Otso Diretso volunteers: All heart amid rising odds

/ 07:01 AM May 01, 2019


MANILA, Philippines — Handmade posters, handwritten sample ballots, cash donations from people who walk into their campaign headquarters.

These are among the tools that the 100,000 volunteers for the opposition’s Otso Diretso coalition rely on as they struggle to prop up their candidates, most of whom have yet to break into the top 12 in surveys.


The volunteers have also launched the Para sa Laban ng Otso Diretso (PASALODi), a crowdfunding campaign that aims to collect P8 million to help their senatorial candidates.

So far, it has raised more than half of the amount, and Jozy Nisperos of the Silent Majority encourages more people to contribute.

Only two at the top

Of the eight candidates, only reelectionist Bam Aquino and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas have managed to land in the top 12 over the past weeks.

The rest — Chel Diokno, Samira Gutoc, Florin Hilbay, Erin Tañada, Romulo Macalintal and Gary Alejano — ranked in the 20s.

Otso Diretso’s campaign manager is Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party (LP).

Handicapped by scarce resources and few allies, the opposition’s campaign is a far cry from the machinery that the LP used to have when its standard-bearer, Benigno Aquino III, was president.

But the handicap and poor showing in the polls do not deter Otso Diretso volunteers or even stifle their optimism.

The enthusiastic reception they have received and growing support from people they meet have revved them up to double their efforts in the homestretch of the campaign, they said.


LABOR AGENDA Opposition senatorial candidates Samira Gutoc and Erin Tañada sign the Labor Agenda 2019 during a campaign stop in Intramuros, Manila, on Tuesday. They are among nine senatorial aspirants cited as friends of labor, along with the party-list group Kabataan, by the workers’ organization Defend Job Philippines. —EARVIN PERIAS

Growing support

The fact that Otso Diretso candidates are topping student polls, making a big splash on social media, and getting more handmade posters promoting their candidacies show growing support for them, said volunteer Mel Alonzo, former chief of the Pag-Ibig Fund.

“What I’d like to believe is that these surveys are not accurate,” said Alonzo, who also led the Piso Para Kay Leni campaign.

“I really believe the survey results should not be the only basis for determining whether we will win or not because deep in our hearts, we know we will win,” she said in a recent roundtable discussion.

Her experiences meeting potential voters are more real to her, she said. They always ask for extra campaign materials they can distribute, she said.

“Even if we go to the areas that are supposed to be administration-friendly, you will see people get so excited when they see the flyers we have,” she said.

Alonzo is also banking on the votes of the millennials and students, as she noted that the results of many mock elections in academic institutions have the opposition candidates leading.

Nisperos said the opinion polls didn’t capture the actual buildup of support for the opposition as the elections neared.

According to her, support for the opposition candidates has been snowballing.

“My friends and I have been walking in [shopping] malls the past few days with some campaign T-shirts and people come to us and say, ‘That’s right,’” she said.

An elderly woman even scaled a wall to put up tarpaulin posters promoting the opposition candidates, Nisperos said.

“This is what surveys don’t capture, this heart. And this volunteerism will have gains, will yield success for Otso Diretso [in the] run-up to the elections,” she added.


Jeric Jucaban of Team Pilipinas said he was taking the polls as a challenge in mobilizing volunteers and resources.

Jucaban said he was heartened by the upward trajectory of the opposition candidates. Where before they ranked in the 40s, now they were in the 20s, he noted.

For the volunteers, no effort is too small to promote their ticket.

Maricel Pangilinan-Arenas, sister of Senator Pangilinan, said the volunteers also made handwritten lists of candidates to serve as sample ballots.

When they eat out, they write the names of the candidates on the restaurant’s napkins and leave them on the table, hoping that other people would see these and be convinced.

Arenas said the work of the volunteers was so valued that it broke the campaign’s heart when it lost six of them in a road accident in Baguio City.

She visited the families of the volunteers who died, and was touched to learn that they were not blaming the driver, as they believed what happened was an accident.

“It was a positive spirit that surprised us. There was no anger, no recrimination,” Arenas said.

It is this “generosity of spirit” that she believes will fuel the efforts of other volunteers. “It is an indication of the kind of faith that will carry us through,” she said.

“We will continue to fight the good fight,” she added.

For country and themselves

The volunteers are devoting time and effort both for themselves and for the country.

Jucaban, who used to work for the Senate blue ribbon committee, feels he has a stake in the elections because the senators implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam look poised to make a comeback.

He was a legal consultant to the Senate committee when it was investigating the plunder of the pork barrel Priority Assistance Development Fund.

“It’s the main reason I am volunteering my services to this cause,” he said.

“I feel like I need to make a stand and help so that the people we will elect to the Senate are the people with competence, credibility and qualification,” he added.

Say in their future

Nisperos said she was dismayed by what she saw as the “permanent damage” done to the country and its values and culture.

“We need to stop this because it’s the future of our children and our aspiration for ourselves,” she said.

The efforts of the Otso Diretso volunteers allow them to have a say in their future, Nisperos said.

“It’s giving ordinary citizens the power to shape their own destiny, one that’s not just dependent on politicians,” she said.

See the bigger picture with the Inquirer's live in-depth coverage of the election here

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TAGS: 2019 elections, 2019 senatorial candidates, Otso Diretso
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