Breakout from poll statistical gridlock dim | Inquirer Opinion
Analysis

Breakout from poll statistical gridlock dim

At this late stage of the May presidential election, anyone who hopes for a significant, last-minute swing of votes in favor of any of the four presidential candidates must be wallowing in self-delusion. The latest Pulse Asia survey shows Sen. Grace Poe, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and former interior secretary Mar Roxas currently locked in a statistical tie, all four of them strapped to overall voter preference ratings ranging from 26 percent to 21 percent. As it were, the survey, for now, rules out a breakthrough or a pulling away from the pack by any of them in the last few weeks of the election.

If we go by the survey results, there is simply, absolutely no basis to believe that any of the candidates could mount a bandwagon effect. Nor is there a galvanizing issue from which to launch a campaign offensive that could achieve such. One of the ominous findings of the survey, which four contenders cannot afford to ignore, is this: The ranks of undecided registered voters comprise a block of votes as large as the 21 to 26 percent who have indicated their preference. This block of uncommitted voters has now become the battleground of the frontrunners. Their votes can augment their constituency of the converted. And there is no way to definitively answer the question: Who of the four can likely sway the bulk of the undecided to generate a last-minute swing in their favor?

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Since the survey was conducted before the first round of the presidential debates was held in Cagayan de Oro last Feb. 21, we have no idea of the impact the debate has made in crystallizing the issues and in influencing the candidates’ popularity ratings. More so because the format of the debate did not result in illuminating the issues. It was a forum in which the contenders stated their policy positions and directed questions at one another within a time limit of 90 seconds. This resulted in an encounter of sound bytes and glib ripostes, which showed how quick the debaters were on their feet or in thinking up instant repartees that had little to do with substantive platforms and programs.

For example, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte pledged he would clean up corruption in government and curb crimes within a record time of six months—a promise that earned the applause of the gallery and apparently projected him as a decisive leader, this despite his bluster about ordering, as mayor, the summary execution of people he had tagged as criminals.

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There is no reason to expect spectacular realignments in the coming weeks.

True, the Pulse Asia survey was conducted at a time Filipino voters were still preoccupied with the following developments:

(1) the Commission on Elections’ vote to dismiss all disqualification cases against Mayor Duterte for lack of merit, several days prior to the start of the campaign.

(2) the Supreme Court hearings concerning the disqualification of Sen. Grace Poe.

In one of those hearings, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno openly opined that disallowing Poe from running for president because she is a foundling would greatly affect the rights of all foundlings in the country.

In relation to this, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay called on members of the Supreme Court to search the past and present constitutions of the country for “any express intention” to deny foundlings the status of being natural-born Filipinos.

On the other hand, in defending the Comelec decision to disqualify Senator Poe, Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim argued that the Comelec was defending the “primacy of the Constitution” and its definition of who are considered natural-born Filipinos.

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For her part, Senator Poe should bear in mind that she is running for president and the success of her candidacy will be decided in the political arena, not in the Supreme Court. This lady appears confused over the proper venue for promoting her political ambitions.

Overall, it is clear at this moment that the presidency remains up for grabs. None of the frontrunners can say with confidence that they have sewed up the election or that they are secure in their ranking in the poll surveys. For this reason, we can expect the campaign to be more vitriolic in the next few weeks, during which policy issues could give way to muckraking and name-calling.

(The Supreme Court voted 9-6 yesterday to allow Senator Poe to run for president. —Ed.)

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TAGS: Arthur Lim, Comelec, Elections 2016, Florin Hilbay, Grace Poe, Rodrigo Duterte, Supreme Court
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