The screaming headlines that proclaimed Mr. Binay as “The Crook” appeared to have been downsized to lower fronts to tame the shrill. Also, they are now below the fold. The editors must have realized that the headlines have had very marginal effect — sinking Mr. Binay in the polls for a few months, a temporary drop, a blip — at that. Mr. Binay is back as the polling leader, though Ms. Poe and Digong Duterte remain competitive in the presidential race.
I have written about this a thousand times. It is a three-way race with Mr. Binay’s lead just a few points above polling’s margin of error. Ms. Poe and Mr. Duterte are strong contenders. Mr. Roxas, meanwhile, has hopeless polling numbers and it would probably stay that way until election day.
The political resurrection of Mr. Binay is the big story at this point of the campaign. Tortured by the headlines and prime-time TV, deserted by the leaders of his original coalition (Greg Honasan called them “now you see them, now you don’t”), doomed to sure loss by the loathing punditry, Mr. Binay has not only managed to compete. He has deftly executed incremental steps to get the lead in the polling. The bleeding has stopped.
No magic wand was waved to achieve all of these. There are earth-bound explanations behind the rise, temporary fall and rise of Mr. Binay in the presidential polling.
The number one reason is this. Most Filipinos, just like Pope Francis, are more forgiving of the “sinner” than the hypocritical moralizers.
Mr. Aquino, the chief sponsor of Mr. Roxas’presidential run, marches to the drumbeat of “integrity” on a 24/7 basis. He is the country’s Hectorer-in-Chief, the Chief Scold, the self-proclaimed Guardian of Honest Government. Mr. Aquino’s oft-repeated l spiel is about a warning: the possible backsliding to our alleged corrupt past (as if he managed to change something or anything.) Mr. Aquino’s reason for being has been summed by a slogan, “Daang Matuwid” which could have been adopted from the winner of a Pyongyang-sponsored slogan writing contest.
In posters of yellow and black, “Daang Matuwid” is now the central theme of Mr. Roxas’ campaign, the dark, somber posters supplanting the usually upbeat, multi-hued posters of presidential campaigns. The subtle message is this: A Black Plague will brutalize the country were we to elect a candidate outside of the Yellow Brigade.
The Aquino operatives are upfront in one area. The declaration that the anti-thesis of Daang Matuwid is Mr. Binay. The screaming headlines and the collection of TV footage on several public buildings in Makati City had been driven by a single agenda–to bring gloom and doom to the Binay candidacy. This thing was all too obvious to political junkies. On a clockwork precision the corruption stories segued into the usual presidential hectoring against electing “crooks” and the need to elevate saints like Mr. Roxas to the presidency.
The business elite, for their part, issued dire warnings against electing the wrong man–obliquely it is Mr. Binay–to the presidency. Mr. Aquino, Big Media, Big Business lined up to KO Mr. Binay.
The combination of media attacks on the Binays and the presidential hectoring on integrity worked — but only for a while. After a couple of months, the awe and shock over the corruption stories started to ebb. The voting public became Filipinos again – more forgiving of the alleged sinner than the 24/7 hypocritical moralizers. Who, really, has the right to cast the first stone?
The latest polling showed Mr. Roxas as the unredeemable 4th placer.
Second reason is this. The 24/7 moralizing of Mr. Aquino failed because ordinary Filipinos saw through the emptiness of the moralizing. You can’t preach integrity to 10 million families that often suffer from involuntary hunger. You can’t preach integrity to the millions of unemployed or even to the employed who are paid starvation wages.
You can’t preach integrity to the economic class that has to wait for two hours to get a ride on those dangerous MRT trains. Or to the commuters caught in daily, monstrous gridlocks. The Orwellian take of the Aquino people — Traffic is Progress — is like salt rubbed on open wounds.
The small farmers like myself can’t relate to the screams of “integrity” because all previous presidents, even the most corrupt ones, had been better to small farmers than Mr. Aquino.
You can’t preach integrity to the families of the sick that often collapse and die at charity wards due to the absence of a comprehensive health care program.
The next two months will be the most important phase of the campaign. Ms Poe may get a bump from a favorable SC ruling on her citizenship issue. Mr. Duterte may recover his mojo and regain momentum. Mr. Binay may continue with his winning ways. Who knows?
Me and the peasantry’s don’t care. We can live with Mr. Binay. Or a President Poe. Or a President Mr. Duterte . Our only worry is a new Malacanang tenancy for the hypocritical moralizers.