‘Makinig, matuto, kumilos’
A British politician once wrote about a lesson he learned while going door-to-door in his campaign for a parliamentary seat. The true sympathizer, he learned, would answer the knock on the door, listen for a few minutes and let the campaigner on his or her way.
But the nonsympathizer or hostile subject would warmly greet the candidate, invite him or her in, and engage in a long conversation. That way, the candidate’s time is limited, forcing him or her to see fewer voters, while nothing he or she said had an impact on the voter’s mind. Indeed, it was all a waste of time.
But even useless conversations have their uses. It gives the candidate a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of ordinary, even if biased, folk. It also allows for an alternative story line or contrary views, a chance for the candidate or the party to check their assumptions, trace any flaws in logic or appeal, or correct misconceptions. As the saying goes: “It won’t hurt to listen.”
And this is what Liberal Party (LP) folk and volunteers hope to accomplish through Project Makinig (Listen). It takes lessons and insights from the successful campaigns of former US president Barack Obama and France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who both used sophisticated digital tools as well as “old-fashioned” barnstorming and street campaigns to “sell” themselves to the voting public.
“Money doesn’t always translate into votes,” asserts LP campaign manager Sen. Kiko Pangilinan. In the 2010 elections, won handily by LP candidate Noynoy Aquino, the 10 biggest spenders in the senatorial race lost their bids. If people want change, no amount of inducements will convince them otherwise, he believes.
Project Makinig, say the organizers, is a “nationwide door-to-door and technology-driven campaign to listen to our people.” Though the questions asked of respondents are downloadable through a digital app, hundreds of volunteers have also been tapped to move from door to door, talking to folks with particular focus on those “who voted LP in past elections but went for Duterte in 2016.”
They are still the “persuadable,” says Pangilinan, who may have something important to convey on their reasons for changing their minds then, and their reasons for possibly changing their minds now.
The questions raised in the listening campaign dwell more on aspirational concerns—what people think are their biggest problems, what solutions they foresee, what they want to happen in their lives.
So far, more than 100,000 “conversations” have taken place in about 100 voting districts around the country, conducted by 5,000 to 6,000 volunteers.
“T-shirts lang ang kapalit (only in exchange for T-shirts),” Pangilinan adds.
Volunteers have not always been met amicably. Pangilinan tells of volunteers approaching a row of tricycle drivers and being met with skepticism, if not hostility. But after seeing that the volunteers were there to truly listen, the most “astig” of the drivers volunteered to escort them to a nearby row of fishball vendors who might have something to say.
There is also a more practical, pragmatic goal to pursue, at least for the LP. “It’s a chance to rebuild the party,” Pangilinan admits. The party that produced a Ninoy Aquino and a Noynoy Aquino is these days “demonized and bombarded” with accusations ranging from incompetence to corruption. From the hundreds of congressmen affiliated with LP during P-Noy’s term, only 18 have remained with the party after Duterte’s victory. From seven senators, the LP contingent has dwindled to three.
Vice President Leni Robredo, who has assumed the mantle of LP leadership, wants the party to conduct “an inventory of officials,” says Pangilinan, so they can have a better grasp of the party’s standing among the public. Project Makinig, then, is a way of assessing not just the party’s strength, but also the party’s morale and direction.
Indeed, the LP slogan these days, says the senator, is “makinig, matuto, kumilos (listen, learn and act).” And moving on, building on the information they gather, the opposition hopes to craft a response that moves minds and hearts and influences voting choices.
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