FORMER senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s absence in presidential forums and debates may be inconsequential to a generally “personality-oriented” electorate, but it may imperil his bid for the presidency if he continues on with such strategy, a political analyst said.

Marcos skipped the Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews on Jan. 22, a non-debate program, claiming that its host was “biased,” and the forum for presidential aspirants organized by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) due to a “conflict of schedule.”

Marcos also missed the Commission on Elections-sanctioned CNN Philippines’ presidential debate on Feb. 27 due to a supposed schedule conflict.

In an interview with the Varsitarian, Asst. Prof. Dennis Coronacion, chair of the UST Political Science Department, said that Marcos’s decision to skip forums and debates might not be totally disadvantageous for his presidential bid.

“[T]he ultimate goal is to gain as many votes as possible…so bakit hindi interesado si BBM? Why does he skip some of the invites for interviews and debates? Kasi tingin niya, he has already reached out to a huge number of people even before the campaign period,” he said.

Marcos emerged as the frontrunner for president in two recent surveys by Pulse Asia and the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

In the Pulse Asia survey conducted from Jan. 19 to 24, Marcos was preferred by 60 percent of the respondents. Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo placed second with 16 percent.

Marcos also topped the SWS survey, conducted from Jan. 28 to 31, with 50 percent followed by Robredo with 19 percent.

“We can infer that his absence in the…presidential interviews did not have an adverse impact on his survey numbers,” Coronacion said.

“[But] we saw the disadvantages of skipping presidential interviews […] nagkaroon ng backlash, somehow, and ‘yung Marcos campaign team basically resorted to troubleshooting.”

The hashtag “#MarcosDuwag” made the rounds on social media after Marcos skipped the Soho interview and the KBP forum.

But the Marcos camp did not play unfazed and resulted to “troubleshooting” after the former senator faced backlash due to his absences, Coronacion said.

“It somehow became a concern to the Marcos camp,” Coronacion said. :Ayaw nilang lumaki ito so agad silang nag-troubleshoot. That’s how I saw it. Bigla silang nag-troubleshoot and they immediately went into a series of media-related activities. Inintensify nila ‘yung media presence niya. Grinant niya ‘yung mga requests for interview, so that’s how he was able to get away with it.”

“[T]here is a possibility that it might happen again. If Marcos is already certain that he will not be there in the CNN presidential debates, he might encounter the same concern,” Coronacion added.

Assessing the electorate

According to Coronacion, the majority of Filipinos select their candidates based mainly on their personalities, not on their political platforms.

“[I]t’s a sad path about our politics, about our elections, na majority of the Filipinos would rather look at the personality of a candidate than his platform of government, than his prefered policies and vision for the country,” Coronacion said.

“It has always been the nature of our voters – and even our politics in general – to be personality-oriented rather than issue-oriented. We are easily charmed by the candidates, oo. We tend to forget that most of them, most of these candidates, have issues in the past that we need to think of in the present election,” he added.

Coronacion urged those who already have their minds made up to vote for Marcos to continue watching presidential debate programs “because they might see something.”

“Do not deprive yourself of the chance to get to know the other candidates,” he said. “Ang election kasi, if you have so many candidates, the purpose is to have as many choices as possible. Hindi ‘yung early on in the game, ‘Marcos na ako, ayoko nang tignan ‘yung iba.’ ‘Di mo alam baka ‘yung ibang candidates offer you a better program of government, a better set of policies, and you’re depriving of that chance.” John Aaron Pangilinan and Eduelle Jan T. Macababbad


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