Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wala Ko Gapati sa mga Survey-Survey Nga Ina

I sometimes get the feeling that elections are held just so we can find out if the surveys are correct. Just a couple of months ago Noynoy Aquino enjoyed a seemingly insurmountable 10 percentage point lead over his nearest rival Villar (leading me to think that finally this time we will have a majority-elected President). But early this month Pulse Asia came out with a survey showing that Aquino and Villar were in a virtual tie at 37% - 35% respectively which has shaken the morale of Noynoy supporters and revealed the cracks in their campaign headquarters. Now, another survey conducted by TNS (Taylor Nelson Sofres) showed that Noynoy still enjoys a commanding lead at 41% vis-a-vis Villar's 30%. Meanwhile in Iloilo City, opinion surveys conducted by the local poll outfit Random Access show Mayor Trenas enjoying a comfortable lead over Congressman Raul Gonzalez Jr. (for the congressional race) and Vice Mayor Jed Mabilog having a slight lead over Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. (for the mayoral race).

People say that surveys tend to be self-fulfilling but the record shows this is quite not true. Miriam Defensor-Santiago in 1992 was a survey topnotcher but lost to Ramos while Fernando Poe, another survey favourite, lost to Gloria in 2004. Erap was the only consistent survey leader who won. Nevertheless, surveys do have a considerable influence on peoples’ minds, leading in Senator Gordon (a presidentiable consistently lagging behind the surveys), in a fit of pique, to utter “eh di wag na lang tayo mag-eleksyon. Magpa-survey na lang tayo!” Nearer to home, “wala ko gapati sa mga survey survey nga ina,” is a common comment we hear from local candidates who are not faring well in opinion surveys.

I do not have the actual records but I think no one will argue with me if I say that during the past two elections there has been no survey in Iloilo City that showed Congressman Gonzalez Junior in the lead. In 2004 practically all local surveys predicted Malabor to win over him while in 2007 the opinion polls favored either Dan Cartagena or Malabor. And mind you, their "leads" were virtually and statistically insurmountable, some ridiculously running up to 30-plus percentage points! The same is happening today wherein Mayor Trenas and Vice Mayor Mabilog are being bruited about by Random Access as the "men to beat" this 2010 elections. But contrary to survey expectations, Gonzalez Junior has won time and again (by a slim margin in 2004 and with a 45,000-vote majority margin during the last 2007 elections). So how could have Random Access missed this?

One possible explanation is their methodology. Most if not all survey outfits usually use the one-on-one interview method: surveyors (usually pretty college undergrads) go to your home to ask you a list of questions and take down your answers. This method does not capture the true essence of elections. On election day, no one from Comelec will go to your house, give you your ballot, take your vote and bring your ballot to the precinct so that it can be counted. On election day you have to wake up early, shower and dress up, walk or motor to the public school where your precinct is located, and once you've found your precinct, line up under the intense heat of the summer sun in order to cast your vote. Thinking is very different from acting - saying that you like someone is a far cry from actually voting for that person because it involves more effort. Hence, to gauge the "absolute truth" survey firms should revise and devise their methodology that actually simulate actual election day conditions.

What probably really happened in Iloilo City back in 2007 and 2004 was that most of the people who said they will vote for Malabor or Cartagena decided that it is not worth their while to go out and just decided to stay at home. It is that or the survey firms were simply paid by politicians to tweak their results.

This is why so-called opinion surveys are no longer taken seriously by the people of Iloilo. Not that they do not believe in surveys per se, but it is because previous elections have proven firms like Random Access to be wrong. People have become wary of surveys and see it as another mind-conditioning tool used by politicians to further their candidacies.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Who is the True "Boss" of Iloilo City?

Today marks the start of the official campaign period for national candidates. Unofficially, everybody knows that the campaign season started months ago what with national candidates swamping the airwaves with their infomercials and local candidates plastering the streets with their posters. This 30-day period (Feb 9 - Mar 9) is of vital importance to national candidates because after this "window" local candidates will start focusing on their own campaigns and will no longer be able to pay attention to national candidates.

At this point, Senators Manny Villar, Noynoy Aquino and Secretary Gibo Teodoro have the strongest "presence" in Iloilo City. Senator Villar has been studiously courting the Ilonggo vote and has in fact claimed to have Ilonggo roots. He has constantly visited the city and even had his daughter Camille Villar crowned as Jaro Fiesta queen a couple of years back. His expensive billboards and posters are plastered all over the city, his infomercials saturate the local airwaves and, in a brilliant move, was able to convince Mayor Trenas to run under his ticket. Senator Aquino is also popular, although he lacks "presence" in the city - I have yet to see a Noynoy poster or hear his ad in local media. Although a far third, Gibo Teodoro is enjoying a strong "presence" because he is being carried to the hilt by the Gonzalez machinery. His poster is displayed prominently and his name mentioned constantly in every Gonzalez "pulong-pulong." The city's student population also seems to be rooting for Gibo.

As for the vice presidential race, Senator Mar Roxas enjoys a significant lead over his closest opponent Senator Loren Legarda both in "presence" and popularity. Prominent are his posters and ads, and he enjoys the support of local politicians and civic leaders. Even Iloilo City Mayor Trenas, who is with the Nacionalista, has said that he will be supporting Mar instead of Villar's running mate Legarda.

After nine years of "political peace," local elections in Iloilo City once again promises to be an exciting one with former allies vying against each other. For the congressional race, Mayor Jerry Trenas is facing incumbent Raul Gonzalez Junior while Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog is going against Secretary Raul Gonzalez Senior for mayor. A "third force," headed by Undersecretary Larry Jamora (for mayor) and former Mayor Mansing Malabor (for congressman), promises to make the electoral fight really exciting. What makes it more interesting is the convoluted political set-up of the Trenas-Mabilog alliance. While allied, Trenas (who is running under Villar's Nacionalista Party) and Mabilog (who is under the Liberal Party) are not only supporting different "presidentiables" but also different vice mayoral and council candidates - Trenas is supporting his brother-in-law Councilor Joe Espinosa III while Mabilog is supporting the beauteous Councilor Jam Jam Baronda. If this is not enough, the indomitable Mel Carreon is also running ("only" for vice mayor this time) under the LLP party. When I asked him what LLP stands for, Carreon replied: "Laban Laban Perde."

Running under the LAKAS-CMD banner, the Gonzalez group at present enjoys the support of majority of barangay captains (158 out of 180 barangays), incumbent kagawads, ex-barangay officials and the city's organized urban poor. As the incumbent mayor, Trenas has the resources and coercive powers of City Hall backing him while Vice Mayor Mabilog has his formidable "movie-star" popularity and youthful appeal to bank on.

Passions are high and the local political atmosphere is truly acrimonious. Mayor Trenas fired the first salvo when, last November, he fired all the casuals in City Hall and replaced them with people loyal only to him, probably to demonstrate his powers as mayor. He also "failed to send" tickets to the Gonzalezes during the recent Dinagyang. In response, the pro-Gonzalez barangay captains in City Proper decided to boycott the festivities to protest this most glaring insult and hied off to a beach resort in Oton in the midst of the merrymaking. The children of Trenas were also shooed away by a Gonzalez partisan (incidentally an off-duty policeman) when they tried to distribute relief goods in a squatter colony in Barangay Nabitasan which was gutted by fire last month. The political mudslinging has even spilled over to YouTube (see previous entry below).

Now, City Hall employees are grumbling because their salaries have not yet been released, perhaps due to the COA report finding P3 million in unliquidated cash advances. According to radio reports, a certain Cristopher Cheng (or Tieng?), an employee at the City Treasurer's Office, is missing. The "Casuals as Casualties" and the City Hall salary debacle have seriously dampened morale and unless addressed at once, will prove to be Mayor Jerry's undoing.

As a result, the comfortable lead which Mayor Trenas enjoyed over his rival Congressman Gonzalez Junior is slowly being whittled away by recent events. By trying to show who is the true "boss" of Iloilo City, Mayor Jerry is unwittingly digging his own grave.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010