aquino endorsement, is more potent than an Arroyo (15% for Villar) endorsement. Question: does this mean that a “Yellow” endorsement still counts?
Let us account for the “yellowtards” performance during the 2019 elections to answer this. We know that all the national candidates of the Liberals lost. There is still a respectable 20% plus percent of the voting population who preferred the Liberals. This is their base. We are applying this in our current estimated 53 million voter turnout; those who are not voting for any Duterte candidate count for 10 million votes.
Robredo has a good 20-26% poll preferential rating that reflects the percentage share of the Liberals in the polls. Those favoring Robredo as president account only for 13-14 million—the exact figures that Robredo managed to sneak a win against BBM. At best, and if we account that these voters are solidly anti-Duterte and genuinely oppositionist, the count only amounts to between 15-16 million votes—enough numbers to win in 2016 figures, yet, inadequate for these elections.
Will a Reporma endorsement secure a win for Robredo? Notice that former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez only committed Davao to Robredo, but not the entire Reporma machinery. Question: does Reporma commands a genuinely national constituency and machinery? No. FVR’s armies are no more. FVR’s miracle poll team that gave him the presidency in 1992 had faded away. That explains why Ping Lacson is now at the bottom rung in the surveys. It is not because Lacson is unpopular—he does not have enough grassroots machinery to back his campaign up. That explains why Senate president Tito Sotto has more numbers than Lacson. Sotto has his own grassroots machinery that campaigns for him. Lacson has his old machinery only capable of securing him a senatorial post. Vice presidential spokesperson Barry Gutierrez’s statement is correct—Reporma’s endorsement is just a symbolic gesture of support. Reforma may increase Robredo’s votes in Mindanao, maybe, half a million more votes.
The only thing going for Robredo now is momentum—a phenomenon noticed in 2016. The old belief that voters already made up their minds in February or March does not apply anymore in our era. For one, the social media phenomenon influences voter decisions every second. Second, since local campaigning is not as easily managed as in previous polls, political choices shift as often as the flow of party funds. Meaning, national candidates who support local ones financially would eventually get local support at the end game. And lastly, there is this voluntarism being promoted by Robredo’s camp. This is the game-changer.
If BBM’s ratings are kept to a manageable 30%, and Moreno’s numbers remain at 15%, Robredo’s efforts may attain a tad higher than 30%, maybe 32-34%.
Therefore, these elections would be decided on the perception of winnability. This election is sure to be a very tight and contested race. Eventually, our fate will depend on the people convinced that their decisions today will undoubtedly impact their lives and the lives of future Filipinos.