Traditionally, Philippine elections are run by three Ms – money, machinery and muscle.
Candidates must have enormous resources to build a campaign machinery and recruit supporters to secure a seat whether in a national or a local position.
Political violence has subsided but politicians still rely on the gold to win elections. More resources are poured in the last days of the campaign period and during election day.
Vote-buying occurs on the eve of election day and after the balloting as canvassing of votes starts.
During election day, candidates spend a fortune to recruit an army of poll watchers to guard the ballots. Even in automated elections, poll watchers are still needed to check if the results printed in the machines are accurately transmitted and not replaced by fabricated results.
Poll watchers will have to transmit to the campaign headquarters results in the polling precincts to double check results put out in town, city, and provincial canvass centers.
There are more than 350,000 polling precincts nationwide and candidates need at least two poll watchers. A minimum of P700 million would be needed just to recruit poll watchers.
Political strategists said a candidate running for president needs billions to mount a decent election campaign but money alone is not enough to buy loyalties or local political leaders and voters.
Billionaire Manuel Villar learned that hard lesson in 2010 when he lost to Benigno Simeon Aquino III, who got the sympathy of emotionally charged voters.
A bland politician whose only claim to fame was his political name, Aquino was a last-minute candidate, replacing Manuel Roxas II after democracy icon Corazon Aquino died a few months before the filing of candidacies for president.
It was the people who catapulted Cory’s son to power even if he was short of funds and support from a sitting president. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo abandoned her party’s candidate and shifted to Villar.
In the 2022 national elections, could the phenomenon that elected Aquino in 2010 be repeated again? It remains to be seen. But there could be a parallel.
The energy from the people who are supporting the candidacy of VIce President Leonor Robredo has not been seen before in Philippine election history.
People are spending their own money to buy campaign materials – tarpaulins, stickers, flyers and ballers – and transport themselves to political rallies. They even go house-to-house and spend time talking to people and convince them to vote for Robredo.
This people-driven campaign was not seen in 2010 for Aquino.
The intensity of the people’s involvement in the political process even exceeded the experience in the 1986 snap presidential polls when dictator Ferdinand Marcos was running for president.
Fed up with corruption and human rights abuses, the people supported the widow of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., an untested and inexperienced Cory.
People stayed for hours after the close of balloting to guard the votes for Aquino during the counting at precinct level to the canvassing at the town, city, and provincial levels.
There were images of people embracing ballot boxes to prevent Marcos thugs from snatching them and replacing them with manufactured votes.
In 1986, Marcos had the machinery, money, and muscle. He was in power and had all the advantages against a widow running on a shoestring campaign budget.
There was practically zero political opposition. Ninoy Aquino and the anti-Marcos coalition were wiped out in the 1978 Interim Batasang Pambansa election.
The 1981 presidential election was a sham.
Only a handful of opposition leaders made it in the 1984 Batasang Pambansa balloting. Marcos completely dominated the political exercises.
Noynoy Aquino’s election in 2010 was a poor comparison to his mother’s victory in 1986.
In 2022, the specter of another Marcos rising to power has been moving the people to support not another Aquino but a close ally, Leni Robredo.
A widow, Robredo, is not Cory Aquino whose husband was assassinated under the Marcos regime. But she embodies the same values of the late president.
Robredo is better than Cory. She was a lawyer and served as a congresswoman and vice president before she ran for president.
She has political experience and an excellent track record. She has accomplished beyond expectations despite a meager budget.
She has inspired people and big business to contribute to her projects for the poor and the victims of typhoons and other natural calamity, including the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2022, she is also up against moneyed traditional politicians.
The late dictator’s only son and namesake has resources and machinery as most local politicians have thrown their support to his candidacy.
Robredo represents good governance, human rights, and participatory democracy, in sharp contrast to the traditional politics which thrive on patron-client relationship and transactional politics.
There were no more thugs intimidating and terrorizing voters but the dictator’s son has an army of trolls and influencers who have been inflicting more harm by spreading lies and demonizing rivals, particularly Robredo.
Like in 1986, Marcos has all the advantages. He is not a sitting president but the administration could be seen behind him as he is running together with President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter.
All surveys showed him with about a 40-point margin against Robredo although she has cut it down as the 90-day campaign period progressed.
Like in 1986, Robredo only has the people. The Roman Catholic bishops, the middle class, civil society groups, and a handful of local political leaders have stood behind her as an anti-Marcos coalition has emerged to prevent Bongbong from redeeming the family honor. It is 1986 all over again.