Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — Merry Marcos

My column yesterday looked at the good fortune of Marcos Jr. and how he cleverly annexed good feels and vibes: an opportunity created because of unfortunate ads for Leni Robredo. But Marcos bravura also disguises their coalition’s unease from past experience.

The Kingmaker

This week’s The Long View

A Merry Bongbong | Inquirer Opinionopinion.inquirer.net

By: Manuel L. Quezon III

- @inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:07 AM December 01, 2021

Two things happened within 24 hours of each other: a withdrawal of candidacy and a new commercial. The withdrawal, in a televised message complete with bereaved mourner-style sunglasses, was on the part of Sen. Bong Go, whose throwing in the towel further strengthens the bandwagon effect being built up by the Marcos Jr. campaign. While Isko Moreno cleverly put himself forward to replace Go as the President’s anointed, the new commercial of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., which began airing in time for the Bonifacio Day holiday, maintains the forward trajectory of his campaign.

In the ad, the candidate ditched his father’s trademark red and substituted it with a sober navy blue; it shows him cleverly turning the famous windmills of his home province into a pinwheel handed over by the candidate to various adoring representatives of different sectors, the zinger being a choir singing “Umagang Kay Ganda” in a not-so-subtle proclamation of the advent of the Only Begotten Son. I’ve heard it said that as far as retail sales are concerned, companies sell 40 percent of their products during the Christmas season. The Marcos Jr. ad is thus perfectly timed, with a flawless execution: The candidate got his money’s worth.

The holiday season thus has the merry air of the Marcos Restoration being back on track, after the President so rudely interrupted it. It seemed for a time that the initiative, the momentum, had shifted. One has to wonder if the Marcosian shift to blue from red has something to do with the color wheel and pink, but if it does, the quality of the most recent Marcos Jr. ad is in stark contrast to the commercial of the Vice President.

Let me put it this way: When I first encountered it, it was with my back turned as it popped up on YouTube. Listening to her touched my heart; a short while later, when I repeated it and I actually saw it and not just heard it, it broke my heart. Because if there is one thing that can be said about the Vice President, it’s that she is an optimistic and cheerful person; yet the ad showed her careworn and sad, and communicated resignation and defeatism. Considering what she is up against — five years of slander and misinformation — it is tragically sad to launch a campaign of hope with the appearance of hopelessness. What you get is what we have: Marcos Jr. taking hope for himself in the same manner he doubled down on owning the windmills of Ilocos Norte.

I believe the first instinct of the Filipino is to hop on a bandwagon; it takes special circumstances to convince the Filipino to back David in a battle with Goliath. The remarkable, measurable, jump in Marcos Jr.’s support from the 30 percent he and his sister have commanded at the polls, to 40 percent and even beyond, is made possible by the whole panoply of his candidacy designed to project it as an unstoppable thing. When others faltered, as Sara Duterte did, he scooped up their support, too, forcing her and others to play by his rules. Yet every step being taken, such as the creation of a coalition, reveals two weaknesses. His coalition is 50 percent survivors of the indignity of being ousted by direct action of the people, and 75 (soon to be 100) percent families that have had to fight cases of plunder and other gross violations of the law and human dignity at home and abroad. Its pulse comes from a heart hollowed out by public rejection and fear of public retribution.

From caravans to solidarity walks and, most meaningful of all, the sharing of lugaw while conversing on the reasons for the Vice President’s candidacy and what she represents, it is the widow’s mite in the biblical sense that is being offered up in the face of the vast resources of the combined Marcos-Arroyo-Duterte-Estrada coalition; the same folks who insisted on pink and who took to heart the concise message, “Let Leni Lead,” who remain engaged regardless of the missteps that have led to the ads no one’s noticed (“I choose you,” the ad I first heard then sadly saw), to the ones unfortunately being talked about. Because it is enough, for now, and useful, and meaningful, to simply muster the courage to take a stand and delight in others doing so, too. But now the truly hard part of convincing others conditioned to hate the Vice President, without even knowing anything about her, to give her a chance, has begun. Marcos Jr. has made up for lost time.

Email: mlquezon3@gmail.com; Twitter: @mlq3

The Kingmaker and other trends

The other night I guested in a portion of Christian Esguerra’s show on ANC 24/7 the topic was Kingmakers and I’d like to share some points I made on that show about the campaign (we hadn’t known Bong Go was actually withdrawing yet so let me factor that in here too).

On the topic of “Kingmakers” the consensus was the one playing that role — and doing so for some time as, I’ve come to call it, “the only adult in the room” — was GMA. She has the memory and socio-political standing to bring together the clans.

She does this on many peer-to-peer levels: as a former president talking to former and current presidents, as a presidential daughter talking to presidential sons and daughters, as a former speaker talking to congressmen and a party chief in a party she took away from FVR.

Most emphatically, to everyone, she can speak with intimate knowledge, on something say, the Marcoses know all too well: the thousand-yard stare when everything collapses in on itself and what you built up is demolished: she can cry, “Never Again!” and receive thunderous applause.

So far as that goes, it’s interesting and helps explain the glue holding the clans together. But also what they have in common is the ability to learn from the past and play to their strengths. Ironically, with the departure of Bong Go, here’s the one trying to push Continuity: Yorme.

As I mentioned months ago, the lesson of the past is Continuity is the hardest concept to sell; so everyone will become opposition by the time of the campaign. You can do it explicitly or imply it, as with Marcos Jr.’s closing slogan in his new ad.

The question of “opposition,” then is moot and academic. What the public’s been primed for is the sabong, and by all accounts it will be between FM Jr. and friends and whether you like it or not, Leni Robredo. Though the other candidates will try to peel away supporters over time.

But beyond the faces its the methods that will be battling here that’s very interesting and we’re starting to hear about it on the ground: Marcos Jr. is widely said to control the barangay chairmen while opponents’ campaigns face hostility due to this. In other words Marcos 2021 is like Marcos 1965, 1969, 1981, 1986: top down, machine-driven, money-hungry. Those same campaigns, particularly 1986 revealed Achilles heel: sometimes the money doesn’t make it down the food chain.

This is the game the Marcos, Arroyo, Estrada (itself a subset of the Loyalists), and Duterte (volunteers at least and also online) know and do best. Against them a different dynamic, almost guerrilla-like with its own dynamic will be fighting for wandering eyeballs in media.

In a nutshell this explains the need for Shock and Awe now because the idea is to crush all hope of a different outcome from the one being projected; a Restoration must remain framed as a Great Reversal and not a hard slog to claw out a technical victory in a very tight race.

Because the other weakness in a machine campaign particularly in one featuring such a combination of very well-fed clans, is that as the race lengthens there will be not just inflation but stagflation for all electoral goods and services as everyone tries to cash in.

So those were my main points on the show. Please click the link below to watch it!

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Manuel L. Quezon III

Columnist, Philippine Daily Inquirer. Editor-at-large Spot.ph. Views strictly mine. I have a newsletter, blog, podcast, and Patreon.