Two interlopers—one from the United States and the other from the Philippine south—are about to grab the presidency from longtime frontrunner Vice President Jejomar Binay.
In the Pulse Asia survey of Dec. 4-11, 2015, Binay was still the No. 1 choice of voters, 33 percent. The killer mayor of Davao City Rodrigo Duterte had 23 percent and freshman senator and formerly American Grace Poe Llamanzares 21 percent voter preferences.
Four months ago, Binay was No. 1 in Metro Manila with 30 percent, No. 1 in Balance of Luzon 34 percent, and No. 1 in the Visayas 34 percent. He was also No. 1 among the D class with 40 percent and E class, 42 percent. In other words, it was a sweep for Makati’s can-do former mayor.
Today, Binay no longer has ascendancy in any major constituency, like Metro Manila, entire Luzon except NCR, the Visayas, and Mindanao. Even the masa—D and E income classes—seem to have abandoned him.
In the March 15-20, 2016 Pulse Asia survey, Binay is a poor third in NCR with 26 percent to Poe’s 35 percent and Duterte’s 30 percent. He is No. 2 (26 percent) to Poe’s 35 percent in Balance of Luzon; No. 2 like Poe and Duterte with identical 20 percent, to Mar Roxas’ 37 percent in the Visayas; and No. 3 with 19 percent to Duterte’s 43 percent and Poe’s 21 percent in Mindanao.
In the D income class, Binay (22 percent) has been dislodged by Poe (27 percent) and Duterte (25 percent). In the lowest or E income bracket, Binay (28 percent) has lost to Poe (30 percent).
Between early December and the third week of March this year, Binay lost 9 percentage points (pcp) or 450,000 votes in Metro Manila; 8 pcp or 1.546 million votes in Balance of Luzon; 14 pct or 1.584 million votes percent in the Visayas; 11 pcp or 1.389 million votes in Mindanao. Total voter losses: 4.969 million votes.
I cannot quantify the 18-percentage point loss in number of votes in the D and 14 percent in the E income classes. Since the poor are more than 50 percent of the population, Binay’s remarkable loss in number of votes is by now, irretrievable.
Still, the fact that Binay has a strong third place finish, with 23 percent or 9.99 million votes, after significant to substantial voter support losses, is an indication of one or two things: Binay has intrinsic strength and resilience, thanks to his machinery and hard campaigning. Or his rivals are quite weak or inadequate, to snatch the vote losses of the vice president. There is hope.
The 2016 Philippine presidential election has come down to a two-way tussle between a freshman senator of unknown ancestry and a tough-talking southern city mayor who says he will not hesitate to kill criminals, sans due process.
Manila-based Grace Poe Llamanzares leads Davao City Mayor Digong Duterte by four percentage points, 28 percent vs. 24, per the PulseAsia survey of 4,000 respondents March 15-20, 2016.
There are 54.3 million voters. Assuming a turnout of 80 percent on election day, 43.44 million voters will cast their ballot on May 9, 2016. Four percent of that translates into 1.737 million votes—the excess of Poe’s 12.163 million votes over Duterte’s 10.42 million votes.
Binay enjoys a 23 percent plurality or 9.991 million votes, just 428,800 votes less than Duterte’s and 2.169 million votes less than Poe’s.
The Pulse Asia survey’s margin of error is 1.5 percent, plus or minus. That’s 651,600 out of 43.44 million votes. That means Poe’s margin of 1.737 million votes over Duterte may not be that convincing or substantial. Part of it could be an error. And when you add that 1.5 percent margin of error—the 651,600—to his 10.42 million, Duterte gets 11.0716 million.
Deduct the same 651,600 (margin of error) from Poe’s 12.16 million, she gets 11.508 million instead and she skates on thin ice to victory with just 436,800 votes, a 1 percent margin. That’s the smallest winning margin ever by an elected president.
Before 2016, the smallest margin, in percentage terms, was that of incumbent Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, by 3.48 percent—12.905 million votes (39.99 percent) to challenger Fernando Poe Jr.’s 11.782 million votes (36.51 percent).
Earlier in 1992, another hairline victory was scored by Fidel V. Ramos, by 3.86 percent, 5.342 million votes vs. second placer Miriam Santiago’s 4.468 million.
Arroyo had a troubled presidency, owing to allegations of electoral fraud in 2004. She, however, became a very good president, presiding over the longest economic expansion in the country’s history—36 quarters of continuous economic growth.
Ramos had a successful presidency because he was basically a unifier president and reached out to his political enemies—the separatist Muslims (whose leader, Nur Misuari he maneuvered to get elected as governor of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao), the rightist coup plotters (they were given amnesty and choice government positions), and the communist New People’s Army (a ceasefire was declared). It helped that the West Point-trained general had a long experience in management, from the time he graduated from the US military academy in 1950 to the time he sought the presidency in 1992—a span of 42 years.
Grace Poe could barge into the presidency with barely three years stint as senator of the republic, and two years as chief of the government censors board for film and television. In the Senate, it was easy to grandstand without a senator feeling responsible for his/her advocacy. At the censors board, it is easy to judge which film or TV show is good or bad for the masa.
Poe’s most difficult decision ever perhaps was choosing between an American citizenship, which she embraced, and Philippine citizenship, which she abjured and later reacquired. On March 8, 2016, the Supreme Court, or seven justices of the high court cited statistical probability or her looks in deciding she is probably natural born.
The legal and political controversy about her being natural born and her apparent lack of 10-year residency could hamper a Poe presidency, especially given massive poverty (25 million Filipinos are poor), massive hunger (15 million Filipinos say they are hungry), massive unemployment (more than 6 percent of the labor force have no jobs), and massive disillusionment with the incumbent administration (only 20 percent of voters want Daang Matuwid’s Mar Roxas, BS Aquino III’s anointed successor).