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#LetLeniLead, #RunSaraRun: Politics of Public Clamor, Explained

What happens when voters court politicians?
by Arianne Merez
Oct 11, 2021
Photo/s: Composite

On the eve of Vice President Leni Robredo's announcement that she's running for president, her supporters flooded social media with pink and the hashtags #LetLeniLead and #LabanLeni2022, urging her to seek the highest office in the land.

On the green side of the political fence, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio's supporters wooed her with #RunSaraRun and #SaraAll2022 hashtags, urging her to run to succeed her father President Rodrigo Duterte up to the last minute of the filing of candidacies.

It's a reversal of roles. While politicians usually court Filipinos for their votes, sometimes it's the voters who ask politicians to run -- just like Robredo and Duterte-Carpio. At the close of registration for national candidates last Oct. 8, only Robredo filed candidacy for president. Duterte-Carpio has a standing offer to substitute as the bet of her father's party.

What happens when politicians get loud pleas coupled with balloons, tarpaulins, and prayer vigils, to run for public office? They appear "genuine," said political analyst Ramon Casiple.

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"When there are calls to run [for public office] that are obviously not from the camp of the politician, it makes the personality appear genuine and not power-hungry," Casiple, executive director at the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, told reportr by phone.

"It adds to the appeal that you're a public servant and not just a politician who is after the position," he said.


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Reluctant or strategic?

Presidential Photo
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Filipinos love reluctant politicians -- or at least those who appear to be. Whether genuine or not, it's a strategy that has worked well in Philippine elections.

A quick look at history and we'll see a number of elected officials who "reluctantly" rose to power. There's former presidents, mother and son Corazon Aquino and Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III whose bids rode on sympathy following deaths in their family.

More recently, it was President Rodrigo Duterte, whose "reluctance" to greater power was so strategic that he ended up winning the 2016 presidential race by a huge margin.

Why is reluctance appealing to voters? It's because Filipinos view the desire for power as a means for corruption or abuse,  University of Santo Tomas Department of Political Science Chair Dennis Coronacion said.

"It's a cultural thing perhaps that Filipinos love the underdog that's why we like politicians who seem reluctant because it seems like they don't want power. We tend to equate desire for power with doing something bad," Coronacion told reportr.

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"Ayaw natin nung parang atat na atat sa puwesto o kapangyarihan kasi we have this notion that they want the power so bad because they will abuse it," he said.

Riding on 'public clamor'

Maria Tan, Agence France-Presse

Politicians love to leverage "public clamor" for public office, making it appear that it's the people's will, more than their ambition.

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Take Duterte-Carpio. It remains to be seen whether her reluctance to run is sincere or a strategy since she still has until Nov. 15 to file for substitution just like what her father did.

While she did not file her candidacy for president, the Davao City mayor made sure that the public knew there was "public clamor" for her to succeed her father.

On social media, she shared songs composed by her supporters such as "Takbo Sara Duterte" and "Ikaw Lamang, Inday." On the last day of filing of candidacies, her supporters marched  with green balloons--a color that is being associated with her, and made the #RunSaraRun hashtag a trending topic on social media.

"Maraming salamat po sa inyong suporta. Salamat at kahit anong mangyari kampante akong andiyan kayo. Salamat po sa kakaibang tiwalang ipinapakita niyo. Isang karangalan po ito na malaki para sa akin ang inyong suporta at lubos na tiwala," Duterte-Carpio said on social media, punctuated with a green heart emoji.

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How does one ride the so-called "public clamor" to election victory? First things first, the clamor needs to come from outside the politician's circle.

"The call needs to come from people who are not associated with the politician to make it appear that there's genuine interest for the politician to run in the elections," analyst Casiple said.

Take Robredo. Calls for her to join the presidential race were so loud that it led her to adopt the color chosen by her supporters for her campaign: a fiery shade of pink.

"Hindi namin naplano 'yung kulay kasi alam niyo naman kung gaano ka-belated 'yung aming decision. Pero ito kasi 'yung naging kulay nu'ng groundswell ng volunteers,Robredo told reporters of the color.


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How Robredo handled the so-called clamor for her to run for president was so "impressive," according to analyst Coronacion that she could become a dark horse given her laggard status in opinion polls before she filed her candidacy.

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"It worked to her advantage because now you'd think that maybe she was only behind in presidential surveys because she's undecided yet but now things could change," he said.

READ: Election Surveys Explained: How to Read, What to Look Out For

The perception of public clamor can help sway undecided voters.

"Sometimes the appearance of having such a big support base rubs off on others kasi it piques their interest na 'bakit si ganito maraming may gusto sa kanya?'. That can be advantageous in earning more votes but only if you're a credible candidate," Coronacion said.

But until election day, it remains to be seen whose "clamor" will translate to votes.

"A lot of things factor in winning elections and there's still a long way to go. You can only see who has the most effective strategy based on results and that is who wins the elections?" analyst Casiple said.

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