THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
By DR. JUN YNARES
“How do people vote senators?”
That was the topic of discussion among our small circle of friends. The discussion was inspired by the start last week of the official campaign period for the candidates vying for the 12 available seats in the Senate.
How Filipinos choose who to vote for to the Senate is an interesting topic for discussion. We believe no one has come up with an accurate reading. Often, the results of the race for Senate seats were full of surprises.
We also believe that the way Filipinos select their candidates for the Senate would be different from the manner in which they choose candidates for congressmen and for executive positions in local governments.
In an election contest where only one seat is at stake, Filipinos have a higher commitment vote. They have a “manok” – a specific bet.
In a race where there are 12 names to remember, it looks like the rules of the game are different.
A recent Social Weather Station (SWS) study showed that, as of December last year, less than half of Filipino voters had already selected a full slate of 12 candidates.
Most had only about 8 to 10 names in mind.
Our view is that the key to winning a spot in the Magic 12 would be this: recall.
Recall has three elements: voters know the candidate; prefer the candidate over others; and would remember his name without a “kodigo.”
How a candidate creates “recall” — that is the game-changer.
Here are some of the ways senatorial aspirants created “recall.”
First is constant media exposure. There are two ways to generate this: one, be in the news as often as possible; and, two, buy lots of airtime.
Here, incumbents and those with large campaign kitties have the advantage. What a senator says and does is almost always worthy of media attention. Senate inquiries and investigations are covered by tri-media. The mileage they generate for the key personalities in these events are worth easily hundreds of millions of pesos in precious airtime.
Broadcast advertising is also a major factor in creating recall. Two things work here for the candidate: a memorable slogan and huge media buy. The more novel the ad material and the more often that material is aired, the greater the chance that voters would remember the candidate.
Second is endearment to the masses. It is often said that the longer-lasting memories are stored not in the brain but in the heart. This is probably the reason some of the front-runners in senatorial races are personalities who have been part of the lives of ordinary Filipinos.
Among them are the children of legendary personalities, sports greats, and artists.
Throughout most of their lives, they represented the Filipino aspiration. They won the adulation of the masses. Their mere presence is usually enough to delight and to help people remember that they have what it takes to rise above poverty and to conquer the obstacles in life.
That Filipinos vote for them cannot be helped. It is said that the act of voting is the product of a decision-making process that begins with the brain and culminates in the heart. The Filipino just cannot vote for someone whom they have no affection for.
The role of a senator, it appears, is more than just to legislate. It looks like as far as the Filipino is concerned, our senators play an inspirational role.
The Senate continues to be viewed as the “training pool” for future Philippine presidents. It has done that job well. Former Presidents Noynoy Aquino, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Erap Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., Diosdado Macapagal, Carlos P. Garcia, Elpidio Quirino, Sergio Osmeña, Sr., Manuel Roxas and Manuel Luis Quezon – they all served in the Philippine Senate before they were elected to the highest office of the land.
In a way, our countrymen vote for a senatorial candidate who they would also want to be President someday.
We wish the aspirants for the Senate in the 2019 elections all the best.
We also pray that our countrymen may recall the candidates who best represent their aspirations for a better life.
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