Down to the wire, Bongbong Marcos is king of the surveys and secured the endorsement of the bloc-voting Iglesia ni Cristo while Leni Robredo is riding on a volunteer driven campaign that brought hundreds of thousands wearing pink to the streets.
The most divisive Philippine elections in recent history that's been fought in Facebook groups, TikTok feeds and house-to-house sorties is just days away and the that short time leading up to May 9 will be pivotal in deciding the winner.
What's next? Regardless of who wins, Filipinos could see themselves still fighting over politics in the months to come, with actors from both sides standing by their choices even after the elections, De La Salle University political science professor Gerardo Eusebio told reportr.
“The animosity and the viciousness of the protagonists are too much. The toxicity level is almost poisonous,” Eusebio told reportr.
“I see a very slow moving administration hampered by all these. And while all these are happening, we have a very bad economy. The situation could worsen,” he added.
How it came to this
Although Robredo mustered hundreds of thousands in her campaign rallies, it failed to translate to higher survey figures. Voter support for her surged to 24% in Pulse Asia’s March survey after the rallies, but it was statistically unchanged the following month.
For Eusebio, who is also a long-time campaign strategist, Robredo’s team fell short in coming up with sufficient counterstrategies to topple or even come close to the combined strength of Marcos and his running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
“It was a real marriage because what Bongbong lacked, Sara had. Yung action na yun na pinagsama sila was very strategic as far as campaign is concerned,” Eusebio said.
“It was a display of good campaign managing on the part of Marcos. And also, it could also be a display of bad campaign strategy in Leni's camp. Yung oras na pinagsama si Bongbong at Sara, dapat may counterstrategy ka kaagad,” he added.
While political rallies could generate thousands in attendance, it’s possible that not all participants would vote for the candidate and they only attended for various other reasons, including the celebrity endorsers, Eusebio said.
“Kung wala kang dancer or singer o banda, palagay ko pwede mong sabihin na legitimate crowd yung nandun. Pero kung yung crowd na yun ay generated or driven by actors and actresses, it's something that you cannot rely on,” he added.
Eusebio also said that while house-to-house campaigns help evoke a feeling of intimacy between candidates and voters, which some people look for in their politicians, it can only do so much in terms of generating votes. After all, not all residents in a particular community can be reached by door-to-door visits.
“As a campaign manager, medyo mahirap nang mag-isip ng strategy, paano pa kaya? Kailangan maingay. Kung meron silang hawak kay BBM, labas na nila lahat ngayon. Huwag na nila hintayin yung last minute,” he said.
“Paramihin mo yung mga movement. Spontaneous, hindi yung paramihan ng crowds,” he added, citing the example of the Sumilao farmers marching and campaigning for Robredo.
How to turn the tide
With only four days left in the campaign period, candidates have one final chance to convince voters to choose their side, and that happens during the miting de avance.
“It’s a last salvo event wherein the candidate will be given a chance to communicate with the electorate for the last time before the elections,” Eusebio said.
“Normally what they do is they make it colorful and bombastic as possible. Lahat ng kaya mong dalhin na tao, dalhin mo doon,” he added.
For Marcos, three miting de avance schedules have been set, the last of which will take place near Solaire Hotel and Casino in Parañaque City on May 7, the last day of the campaign period. Robredo, meanwhile, will hold her miting de avance along Ayala Avenue in Makati City on the same day.
Aside from offering their final pitches to the electorate, candidates should also move to protect their votes in the last days of the campaign. That means ensuring that those who support them will stick until the end, Eusebio said.
“You collect what you have, you just preserve what you have,” he added.
Moving forward, Eusebio said the country’s education system should be improved so that Filipinos can be more discerning when choosing their next leaders.
“We don't have to be wishful thinkers if we just vote for the right persons. We don't have to be idealistic anymore just as long as we vote for the correct persons,” he said.
Candidates should also still work hard in the remaining days of the campaign despite the results of the surveys, Eusebio said.
“Kung five days na lang, parang napakahirap isipin yun na milagro. But miracles can happen. Yun pa rin ang ipagdasal natin,” he added.