Cavite, the Philippines' second most vote-rich province, on March 22 hosted tens of thousands of Bongbong Marcos supporters in a rally that's reportedly double the size of his rival, Leni Robredo's, hoping to show how its ruling family, the Remullas, can translate their endorsement of Marcos into votes.
With a little over one month left of campaigning, vote-rich cities and provinces like Cavite are obvious stomping grounds for candidates seeking to pad their lead or increase their momentum with the help of local politicians, who in turn can expect good relations with the national official when they get elected.
While some local candidates endorse national bets due to similar advocacies, others give their support hoping it would benefit their constituents or even themselves politically, University of the Philippines political science professor Maria Ela Atienza told reportr.
“Local candidates who are traditional politicians endorse national candidates in the hope that they will get resources for their own campaigns from the national politicians, including more exposure if the endorsed national candidate is popular,” she said.
“Also, if they both win in their respective races, the local politicians expect that they can get more resources for their localities from the national politicians,” she added.
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Why candidates seek local politicians’ support?
National candidates seek the endorsement of local chief executives believing they can help gather support from their constituents and increase their chances of winning.
It has become an election tradition in the Philippines, where the lack of a strong political party system and party loyalty allow some national bets to simply rely on good personal relationships with local politicians to help their campaign, Atienza said.
“In the past, local chief executives could easily mobilize voters to support national candidates due to patronage,” she said.
“However, voters also change because of economic advancement, educational attainment, and exposure to other socializing agents. Nowadays, local politicians who remain traditional in their style maintain their patronage only with constituents who are very poor and rely only on dole-outs of local politicians,” she added.
This change in the attitude of voters over the years is the reason why sometimes, endorsements from local politicians do not translate to actual votes for national candidates, Atienza said.
“For some other constituents, they expect their local politicians and chief executives to actually perform well and deliver basic services. They also do not automatically support the national candidates endorsed by their local politicians,” she added.
Take former Sen. Mar Roxas for example. In 2016, the administration party’s standard bearer received the support of many local politicians, including the governors of vote-rich provinces Pampanga, Isabela, and Laguna, but lost in all these areas come election day.
“Sometimes, the national candidates being endorsed can actually turn off a voter who would otherwise vote for a local politician who has relatively performed well locally but endorsed a national candidate that the voter is strongly against,” Atienza said.
What about vote-rich provinces?
National candidates also tour vote-rich areas in the country in the hope of getting the endorsement of local politicians as well as the votes of their constituents.
Marcos and his chief rival Robredo, for instance, have both visited Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, and Negros Occidental, all among the 10 most vote-rich provinces in the country.
While this move is crucial for candidates to get as many votes as possible, they should also complement it by reaching out to voters in other areas, particularly in marginalized, poor and isolated communities with no access to social and traditional media, Atienza said.
“Aside from the need to include everyone in the campaign since one is running for a national office, the electoral system in the Philippines is first-past-the-post and there are too many candidates, especially at the national level. So, every vote counts,” she said.
“Those who also take time to reach other areas that are not necessarily vote-rich and with volunteers who can reach basic sectors and the grassroots can make a difference in terms of total number of votes,” she added.
How to deal with endorsements from local heads
With the May 9 elections just less than two months away, endorsements from local chief executives will continue to come, telling their constituents why the national candidates they support are the best people to lead the country for the next six years.
These endorsements, however, should not be the sole basis of a voter’s decision on election day, Atienza said, as they should also consider the candidates’ qualifications, experience, accomplishments, and platforms.
“Of course, voters will assess if they are satisfied with the performance and track record of the local politicians,” she said.
“But they should also get factual information about the track record, values, and performance of candidates running for national offices and find out the latter's positions and their suggested solutions to important issues,” she added.