Candidates eye ‘command votes’

Big religious groups wooed in final week of campaign

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Senatorial candidates are seeking “command votes” and visiting vote-rich provinces in the final week of the campaign to gain the support of the still significant number of voters who have yet to decide whom to vote for.

Reelectionist Sen. Gregorio Honasan of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) said the battle for command votes from big religious and civic groups, and influential local politicians would be the theme this week.

“I think the command votes will prove crucial in getting the voters who are still undecided on their 12 choices this late stage in the campaign,” Honasan said in a phone interview.

Candidates with a statistical chance of winning a Senate seat are separated from their nearest rivals by less than a percentage point to up to three percentage points—well within the margin of errors of survey results conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia.

SWS surveys have a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points and Pulse Asia surveys, plus or minus two percentage points.

The race is especially tight among those in the 8th to 17th places as the number of undecided voters ranged from two percent in the preelection surveys by SWS on March 15-17 and April 13-15 to 7.7 percent and 6.1 percent in the March 16-20 and April 20-22 surveys, respectively, by Pulse Asia.

In the nationwide survey conducted by Pulse Asia in April, for instance, six candidates were fighting over a slot in the Magic 12.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara (31.2 percent) was in 8th to 12th places; Juan Miguel Zubiri (29.7 percent) was in 10th to 16th places; Honasan (27.9 percent) and Jack Enrile (27.2 percent) were both in 11th to 16th places; and, Risa Hontiveros (25.8 percent) and Ramon Magsaysay Jr. (25.6 percent) shared the 12th to 17th spots.

Angara of Team PNoy said command votes would be crucial especially for those in the lower third of the Magic 12 where numerous candidates still have a statistical chance of barging into the winning

circle.

“Command votes can be those from large groups whether religious, sectoral, or political organizations,” Angara said.

Iglesia, El Shaddai

The religious groups aggressively courted by candidates are the block-voting Iglesia Ni Kristo (which is expected to issue its preferred list a few days before Election Day), the Davao-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ (Pastor Apollo Quiboloy is expected to release his list this week) and El Shaddai (Bro. Mike Velarde announced his choices a few weeks ago).

Angara said his group would intensify its efforts this week by stepping up visibility through media and personal appearances.

“The last week endorsements from large organizations and influential individuals will help a great deal,” said Angara, who was endorsed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Sunday morning.

Vote–rich provinces

Sen. Loren Legarda said her focus would be on vote–rich provinces that have been her traditional final stops in every campaign.

Legarda of Team PNoy has maintained her No. 1 ranking in major preelection surveys. Her lead over her closest rivals, however, was not big enough to allow her to relax in the final stretch.

She stressed the importance of the command votes, especially from the religious sector and political blocs in Mindanao “that are traditionally solid in their voting.”

Laguna, Isabela

Honasan cited Laguna and Isabela as having strong command votes.

But former Sen. Jamby Madrigal of Team PNoy argued that at this point, most voters had already made up their minds.

“If Filipinos don’t believe you by now, any extra efforts in the last week will not convince them. I’m leaving it to the Filipino people and God if I will again be rewarded a Senate seat,” said Madrigal.

She said there was no “sense of panic” in the last week of the campaign as she was confident of her chances based on nonbiased, private surveys that showed her in the Magic 12.

Connecting with people

“I believe I have run a good and truthful campaign. I campaigned hard with President Aquino. I was a team player and I did my best. I have courted the peoples’ hearts and connected with them. I believe it will work for me in the long run rather than having courted only the survey companies,” Madrigal said.

She said she was running a campaign devoid of any negative attacks. “I don’t think I need to bring other candidates down for people to vote for me.”

San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito Estrada, an UNA senatorial candidate, said he would use the last few days to visit provinces he missed out.

“I think we just have to continue what we have been doing which has been effective so far. I missed a few areas because I got sick in the middle of the campaign,” Estrada said in a text message.

Unscathed in accident

Not even an accident would slow down former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. of Team PNoy from squeezing out the most of the last week of the campaign.

Magsaysay’s car crashed into a center island on the Alabang-Zapote Road on his way to his Ayala Alabang home in Muntinlupa City on Saturday, but he and his driver did not suffer any injury.

After a routine check-up in a hospital, Magsaysay joined a three-hour motorcade with celebrity endorser Richard Yap that same day. Magsaysay, who is expected to fly to Tacloban City on Tuesday, said he was fit to attend Team PNoy’s rallies in Manila on Thursday and Quezon City on Friday.

Increase visibility

Honasan said his strategy in the last days of the campaign was to increase visibility and audibility in an environment marred by political noise from senatorial and local candidates.

“We have to make sure that we rise above the noise and send our message,” he said.

He said this was the reason candidates increase their campaign ads for television in the last few weeks of the campaign because it was the best way to reach out to a large audience. “But for those without the resources, we have to make do with our house-to-house campaign,” he said.

Angara said his father, outgoing Sen. Edgardo Angara, had advised him that the last week was the most critical period of the campaign.

“He told me that I should have something special left in my bag to keep a strong momentum going into Election Day,” the younger Angara said.—With Inquirer Research

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