Errors in judgment

Errors in judgment
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Gilbert Teodoro Jr.’s campaign slogan, “Galing at Talino,” points to his perceived strength as a candidate. This is supported by the reasons given by those who say they will vote for him.

From February 20-26, the Manila Standard Today conducted its most recent survey on presidential preferences, a survey viewed as quite credible within political circles. Among those who identified themselves as Teodoro voters, his most likeable characteristic was his being “Smart/Capable” (35 percent). When supporters were asked how likely it was that their current preference might change, the results were interesting: 10 percent of his supporters said their choice “Will definitely still change,” while 42 percent said it “Possibly [could] still change,” 13 percent said it would “Possibly no longer change” and 34 percent said it “Will definitely no longer change.”

This is the opinion of the already committed. But what about the broader electorate?

In the same survey, those surveyed as a whole (composed of registered voters) were asked the most disliked characteristics of Teodoro. First came “I don’t know him” (17 percent), followed by “A lackey of the current administration” (14 percent). These are shortcomings that could potentially be addressed if the President’s party committed respectable resources to her candidate: the campaign itself is almost two-thirds of the way through.

Journalist Ricky Carandang has been doing research on this and decided to compare the advertising President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo bought during her 2004 presidential campaign, with Teodoro’s. Carandang was informed by Nielsen that Ms Arroyo had 914 minutes of commercials in the 2004 campaign (her primary rival the late Fernando Poe Jr. took out 1,924 minutes of ads).

Pera’t Pulitika, the NGO which is monitoring election-related expenses by all the candidates, informed Carandang of the TV ad placements and spending of the candidates both prior to, and since the campaign began on Feb. 9, as of March 8.

Prior to the official campaign period, when the sky was the limit on advertising expenses, Manuel Villar Jr. took out 2,054 minutes of TV ads: 845.75 minutes on ABS, 876.25 minutes on GMA. He took out an additional 332 minutes of ads in other stations and 6,677 minutes of ads on radio.

Teodoro, in contrast, had 776 minutes of ads (342 on ABS, 305 on GMA, 232 in other networks) and 2,111 minutes of ads on radio. This was a respectable allocation of resources, exceeding Noynoy Aquino’s, for example, by 350 minutes on TV and by 1,100 minutes on radio, though not much ahead of Gordon, whom he exceeded by only about 100 minutes on TV.

But the result of that effort was negligible. This suggests that an even bigger push should be taking place to further advertise Teodoro, but he is wedded to the same old-fashioned stumping as his cousin Aquino, overlooking the fact that we have an electorate grown so large, one can never hope to shake enough hands and make that personal connection within the three months allotted to campaigning.

Pera’t Pulitika says current laws allow each presidential candidate to spend P500 million during the official campaign period (calculated at P10 per registered voter and with 50 million registered voters). Villar is estimated to have already spent 21 percent of his total allowable budget on media placements, and Aquino 16 percent.

In contrast to the two leading candidates, Teodoro has allocated only 0.5 percent of his allowable campaign budget specifically for media placements. In its communication to Carandang, Pera’t Pulitika noted that regulations permit 120 minutes of ads per network: Villar has already used up 66.25 percent of his allocation in ABS-CBN and 66.25 percent in GMA; Aquino has used up 63.33 percent in ABS-CBN and 55 percent in GMA. Teodoro has used up none of his quota in ABS-CBN and only 1.25 percent in GMA.

Another measure, in simple peso terms, says it all: Villar has spent P98 million on TV ads in the first month of the official, three-month campaign period; Aquino, P77 million; and Teodoro, the candidate of the presumably cash-rich administration, P31 million.

Would Teodoro, in any other election, be a formidable candidate? Maybe. But if timing is everything, his timing says something of his judgment, and his taking on handicaps to a serious candidacy.

The first is one of sheer demographics. In a sense he is haunted by the economic performance of the President he served so loyally. Pulse Asia reported he has 17 percent of the class ABC vote but only 7 percent of class D and a mere 4 percent of class E, the two overwhelmingly largest classes. The problem is that while the upper class has profited rather handsomely from the President’s policies, the middle class has, itself, shrunk. The D and E classes generally despise the administration.

Teodoro’s identification with the administration negates his personal strengths. At best he is an eloquent Cesar Virata to our latter-day Ferdinand Marcos in a skirt. Ramon Magsaysay, after all, bolted the unpopular Quirino administration as he set out to make the transition from defense secretary to president. This flaw in judgment is compounded by Teodoro’s belief in machinery above all. Lakas-Kampi-CMD leader Prospero Pichay Jr. continues to maintain that the administration will deliver 33 percent of the votes in May. The other veterans of the KBL running for the presidency all seem biased in favor of machinery, official or not, too. But to whom will the local machines deliver?

I have heard it said that Teodoro himself is peeved over the way the administration is hedging its bets, with him as the minor candidate among the President’s official and unofficial horses in the presidential race. That he has publicly kept mum about this galling state of affairs is what deprives him of even the benefit of the doubt. With every intention of sticking it out with the administration, he seems content to be a patsy.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.