Senate race: Otso Diretso can spring a surprise

"Is it really the end of the Senate election story?"



The way the administration has been making it appear—and the media have been reporting it—the election of the incoming 12 senators is over. The gods, i.e., polling institutions SWS (Social Weather Stations) and Pulse Asia, have spoken: the so-called Magic 12 selected by their supposedly-representative-residents are the dozen men and women who, come July, will be taking their oaths of office as Senators of the incoming 18th Congress. Nothing more need be done by anyone; the Otso Diretso candidates and the rest of the 62 aspirants for Senate seats can just pack up their stuff and go home.

Is that really the end of the Senate-election story? SWS and Pulse Asia publicize their Magic 12 and it’s “game over” for the Otso and the rest of the non-administration candidates. Will the majority of the 61 million voters behave like unthinking sheep and simply place on their ballots on May 31, the names in the SWS and Pulse Asia Magic 12 lists?

I don’t think so. The administration parties—PDP Laban and the Hugpong ng Pagbabago ng Pilipinas—could be in for a surprise. The possibility of a repetition of the result of the 1971 Senatorial election cannot be ruled out. In that election, which I term iconic, the party in power, the Nacionalista Party of President Ferdinand Marcos, was trounced by the opposition, the Liberal Party.

The Nacionalistas went into the 1971 electoral season brimming with the trappings of political power—docile LGUs (local government units), plenty of patronage to dispense, lots of money and a good supply of goons. By contrast, the Liberals were still licking the wounds left by the loss of their Presidential candidate, Sergio Osmeña Jr., to Ferdinand Marcos in the 1969 election. By election-time 1971 Mr. Marcos and his party had recovered from the humiliation and ignominy of the 1969-1970 economic debacle and the nation’s First Gentleman and First Lady were riding high once more.

For the 1971 election the Nacionalista Party – looking ahead to the expected 1973 Presidential run of Imelda Marcos – fielded a Senatorial slate composed of political and business-sector heavyweights. On the other hand, the Liberal Party, in a bid to compensate for what it lacked in financial resources, fielded eight individuals of unquestioned respectability and intellect. It was not surprising that Malacañang and the Nacionalista Party operatives were talking loudly of an 8-0 shutout of the Liberal Senatorial slate.

Unfortunately, two events intervened to hurt the Nacionalista’s prospects going into the election. One was Mr. Marcos’ suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus—a trial step prior to the subsequent imposition of martial law—and the bombing of a Liberal Party rally in famed Plaza Miranda. But the electorate apparently has become disenchanted with Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos even before the occurrence of those two landmark events.

The first signs of impending disaster for the Nacionalista Party’s Senatorial candidates were discernible from the earliest election returns. To the shock and consternation of Malacañang and Nacionalista Party headquarters more Liberal candidates were figuring in the Senatorial election results. The rise in the number of winning Liberal candidates would not stop, and by the end of the following day it was clear that the Liberals had captured the Senate election contest. More to the point, the Liberals had unprecedentedly trounced the Nacionalistas. The final tally was 7-1, with only Ernesto Maceda surviving the Liberal Party juggernaut.

Soul-searching and recrimination were the order of the day in Malacañang and a Nacionalista Party headquarters. The question that Ferdinand Marcos and his top political advisers were asking themselves was, with all of our new resources, how could this result have come to pass?

The most astute political observers of that day had a ready answer for them. The Silent Majority of Filipino voters, fed up with the misgovernance, misconduct and malevolence of the Marcos administration, had spoken up. They didn’t want to give their votes to eight men and women who would be mere lackeys of Ferdinand Marcos; they wanted to give them to eight men and women who would place country and principle before party and position.

It is entirely possible that the Silent Majority—the millions of voters who are decent, God-fearing and hungry for good governance—will speak up on May 13 and do a repetition of the magnificent 1971 Senatorial election.

When that happens, the names of showbiz personalities, judicially challenged individuals and undeserving Presidential endorsees appearing in the SWS and Pulse Asia Magic 12 lists will be replaced by names like Lorenzo Tañada III, Jose Manuel Diokno, Florin Hilbay, Romulo Macalintal, Gary Alejano, Bam Aquino, Mar Roxas and Samira Gutoc.

Topics: Social Weather Stations , Pulse Asia , 18th Congress , Otso Congress , Ferdinand Marcos
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