‘I suspect that, up against a Manny Pacquiao, no amount of campaigning by PRRD for anyone – not for Sara, more so for Bong Go – will make that masa voter give up his one single chance of electing Manny Pacquiao president.’

    THERE was considerable buzz in some parts of social media yesterday when the group 1Sambayan held its “convening meeting,” which led many of the politically aware noting who was and who wasn’t involved in the group.

    In one chat group I am part of (and perhaps the oldest!), 95% of whose members (I suspect) can see nothing good in the current administration, people were throwing around names asking if this or that politician was part of 1Sambayan. Others were trying to ask how this or that combination of candidates would sell with the public. Still others were expressing their misgivings about some personalities (“XXX will not win” or “I don’t trust YYY”) while others still were inquiring about someone’s age and whether this someone was old enough to run for higher office.

    I basically kept out of the exchange, except to say that Manny Pacquiao had a “lock on the masa,” but no one reacted or responded to my statement. I’m sure they saw it, but no one was apparently ready, willing or able to challenge it.

    Which was too bad, because I think it will be difficult to challenge me on that. And I am willing to say it again here: no one on the political horizon, not even Sara Duterte (and I think she is the best situated of the potential Duterte candidates) can challenge Manny Pacquiao’s hold on the masang Pilipino. They’d even abandon Erap in droves for the PambansangKamao.

    And this highlights, in my opinion, a weakness of 1Sambayan. It looks like a gathering of the “old guard” in the political opposition, toting their allied business interests, with their friends from socio-civic (mainly Makati-based) organizations still keeping their heads down.

    Yes, they may be talking of issues that matter, but in a manner that goes over the head of the majority of the country’s population. To better grab the interest of this segment of our population, it might be better if an organization is named not 1Sambayan but 1Stambay.

    But if 1Sambayan is weak on this score, the Duterte allies have no reason to rejoice outright. The masa isn’t theirs as well, even if it still seems to be PRRD’s. I personally think that the loyalty of the masa vote to PRRD is personal to him, one he can transfer to others but only on a limited basis. Like for a Senate seat, for example. If PRRD asks that those who believe in him vote for Harry Roque and make Harry their number one choice for the Senate, chances are very high that they will do so – especially if PRRD campaigns for Harry as hard as he campaigned for Bong Go and Bato dela Rosa. And that’s because the voter has 11 other slots to fill, on which he could use his personal preferences as a guide more than that of the President.

    This does not apply, I suspect, when a voter has only one vote to give, as is the case for president. I suspect that, up against a Manny Pacquiao, no amount of campaigning by PRRD for anyone – not for Sara, more so for Bong Go – will make that masa voter give up his one single chance of electing Manny Pacquiao president.

    I strongly believe that Manny Pacquiao will edge Sara Duterte for the masa vote. I even more strongly believe that Manny Pacquiao will massacre Bong Go for the same.

    I was horrified a few days ago when I read that SenSAP Bong Go was quoted as denying his presidential ambitions, but had added that he was willing to change his mind if and only if PRRD agreed to run for vice president. Jeesas! If I were Manny I would have jumped on that statement immediately, simply by putting out a video of me (Manny) entering the boxing ring alone, with only the Philippine flag around my shoulders. And the tagline could say “Si Manny, kayang-kaya kang ipaglaban mag-isa.” Or it could be in Manny’s own words: “Mag-isa kong ipinaglalaban ang bayang Pilipino.” Subtext: Di mo kayang mag-isa?
    Boom. TKO right at the start of the bell.

    And when I saw a lot of flags flying in the Freddie Aguilar video, I was horrified further: here was Manny Pacquiao on screen with the Philippine flag around his shoulders….victorious, making the whole world sit up and pay attention. What powerful optics! How could SenSAP Bong Go beat that with two flag pins pinned to his attire every day? Not even a flag tattooed on his forehead will work.

    And then the words of one of my friends who voted Duterte-Cayetano in 2016 came back to me: “Gusto ko si Manny kasi bata pa ako idol ko na siya sa boxing. Mabait siya.

    Matulungin. Totoong galing sa mahirap. Kilala ko na siya.” To this DuCay voter, Manny is no stranger. Manny has been part of his life. Manny has made him proud. He identifies with Manny. Heck, I suspect that every time Manny stood on the ring’s ropes, hands held high in victory, my friend loved to feel that Manny was his aspirations come alive – a poor Filipino who is now proud of himself for bringing pride back to his country and fellow Filipinos.

    Boom. TKO at the weigh-in session.

    But is all lost for 1Sambayan? Not really.

    I suspect that battling for the masa vote is one thing – and here you could potentially have a number of candidates who can credibly take a slice of the masa vote: Pacquiao, Sara, Isko, Grace, Bong Go. Maybe in that order. Which means they split it. Which means a different voter segment becomes the swing vote.

    And that segment, I think, are the qualified to be (or freshly) registered, first-time-to-vote young ones who watch and listen and come to their own conclusions. Like any generation before them, some will sell their vote; others will never vote, but a significant segment (I suspect) will try their best to vote as “wisely” as they can. And being the AI/Social Media generation, optics will matter a lot. Let’s see who is the best at enticing them to go out and register and then vote!