With a few days to go before May 9, those deemed as losers in surveys of candidates for president would have ordered by now the packing boxes in their campaign headquarters, their key staffers in near tears — weighed down by the prospect of the long, grim slog to the next political job. The spoils go to the victors, right. Plus the key appointments to major government jobs that would be awarded to supporters and cronies by the winner.
The campaign HQs of the deemed losers at this point would have the look and feel of an undertaker's lair.
The energy of the campaign would be so low that gassing up the service vehicles and putting off the lights at night in the campaign offices would have to summon extraordinary exercise of willpower. At this late stage of the electoral cycle, when the surveys have all but crowned the winner in the race to Malacañang, the key funders shall have all jumped out of the sinking ship.
And, along with the sworn political allies, are now in the process of looking for connections into the camp of the would-be king. Such rituals in Philippine politics, the mix of despondency and opportunism, have been the long-held verities, the staple events, of our transactional politics.
Going by these behavioral templates, the supporters at the grassroots level, of course, would be first to abandon the sinking ship.
Surprisingly, not in this election cycle that seems to defy and violate standard behavioral patterns in Philippine politics.
Take the case of the energy level in the camp of the Vice President Leni Robredo, who is barely 20 percent plus in all polling, whether the mainstream ones (Pulse Asia, SWS) or less regarded ones.
The Robredo campaign sucks every air in the campaign room even in absentia, say, in the room full of desperate men brusquely asking for her withdrawal from the campaign because they just want her out of the race, with coherent reasons. Or you can see the impossible energy in the most rural of setting, including a remarkable one that featured local artists painting working carabaos with pink, patiently sketching portraits of Leni-Kiko until they turn out credible images of both.
You have to wonder how much time, how much patience, how much energy and what inspiration drove the rural artists to come out with such portraitures? You would expect from her campaign the intimations of a funeral wake at this supposedly fading juncture. The surveys are dire, the forecasts unforgiving. The newspaper headlines, again and again, banner the certainty of the headlines of yesteryear: Dewey defeats Truman. Yet, nothing in the Robredo campaign has the nano element of what the surveys suggest — an impending electoral win for Marcos Jr. at a level never scaled in contemporary national elections.
The cultural and social landscape suggests the opposite of the survey numbers. In the heart of the metropolis, known theater personalities are caught on video with impromptu pop ups egging crowds into singing the battle hymns of Robredo's campaign, the energy at full volume the joy of the theater performers and the impromptu crowds palpable. Across the regions, rappers pop up with improvised lyrics singing paeans to " Leni-Kiko." In Ilocos Norte, the redoubt of the Marcoses like no other, young men and women in pink brave the stronghold with improved chants: Leni lugaw, hindi magnanakaw.
The A-listers of the entertainment world, traditionally cautious and afraid to speak out on politics, are unmoved by the survey numbers. One famous young actor was among a group doing metropolitan murals. A movie heartthrob broke his sphinx-like silence on politics to endorse Leni-Kiko. So did two former but recent Miss Universe title holders. Marcos Jr., like Trump who had to settle for Kid Rock and Scott Baiao because real talent was on the other side, had to make do with the B-listers.
You have to wonder? What prompts and motivates these odes to both bravado and joy? Still in the Cordillera part of the so-called Solid North, 100 business small and medium-sized business establishment, from BenCab's atelier to bookstores and hardware store shops, doubled down on their support for the Robredo campaign with fewer than 20 percent of polling numbers and a supposed fall in approval ratings. Hardware stores and ateliers have no history of getting into deep political involvement, more so for a candidate deemed as a loser by all polling.
On cultural workers like BenCab, the poets and the literary giants have cast their lot with the " Leni-Kiko" team. A book of poetry, choruses of unsolicited endorsements, at least five National Artists going down from their perches to proclaim support for the team. The murals that dot the urban landscape where the walls of villages are transformed into a kaleidoscope of art and hope and politics seem to suggest that the campaigns of the old are transitioning into a new one.
Armies of dedicated volunteers, not armies of clueless voters, are herded by political ward leaders, maybe the arbiters of our political future.
Politics, Philippine-style, is a transactional sphere, with no mercy bestowed on perceived losers.
Deemed losers are abandoned, then forgotten, like some worthless detritus. The upending of basic political verities by the Robredo campaign may be giving rise, and I posit this theory, to political heretics, those who damn the survey numbers then fight on, until in their belief, the last man standing will be a woman. A record-breaking crowd of more than 400,000 attended her birthday celebration cum political rally in Pasay City, on the very same day the Marcos camp was forced to limit the day's campaign at a street corner in the Sampaloc area.
At the ground level, the rally crowds for " Leni-Kiko" surge for every rise in the polling numbers of Marcos. The verdict of the polling is drowned by the thundering expression of hope, non-stop community singing and dancing and the general expectation that a new day will come after May 9.
Where will all these take Philippine politics, the rise of heretics, the break with the usual staples of transactional, opportunistic politics that show no mercy for supposed losers? These are uncharted waters altogether.
All of these, we do not know. Political junkies, in this election cycle, took note that for the very first time, it is the deemed loser that sucks the energy in the political spaces. The winner crowned by the survey numbers is waiting impatiently for May 9 to pass, hoping that his big numbers will not change. But this is all too-apparent: the joyless campaign of Marcos Jr. is also terribly shaken by the improbable joy and spirit of a supposedly drowning, losing campaign.