For the nth time, people are asking me: How did Noynoy Aquino bag the Bicol vote? For the nth time my reply was: He just hit the right strategy for the region, got Joey Salceda on his camp, and he won.
But more than that, Noynoy changed the course of Bicolano voting behavior. Since 1992, the region has been voting for opposition candidates who never won. First was Jovito Salonga, then Raul Roco for the 1998 and 2004 elections. If Noynoy did not roll out the correct strategy, Joseph Estrada could have won in this popularly known as opposition country. Manny Villar might bag a significant number of votes but he will still fall short as discussed below.
- If possible, convince Chiz as his running mate or at least Chiz’s endorsement if the latter is not running. The Bicolano senator has a large and almost solid following in the region which includes local leaders and businessmen who finances political campaigns.
- Maximize the spaces opened by the changing behavior of both the voters and politicians. This include getting the support of reform-oriented groups, civil society organizations, and media practitioners.
- Concentrate efforts on Albay and Camarines Sur. These are the large vote pockets that decide the Bicol vote. These provinces are also the centers of media outfits and the concentration of reform-oriented groups.
- Walk the talk – that is, lay down the ground for reform. This may include opening the avenues for the discussion of Hacienda Luisita thus debunking the notions of the KMP; and, initiating track records that could be used as bases for the 2010 campaigns.
- Revive the LP in the region. A number of LP members got lost with the division of the party into Atienza and Drilon wings. Most of these are still willing to go back to the party but are just shy to start the talks. The Alfelors, for instance, are among those that will be having political party problems especially if the Comelec will rule on the illegality of the merger of Lakas-NUCD and KAMPI. Historically, membership in the LP has been a family tradition only that this was broken due to the instigation of Luis Villafuerte for a grand alliance in the 2007 elections.
- Lastly, Noynoy needs a thorough political mapping of the region. This can facilitate the identification of reform-oriented groups, possible media outfits, and former LP members who can be tapped for help in the campaign. The mapping can also help identify second level vote keepers who really call the shots (and make significant impacts) during the election day and counting period. This is the secret of Joey Salceda why he got an overwhelming vote for his gubernatorial bid compared with the owners of the machines he borrowed.
Immediately at the start of the campaign, Noynoy’s camp started reaching out to reform-oriented groups in the region. In-charged of this is the NCC or the non-conventional committee. Then discussions on how to address the Hacienda Luisita issue also surfaced hence getting the national democrats in Bicol off-guard. Some Leftists blew the horn saying “Oh, it’s just another political gimmick” but when a greater number saw Noynoy was serious, optimism grew. And the growth was exponential. The reason: Those who called the Noynoy’s attention over the Luisita issue a gimmick forgot (or are ignorant of) the Bicolano voting psychology.
Bicolanos always gamble their votes for their hopes and, intentionally or not, they are not good gamblers, at least in the presidential elections. Or, it could be because they knew a traditional politician will just deliver promises and suffer an amnesia afterward so they don’t mind losing. Elpidio Quirino did, and Manuel Roxas, and even Ferdinand Marcos. So why be moved by bandwagon and experience “dobleng dagok” (or double whammy) as what tricycle driver named Efren from Victory Village in Legazpi calls it? According to Efren, “Kung magpili ako ki kandidato na bako sa boot ko kundi dahil sa mga advertisements manungod saiya, tapos nanggana siya dangan naging kurakot, dobleng dagok an aabuton ko dahil dai ko na ngani pinili su sa boot ko, kinurakot pa su buwis ko. (If I choose a candidate not with my heart but because of political advertisements, then he won and became corrupt, I’ll just suffer double whammy because I did not only lose the opportunity to choose what my heart wants but will also suffer the consequence of having my taxes lost to corruption.) This also explains why Villar, who was ranking top in the pre-election surveys in the region slid to number 3 at the end of the elections.
So Noynoy won because a significant portion of the Bicolanos found him sincere. This “sincerity” was validated by the endorsements and campaign efforts of Chiz Escudero and Joey Salceda “who even gave way for the presidency” and bolted out of the Arroyo Administration, respectively. Later, two or three days before election day, sample ballots allegedly from political stalwarts like the Villafuertes of Camarines Sur and the Khos of Masbate were also released containing Noynoy-Binay (NoyBi) rather than Villar-Loren and Gibo-Edu, respectively. The Villafuerte and Kho camps, however, remain silent on these.
Former LP leaders especially those from the Imperial clan of Albay also came out along with the newer ones like the Chattos of Camarines Norte. Supported by the local non-con groups and the media advertisements, Bicol was like Georgia routed by Russia. Hence, from second rank with preference ratings between 35% to 39%, Noynoy rose to top with 48% vote-share at the end of the tallies.
In the final tally, Bicol contributed 955,061 to Noynoy’s 15.2 million votes. Bicol’s contribution is equivalent to 17% of the president-elect’s national vote-margin to Estrada. If Noynoy did not strum the right strings as in a guitar, most of the Bicol vote could have gone to the ousted president as Villar’s supporters shrank after he evaded answering the charges of corruption issued against him. Similarly, if Chiz and Joey who both have a national following did not support Noynoy, the turnout could be very different. With a critical margin, questions could still linger along with election protests that probably, no president-elect could have been proclaimed this late.