MANILA,  April 29, 2004
FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno  - Pathetic.

It is as if, in the heat of battle, some of the combatants break ranks to chase a hare. Or a white elephant. Or whatever minor thing catches their fancy.

In the closing days of this campaign, marginal presidential contenders Panfilo Lacson and Eddie Villanueva have chosen to attack, well, the pollsters.

After nearly eighty days of campaigning, Panfilo Lacson has not moved far from the share of voters he started with. Eddie Villanueva is escalating dramatically, but from a very small base of votes. From 2 percent of the vote, he now has 5 percent. If the campaign were to go on for five more months, he might manage to catch up with the leaders.

Both of them blame their unimpressive share of the vote on the polling outfits. Hello?!?

Lacson has even produced two witnesses: one to make derogatory charges against SWS and the other against Pulse Asia. How convenient.

Whoever wrote the script for this sideshow clearly knows little about statistics, the business of polling and the interest in accuracy of all parties involved in them.

Anybody who has ever commissioned a survey or subscribed to one knows that these things cost a lot of money to do. One does not pay for hocus-pocus results. That will be such a waste of good money.

I have been a consumer of surveys myself as a campaign strategist. I pay for accuracy not for anomalous numbers. Accurate surveys are indispensable tools for proper campaign management, issue positioning and tactical decision-making. Surveys are studies carefully to unveil both strengths and weaknesses.

If, as a campaign strategist, I needed a cheering squad, I would hire a cheering squad. I wouldn’t hire SWS or Pulse Asia. They cost too much.

Surveys are for strategy, not for propaganda. Those who complain about surveys do not have the imagination to use them properly for devising strategy.

The polling organizations are interested in accuracy, too. If they proved to be sloppy in their jobs, they would lose clients and their business would soon fold up.

SWS and Pulse Asia are businesses. They are subject to market discipline. For that reason, they should be trusted. They wouldn’t dare screw up and lose clients. This is why I study the results of SWS and Pulse Asia closely.

Ibon Foundation is not a business. It is an ideological outfit. Which is why I do not even bother to look at its surveys.

The storyline Lacson is trying to sell us about SWS and Pulse Asia falls flat in the face of historical data. Both organizations accurately predicted the outcomes of previous elections – including tightly contested ones. That would not have happened if they were sloppy in their methods and partisan in their intents.

For its part, KNP has reacted to the strong lead being posted by President Gloria in the surveys by resorting to black propaganda. They have put out attack ads on television and put up vicious posters all over the city.

The boxing equivalent of this sort of negative campaigning is head butting.

Those responsible for these degenerate tactics have butts where their heads should be. Instead of offering a campaign that is edifying to our voters, they spit bile and foment hate. They undermine their own message of national unity – badly delivered that message might have been. They further render their principal candidate invisible.

The negative campaign has deepened the incoherence between the packaging of FPJ as a gentleman-warrior and the low-grade tactics his propaganda machine is now spewing out. Panday has now metamorphosed into, uh, a Tito Sotto; Asedillo has been unmasked as plain barumbado.

The breakdown of the KNP’s messaging matches the breakdown of its campaign effort. It is now a machine that has gone haywire, striking out in all directions and behaving without the discipline of a strategy.

Raul Roco has returned. We sincerely hope he fells better in his, well, derriere. The pain must have been the cause why, through most of the campaign, he has been bitchy, grouchy and quarrelsome.

If modern medicine has worked its wonders on Roco, we might see a more amiable candidate with a more coherent message to the people. But while he might be in better health, his campaign is in a sorry state. His share of the vote plunged dramatically over the last few weeks.

With his campaign collapsing around him, Roco will have to pour braggadocio all over to stop the hemorrhage of supporters. That will require a large amount of reality-denial.

But if reality-denial is the name of the game, Roco will be hard-put matching Eddie Villanueva’s latest ploy. He plans to mass his supporters in Makati to demonstrate that he is leading the race.

Someone should remind this guy that it might be physically impossible to cram 12 million voters, the estimated winning threshold, in Makati. That is larger than the entire population of the National Capital Region.

To be sure, this guy has hundreds of thousands of dedicated, nay, fanatical supporters with a large propensity for self-deception. But someone should remind this self-anointed prophet that a mass of people is different from a critical mass required to win elections.

To be sure, the next few days will see more viciousness on the part of the laggards in the presidential race. The kid gloves are off. The four men who, the surveys say, are in imminent danger of losing this election will brutally gang up on the woman who has surprised even her supporters by her stamina, tenacity and acute sense of electoral strategy in delivering an awesome finishing kick to this campaign.

The more devious the four men start behaving over the next few days, the more they will look like a band of deperados. The more they beat up on the survey leader, the more they will look like losers. Sore losers.

The four desperate men will try to drag this electoral contest to the mud. The more they do that, the greater the likelihood they will be smartly outmaneuvered by the lady who now plans on elevating this campaign to a much higher plane.

A plane the four desperate men could not reach.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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