The first thing discerning students of politics noticed about the Aquino-Roxas failed presidential campaign was its antediluvian feel. It is the 21st century and so much has changed about politics and those who know their politics have adjusted—sorry for this overused term—to the paradigm shifts. Despite that reality, the Aquino-Roxas Bros sat on their high horses and campaigned from an era gone by, when machine politics was dominant and when a ruling political coalition can just run roughshod over the opposition with its superior organization and resources.
It was ‘50s politics practiced in the 21st century.
We just don’t know why they failed to adjust from that haciendero mentality. They were, on paper, the best minds, the best reader of trends, the most alert interpreter of emerging data and the most observant of current political realities. Looking back, The Digong’s dismissal of Mr. Roxas’s Wharton training was justified. Get off your high horse and get real , Mr. Duterte intoned at Mr. Roxas at many forums. And Mr. Roxas did not, which buried his presidential ambition for good.
In what ways were the Duo trapos to the core? Or, put it this way, the ultimate trapos of the 2016 campaign? I will now go to the specifics.
The Aquino-Roxas duo still believed, without any historical and empirical basis whatsoever, on the awesomeness of command votes and political machinery. They obsessed over the supposed magical power of endorsements. To the extent of jettisoning an old and trusted ally—Grace Padaca of Isabela—for the powers-that-be in Isabela, the Dys.
I don’t think the Dys delivered for Mr. Roxas or even half-heartedly campaigned for him. Bakunin just needed 100 men to turn Europe “upside down.” In Isabela, the Aquino-Roxas Bros just needed the tenacity of a single Grace Padaca to have a fighting chance there. Instead, they dumped that principled politician for non-existent/fictitious deliverables.
Looking back at the press statements of the Aquino-Roxas campaign, there was one unbroken narrative on the supposed path to victory. Political heavyweights in every nook and cranny of the country — senators, governors, congressmen and big city mayors – tilting the election into the direction of the Aquino-Roxas Bros. Davide-Almendras in vote-rich Cebu, the vast LP machinery in Cavite led by the Maliksis, the promise of the Sy-Alvarados in Bulacan. Not one in these three provinces, among the Top Ten in voting population, delivered.
Did the Aquino-Roxas Bros fail to look at historical data. The late Monching Mitra had 90 percent of the elected officials in the 1992 presidential campaign. He placed 4th. The winner, Fidel V. Ramos, had six congressmen (led by Joe de Venecia and the late Komong Sumulong) and a handful of town councilors behind him.
In 1998, Joe de Venecia was backed by the incumbent president, Mr. Ramos, and 80 percent of all elected officials. Erap Estrada, who hastily formed a new political party, PMP, embarrassed the ruling Lakas-NUCD—CMD with a landslide win over Mr. de Venecia.
Endorsements are worthless. Command votes, except those coming from the religious blocs, are non-existent. Worse, was the case of a trusted leader donning another political coat after almost slavish proclamations of fealty. Think Joey Salceda and his decision to desert Mar Roxas at a time he needed support most.
The Aquino-Roxas Bros needed money to bring in fresh political warlords into their camp and get sustained support from the existing leaders of the coalition. What they did was the most shameless budget re-engineering in our political history, the crafting of the BUB. The BUB, premised on the supposed noble agenda to bring more funding to the grassroots, was, in reality, a legal cover to release funds to the LGUs for election-related purposes.
The LGUs, indeed, grabbed the funds and forgot about Mr. Roxas. The Aquino-Roxas Bros, the ultimate trapos, got a dose of their own trapo medicine.
When things turned hopeless and when sustained polling showed that Mr. Roxas was a sure loser, the Aquino-Roxas Bros summoned the pillars of the Establishment (Big Media, the Church, Big Business) to go on an attack mode and discredit The Digong. They did that to the early leader in the polling, Mr. Binay, and succeeded.
Indeed, the pillars of the Aquino-Roxas friendly establishment did their wrecking job on The Digong. The time was short and Mr. Duterte had hard-core support from his voting base. The supporters of Mr. Binay wavered after the Big Media slammed him as “ corrupt.” The supporters of The Digong got more devoted to their candidate after every attack.
Ok, I will now digress a bit.
With the sure victory of Mr. Duterte and the trapo campaign of the Aquino-Roxas Bros declared an utter failure, I am looking at the developments from a purely personal realm. I want to ask this question: Will we have a new national pastor? Will Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, from barrio Paroba of Lubao (my hometown), be the NNP?
Much as I wish to untangle my hometown from the currents of history (I thought having had two presidents was enough), the 2016 campaign put it right back into history’s currents. Indeed, history is like a river. It will take us where it wills.