THE POWER OF STORY TELLING

The victory of Boboy Tupas as Congressman of the 5th District of Iloilo is a demonstration that story telling is the most effective way to convey a candidate’s message to the people.
Not once did Boboy deliver a traditional political speech that was bombastic. Neither did he resort to mud slinging and below the belt attacks.
All throughout the campaign, Boboy remained humble and meek, the man who was always ready to turn the other cheek.Boboy Tupas is loved by the people
Several times, he was humiliated and insulted. His position as Vice Governor (and in some instances as Acting Governor) was disrespected. He was called names.
But Boboy never felt an urge to retaliate. He quietly accepted the blows and continued to preach core values about family, relationships, commitment to public service in stories that he told and retold.
And for the first time, Boboy put humor to good use. He was able to put his audiences at ease. He reminded them about his father, the late Governor Niel Tupas, Sr.
As I watched him go about his campaign, I felt confident as early as the last week of April that his victory was 101% certain.
That’s because Boboy gained the love and respect of the people of the 5th district of Iloilo. And not even the overwhelming resources of the administration was enough to stop his landslide victory.
At the last count with still about 10% of the votes left, he was leading his opponent, Atty. Gel Tupas, by a margin of 35,000.

Inexperience

With just over a month before Filipino voters head for the polling precincts to cast their ballots and pick their new set of leaders, I feel compelled to ventilate my opinions about issues raised against Senator Grace Poe, particularly on her so-called lack of experience to lead this nation.
One only needs to do a quick review of history to find out that there is no job experience that prepares an individual to be a leader of nations or armies. In fact, the greatest leaders of the world didn’t have an impressive track record that marked them for the important roles they played in their nations’ histories. The same can be said about military leaders. Leadership is more of character, an ability to bring together people and forge a national agenda. It is about decision-making and a courage to tackle difficult challenges. Often, great leaders just leap out of the shadows, where they used to occupy positions of little significance.
Perhaps a good example would be General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower. Before the outbreak of World War II, Ike was just a major doing menial staff work for the flashy General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines. Ike was a quiet, unassuming army officer who went about doing his work efficiently, meticulously. He was hardly noticed except by his superiors who came to depend on him to deliver on the tasks assigned to him. There was nothing spectacular about Ike.
But in just a matter of three years, Ike climbed through the military career ladder in rapid fashion, ultimately becoming the Supreme Allied Commander who successfully led the combined American and British forces that liberated Europe from the grips of the Axis powers – Germany and Italy. The more popular generals like George Patton and Omar Bradley became his subordinates. Even the irrepressible British general Bernard Montgomery had to play second fiddle to him.
In politics, the late Ferdinand E. Marcos seemed destined to be the country’s best leader. A war hero, Bar top notcher, brilliant Congressman and Senator, Marcos had a track record that many politicians coveted. On top of that, he had a very beautiful wife in Imelda Romualdez. While he had a good start, including the first few years of martial law, Marcos became mired in corruption and human rights violations that he was ultimately toppled down in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.
Where does this put Grace Poe?
Senator Poe’s public service as chairman of the MTCRB was brief. But she was able to establish a good track record that boosted the public’s confidence enough to make her number one Senator in the 2013 national elections. As Senator, she demonstrated intelligence and courage in carrying out her legislative work. Her highest point was in conducting the Senate investigation into the Mamasapano massacre as chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs in which she showed depth of understanding and probity in delving into the misadventure of an inept commander in chief and his best friend who was suspended as PNP director general.
Apparently, Senator Poe captured the confidence of many Filipinos, and this encouraged her to seek the Presidency despite entreaties of the Aquino administration to recruit her as running mate for Mar Roxas. And I would say that Senator Poe has the makings of a good President. She has an ability to break down complex issues and present them in as simple a manner as possible for people to understand. More importantly, she knows how to get talented individuals to work together. She does not hesitate to seek advice and listen to suggestions. There is no arrogance in her personality.
Finally, Senator Poe has shown she can stand her ground against the so-called tougher male rivals for the Presidency. She thinks well on her feet, and always comes thoroughly prepared in facing tough questioning. During a forum in Iloilo City last February, Senator Poe was confronted by a hostile question at the University of Iloilo. She listened calmly and answered in a cool voice, never showing the slightest trace of irritation, the university professor who threw that question.
Courage and calm under fire might yet become Senator Poe’s greatest asset. The Presidency is not an easy job, and more than on-the-job experience, the individual wielding its powers will need more of EQ than IQ. She finds it easy to navigate through the minefields of politics to pursue what needs to be done, unmindful of the swollen toes which she might step on. Leadership isn’t about knowledge of the job; it’s more of tough character to do what matters most to get the job done.

None of the above

In his latest radio and TV advertisement, Mar Roxas portrays himself as “hindi abusado”, “hindi ma-drama”, and most importantly “hindi magnanakaw”. This is a clear swipe at his front-running rivals in the presidential race. “Abusado” is Digong Duterte. “Ma-drama” is Grace Poe. And “Magnanakaw” is VP Jojo Binay.

He also tries to appeal to the Ilonggo vote by talking in Hiligaynon.

Mar Roxas claims that all he has to offer is his willingness to work. “Trabaho lang”.

Again, Roxas wants to highlight the perceived issues affecting his rivals. He is not like them, he says. He promises to bring sincere and honest attributes to the presidency and continue the “matuwid na daan” of his sponsor, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.

Okay, let’s grant it to Mar Roxas: he’s none of the above.

He’s “none of the above” because he has never shown an ability to be a leader, to demonstrate a principle-based leadership, a man with a strong backbone.

He had five years to build that performance he wants to be known for. But he squandered it. In all those five years, first as secretary of DOTC and then as secretary of DILG, Roxas has nothing to show. He had everything at his disposal and yet he has no performance to boast about.

The incompetence of the man has reached legendary levels. He fumbled on every play and kept falling on his face. He simply isn’t cut to be a leader. Even his words cause him more trouble and embarrassment than anything else. He can’t be faulted for not trying hard enough. In fact, he is overdoing the things that he intended to show him as being close with the poor, to the point that he looks an idiot. How else do you describe a man who puts rice on a mug and drinks water from a plate? Even the poorest among the poor knows what a mug and a plate are for.

Roxas doesn’t also know that he is mouthing a disdained mantra — “matuwid na daan”.

The Aquino administration has presided over the biggest corruption machinery since martial law. If in the past the plunder was only by a few, this time it is robbery in band. Loyalty to the party is obtained by bribing the senators and congressmen and governors and mayors. Each is allowed a free rein to plunder in their own jurisdictions. It is not hard to understand why Franklin Drilon has become a fierce attack dog for the administration. With the billions and billions of pesos poured into Iloilo (all overpriced projects), he has every motivation to protect his masters.

By mouthing “matuwid na daan”, Mar Roxas has also embraced the label of the “ridiculous”. He is so overpowered by his belief in “matuwad” (that’s a deliberate one) that people could only laugh in private. There are now reports that Liberal Party candidates in the Visayas are beginning to abandon him. Before long, he will find himself alone.

Right, Mar Roxas is none of the above. That’s because he has never started to be anybody worth noticing.

NO “ZONA LIBRE” FOR VICE GOVERNOR?

The controversy over the “zona libre” issue for the position of Vice Governor of Iloilo will put Mar Roxas in a no-win situation. It will cause the “unity ticket” that he and Franklin Drilon put together in Iloilo province to crumble before the campaign period for the presidency could even start.
Here’s what happened:
Four years ago, Mar Roxas recruited into the Liberal Party the political clans that wielded power in each of the province’s 1st and 3rd districts. He welcomed into the LP fold Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. and former 1st district Congressman Oscar Garin Sr. In the process, Roxas dislodged the original LPs like the late Niel Tupas Sr., now vice governor Boboy Tupas, Gen. Gerry Flores and many more.
Rojas wanted the Iloilo vote to be solid for him in the 2016 presidential elections. It was a given that incumbent 2nd district Congressman Arcadio Gorriceta and 5th district Congressman Junjun Tupas would throw their support for him.
But that solid political front is about to disintegrate. Mar Roxas broke his word to the Garins that the race for vice governor would be “zona libre”, meaning the LP will consider the two candidates for the position, Junjun Tupas and Christine “Tintin” Garin, to be equals. The Garins didn’t expect Junjun to run, and thought Tintin had the position on a silver platter. To everybody’s surprise, Junjun filed his COC at the last minute.
The Garins brought the matter to Roxas as the LP standard bearer. According to the father and son Garins — Oca and Congressman Richard — Roxas assured them it was going to be “zona libre”. And that’s what the Garins told the people of Iloilo.
This claim was quickly disputed by Junjun. The Garins were lying, he said.
The controversy reached its peak when Roxas arrived in Iloilo City for the “Dinagyang” festival last Jan. 24. Pressed by media to comment on the issue, Roxas said there is no free zone: Junjun Tupas is the lone candidate recognized by the LP.
It is unlikely the Garins will accept this turn-around of Roxas just like that. It is a stab in the back for them. Oca Garin was heard over radio as saying that Roxas did not deserve to be President if he could break his word. That is short of saying Mar Roxas can kiss his ambition good-bye. The Garins will withdraw support from him at the last moment.
This situation will give Roxas a migraine. The last poll survey showed he could count on only 47% of the Iloilo vote. That’s bad by itself, because it means he could not build enough cushion to cover areas where he is expected to lose heavily. With the Garins junking him, Roxas can expect his voter base in Iloilo to precipitously drop as election day draws nearer.
Poor Mar. He is getting a dose of his own medicine.

FIGHTING ON TWO FRONTS

I was told the Liberal Party commissioned a poll survey firm to get a snapshot of how the congressional battle between two Tupases — Boboy TupasFive and Atty. Gel Tupas — in the 5th district of Iloilo.
According to my unimpeachable source, the survey outcome showed the incumbent Iloilo vice governor leading his sister in law by a mile. If elections were held during the survey period two weeks ago, Boboy would have trounced Gel by 4:1.
With barely 100 days left before the elections when that survey was done, it shows a hopeless fight for Gel. Her husband, incumbent Congressman Niel “Junjun” Tupas Jr., could not lift her enough to put up a good fighting chance.
Gel’s woes are aggravated by the fact that Junjun is also running for vice governor of the province. Her husband would not be able to campaign as hard for her. He has his own battle to fight.
Junjun is running against Guimbal municipal mayor Christine “Tintin” Garin, daughter of 1st district kingpin Oscar Garin Sr.
The latest surveys showed Junjun enjoying a slight edge over Garin, owing much to the immense political goodwill of the Tupas family name.
But Junjun is navigating through hazardous waters.
That’s because he is violating a cardinal rule in warfare (and politics is basically warfare): never fight on two fronts.
Gel is just proxy for Junjun in the 5th district. The outgoing congressman wants to keep his hold on the congressional district and occupy a position that could propel him to be governor of the province. It’s a classic illustration of “having his cake and eat it, too.”
The Garin clan is not about ready to give Junjun an easy slide into the second highest elected position in the province.
This early, Garin is bombarding the airwaves with TV and radio advertisements. She is determined to put up a stiff fight.
Junjun faces big problems because while Mar Roxas affirmed he is the official Liberal Party candidate and there is no “zone libre” for the vice gubernatorial race, local LP candidates have manifested their open zone policy for Garin.
Even Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. has announced publicly he will not pressure his municipal mayors to obstruct the campaign of Garin. That in itself is “zona libre” in disguise.
In the 4th district, come backing Dr. Ferj Biron AccountTwo is certain to campaign against Junjun. Biron is the official candidate of the Liberal Party. His support for Garin will pull the rugs under his feet because the 4th district was always a Tupas bailiwick. For it to go to Garin will deprive Junjun of a traditional political base.
When the campaign period kicks off, Junjun will have to make a tough decision. Does he pursue his ambition to control the 5th district at the same time as his vice gubernatorial bid? Or will he pick one battle and try to win that, sacrificing the other?
He only needs to look back in history to know that fighting on two fronts simultaneously is dangerous. Even the most brilliant military strategists, notably Napoleon and Hitler, faltered and failed when they succumb to that temptation.
Another problem facing Junjun to his vice gubernatorial campaign is the possibility that his own siblings, and die-hard supporters of his late father, Niel Tupas Sr., might openly campaign for Garin.
It would be tragic to see Junjun lose on both fronts.
His overreaching ambition, and perhaps greed, will only lead him to damnation.

The voice of hope

I must confess I was surprised at the images posted on Facebook these last few weeks showing Rommel Ynion doing house-to-house campaigning for his bid for a city council seat in Iloilo City as an independent.

I told myself, “This isn’t the same Rommel Ynion I knew in 2012, the guy who disdained having to wake up early to head out for the trenches, so to speak, and touch flesh with the people.”

Back then, the campaign staff literally had to haul Ynion from his bedroom to get him on the road to shake hands with people and convince them he was the better candidate for City Mayor after the 45-day campaign period had started.

Hardly a day had passed these last few weeks without seeing Ynion, trailed by an army of youth volunteers and women leaders in the barangays, doing house-to-house campaigning.

The intensity of his campaign showed Ynion is a different man than the mayoralty candidate I helped campaign for three years ago. Determination is written all over his face as he ignored the searing hot sun to meet constituents.

Nothing can stop us

“Nothing can stop us now.”

But nothing prepared me for the images that were splashed all over Facebook last week: Ynion campaigned even when a downpour kept everybody else indoors. That he was drenched from head to toe didn’t slow him down.

“I am doing this campaign as if my life depended on it,” Ynion told me over the phone a few days ago. He learned from his mistakes in the 2013 elections. He’s not about to commit the same mistakes all over again.

I haven’t had the opportunity to join Ynion in these house-to-house sorties, but with the help of Facebook, I have been able to track almost his every activity.

And the one thing that struck me in looking at the pictures is the delight that brightened the people’s faces when they shook hands with Ynion.

To his own surprise, many people he met on the dirt paths and bamboo-slat footbridges that he had to traverse to get to the innermost parts of the city — where the poorest of the poor lived — profusely thanked him for the help he had extended to them.

“I don’t remember having met you before, nor having done anything to help you,” he said time and again to these constituents. Then the people showed him the nebulizers that he had distributed three years ago, the DVD players and even toilet bowls in their shanties. Unknown to him, the Ynion name became a permanent fixture in their homes. His nebulizers even saved lives, he was told.

Salamat Rommel

Everywhere Ynion goes, there is always a heart warming scene of people thanking him for help he can’t even remember having made.

As a veteran political strategist, I had always counseled Ynion to devote more effort at house-to-house campaigning. I told him the people wanted to see him, touch him, and convey their gratitude to him in person. This is the greatest lesson I got from my former boss, the late Governor Niel Tupas Sr. I was extremely happy to see he heeded my advice.

The positive response to Ynion’s person-to-person campaigning has drawn a great amount of excitement among the people. All of a sudden, surveys conducted by RMN 774 showed Ynion in the top 6 among the prospective 12 winners in the elections. It is clear his name, and his message of hope (“paglaum”), are reaching the deepest recesses of the city.

There is reason for me to believe he might land on the number one slot.

With his down-to-earth style of relating with people, Ynion evoked memories of the late Evelio Javier when he was a young candidate for Governor of Antique back in the 70s running against the established political dynasties in his province.

One image that stuck to my mind about the Evelio Javier political campaign was his ability to draw children to accompany him in his sorties. The kids carried coconut palm branches as if these were rifles, and they were his praetorian guard to protect him. Antique was then known for private armies and the use of violence during elections. The children volunteered to be his bodyguards.

This time, Ynion is accompanied by youth volunteers, young adults who want to do their share in bringing change to a city constantly rocked by scandals of corruption, illegal drugs and murders in broad daylight (and some at night).

“My campaign has taken on a paradigm shift,” Ynion told me. “In the past, campaigns were always run by the older members of the community, and I fell into that tradition in the 2013 elections. Now I have involved the youth.”

Young kids pose with their idol

This campaign is dedicated to the next generation of Ilonggos – Ynion

Youth never fails to punctuate the message of hope. Ynion’s volunteers are aged between 18 to 25. Their sector constitutes the broadest segment of voters. And they are the most driven to campaign hard.

“I am truly amazed at the energy and devotion shown by my volunteers,” Ynion said, his eyes moistening as pride and gratitude swelled inside him.

During the first salvo for his campaign, the Ynion volunteers literally stormed the city’s barangays, leaping from one area to another to put up the orange-colored tarps showing his image with a simple caption: “Tingog sang Paglaum”.

And even when they ran into a wall of harassment by barangay leaders who wanted to lick the behinds of the incumbent officials — with their tarps torn down almost as soon as these were tacked on house walls and lamp posts — the kids refused to surrender. They simply came back with more tarps. For them, no intimidation, and threats of violence, could stop this orange wave from spreading and engulfing Iloilo City.

Tarps on parade cropped

The orange tide is spreading rapidly.

Ynion has taken a break from his campaign activities for the Christmas holidays. “For the next two weeks, I will spend every waking minute with them and shower them with hugs and kisses,” he said. He wants to “deposit” large amounts of love and care to his two children that should last them until election day. “After New Year, I will be back on the campaign trail and finish what I had set out to do,” he added.

Elections are still a good five months away. But this early, it is safe to bet that Ynion will secure a seat for himself in the City Council and become a voice for hope for the people.

Is Binay making a break-away?

Two national newspapers, The Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star, reported on a Pulse Asia presidential survey conducted on December 4-11, 2015 showing that Vice President Jojo Binay has regained the lead among the contenders to become the next President of the Republic.

The survey was done nationwide with 1,800 respondents. It showed that if elections were held during the survey period, Binay would get 33% of the people’s vote.

Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Grace Poe were statistically tied at second place, with Duterte getting 23% and Poe, 21%.

The administration’s candidate, Mar Roxas, was fourth with 17%. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago rounded up the field with 4% of the projected vote.

This survey result validates my blog post last week that Binay has hit rock bottom while Roxas has hit the ceiling. Binay can’t possibly sink lower than the 31% he previously obtained while Roxas would have a hard time rising above 15%. The 2% improvement he achieved isn’t going to make a difference as the race is about to formally start on February 9, 2016.

This makes the efforts of the administration to eliminate the leading contenders through disqualification futile. Even if Poe and Duterte are disqualified, Binay would remain in the race because he cannot be charged formally before the Sandiganbayan on account of his immunity from suit. This means the idea of dislodging Binay by locking him up in jail before the elections is wishful thinking.

Roxas cannot hope to attract the Poe and Duterte votes if and when these two are eliminated from the presidential derby. A minimum of 80% of the Poe and Duterte votes will shift to Binay. What we’re seeing is a national expression of disapproval for Roxas, and there’s no way it would change in the home stretch.

This is the fundamental mistake in the political strategy of the administration. Roxas could not win by destroying his rivals before the court of public opinion and through legal means. The Liberal Party was overpowered by its own arrogance and believing its own propaganda that the “matuwid na daan” was making people happy.

The only way for Roxas to win under the circumstances is change the rules to “pirdi-gana”, a term used in the Filipino game of “dama” where the losing side in the end will emerge as winner.

The way things are going, the PCOS would not even be able to salvage a victory for him, because when the lead is so big, cheating would only spark violence and unrest for the nation.

But of course we can never underestimate Roxas and the Liberal Party: They might sacrifice the nation for their own personal ambition and survival.