Sino daw ang ‘bobotante’? (Binay, Poe, Mar and the latest surveys)


Illustration from
Illustration from

MANILA – The strategy of patronage has a point of diminishing returns when it comes to national elections.

When the media banner voters’ top issues of concern, and race leaders trip under the spotlight, other candidates can play catch up without breaking the bank, according to political scientists assessing the results of the latest Pulse Asia survey.

In the Philippines, voters’ preference for “pro-poor” bets has long been interpreted as a boon for contenders who bribe voters with cash or services sourced from their pork barrels.

Political scientist Temario Rivera, however, points out that results of past national elections show that poor voter choose on the basis of their core issues. In the last half decade, these have been  graft and corruption – and equal enforcement of the law.

Perception that Binay cannot walk the talk has cost him substantial support from the critical D and E voting blocs, says Bobby Tuazon, director of policy studies at the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPeg).

Rethinking ‘bobotante’

Good governance and election watchdogs like to trace  the Philippines’ endemic corruption to the huge base of poor voters with low-educational levels.

The message can be grating: “bobotante” (stupid, unthinking voters) elect corrupt politicians in exchange for a few hundred pesos worth of bribes and other displays of patronage.

The latest series of presidential preference surveys by Pulse Asia, however, show a different story.

Binay, long known as king of largesse – decades of twin-city programs and a vast array of social services and quaint perks for Makati City residents — has slumped among the crucial Class D and E voter demographics.

(The D class accounts for 60% of the population, according to a report released in 2011 by then National Statistics Coordinating Board (NSCB) head Tomas Africa. The lowest end of the middle class, or the higher end of the poor — monthly income from P8,000 to P15,000 — comprises the D voters. Rivera places the D voter base at 60% to 65%, and the E class — the real poor with a monthly family income of less that P5,000 — at 25% to 29%.)

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who for now has the administration’s formidable resources behind him, continues to inch up the surveys, not enough to ease concerns about his “winnability.”

Independent contender, Sen. Grace Poe, meanwhile, zoomed past Binay, doubling and tripling her ratings in crucial economic demographics and the most vote-rich areas.

Crucial base

Graphics courtesy of
Graphics courtesy of

In the latest Pulse Asia report, Binay saw a drop in Class D and E backers, from March to May this year.

The period featured legislative and legal probes into alleged corruption which led to a freeze of his assets and that of kin and trusted aides.

His portion of D voters slipped from 30% to 20%. From 33%, his class E share went down to 25%.

Graphics courtesy of
Graphics courtesy of

Why the slump?

Holmes, in an interview with ANC, said there were days when Binay’s alleged links to corruption was “only thing hogging the news.”

Political science professor Antonio Contreras agrees with Holmes.

“I guess the CDE voters for Binay are now getting the message,” he told

Some broadcasters are “very effective in painting Binay as a crook in dramatic ways,” he pointed out.

“Alam mo naman ang CDE, yan ang nakikinig pa sa radio,” Contreras said. (The CDE classes listen to radio.)

Tuazon believes Binay’s defense against mounting corruption issues was flawed.

While his lawyers, political allies and children tried to fend of charges raised in and out the Senate, “the effort was not consolidated”.

“The perception is, that he has been avoiding tackling the issues head on,” Tuazon said.

Poe, on the other hand, gained from the almost daily coverage of the emotional hearings on the Jan 21 Mamasapano carnage that claimed the lives of 44 elite cops.

She also oversaw hearings on issues important to the D class – the breakdown of the MRT system used daily by half a million Metro Manila residents.

Rivera said attempts to attack Poe using her status as a foundling backfired in a culture where abused underdogs are a favorite conversation topic.

ABC support

Graphic by Denggai Silorio
Graphic by Denggai Silorio

Strangely, as senators crowed about new evidence of alleged plunder, and details of bank accounts in the billions of pesos were leaked to media, Binay’s ABC supporters increased.

In fact, Binay has seen a steady increase in ABC believers since Pulse Asia’s November 2014 survey, when news reports were already full of details from the Senate probe spearheaded by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

Grahic by
Grahic by

From 17% last November, Binay’s ABC preference rating rose to 22% in March and to 29% in the latest survey conducted from May 30 to June 5.

Traditional wisdom, oft quoted by political pundits, assigns to the middle and upper classes the conscience vote, the high ground focused on issues like corruption and good governance.

In 2010 presidential candidate Benigno Aquino III used the slogans, “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” and “tuwid na daan” (straight path). It caught fire in the end days of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s scandal-plagued administration.

What could account for the rise in Binay’s ABC rating?

Contreras said, “the rise of Binay among the ABC is perhaps sign that the elites are getting irritated at the no-holds barred lynching of Binay. ”

Political opinion-writer Beth Angsioco was also puzzled by the rise in Binay’s ABC ratings, “unless people in this cluster think that he is being unfairly crucified.”

But while allies of Roxas and the LP went all out against Binay, the biggest beneficiaries was not the Interior secretary, but Poe and Duterte, she pointed out.

Did Binay become the “protest choice” by anti-corruption advocates angered by the Aquino administration’s display of “double standards” on issues of governance?

Activist artist Mae Paner disagrees.

“I don’t see those disappointed in Aquino, on issues of transparency and fiscal abuse, and corruption by his aides, going for Binay,” Paner said. “They will be looking for an alternative to these two examples of trapo politics.”

Rivera, however, downplayed the increase in Binay’s ABC support, calling it “statistically insignificant.”

While the figures may seem substantial, he said the small representation greatly increases the margin of error, especially with the AB class, which is traditionally reluctant to participate in surveys. The demographic’s margin of error, he pointed out, can be as high as 20%.

Tuazon said the ABC figures could be a reflection of the old Binay-Roxas polarity.

Both have long signaled their plans to contest the presidency, he pointed out. In contrast, the other perceived contenders – Poe, Duterte and Estrada – have not issued clear statements on their political ambitions.

“That (ABC) figure will dramatically change once the candidates come clean about their plans for 2016,” said Tuazon. READ MORE AT


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