With just over a month to go before Election Day, the hard reality emerging on the campaign trail is the surging support for former President Joseph Estrada and the waning support for the other candidates, former senator and senatorial candidate Francisco “Kit” Tatad said today (Tuesday, April 6) in a briefing on the ongoing election campaign.
“Our PMP rallies are deluged by crowds with little effort to organize them,” Tatad said. “The main attraction drawing everyone to the motorcades and the campaign rallies is always Erap. We have to wade literally through the crowds to get to the campaign stage.”
In stark contrast, the other presidential candidates are all straining and spending to get enough people to watch their motorcades and attend their rallies. Often, they just scratch the motorcades for lack of people to watch them.
“While the election surveys do not accurately reflect public opinion about the presidential candidates, even these could not fully suppress the massive groundswell in favor of President Estrada,” Tatad said. “They have reported Erap as registering the biggest gain in support, while his opponents have shown losses or negligible gains.”
All this indicates, according to Tatad, that Erap’s real strength and electoral prospects are being underestimated. “There’s a gross mismatch between the political reality on the ground and the media reality conjured by the surveys. The media frontrunners tend to believe their own propagandists, and that is where the danger lies. They are in for a big surprise,” he said.
Senate president and senatorial candidate Juan Ponce Enrile also noted the same phenomenon of public support for former President Estrada at the end of the first month of campaigning in early March. He had not seen before the kind of numbers and enthusiasm being displayed by the crowds at PMP rallies.
Internal analysis of the numbers point to a contrast between the solid support for Estrada and the soft support for Manny Villar and Noynoy Aquino, which has perceptibly changed since the campaign began.
“There’s everything to show that Estrada’s support is firm and strong, while support for his rivals is soft and shifting,” Tatad explained. “ Erap is getting his support mostly from the C,D,E classes, who constitute some 90 percent of the voters and who relate personally to him. This is evident in town after town, city after city that Erap visits, either before or after the uneventful visit of some of his rivals.”
The latest proof of this, according to Tatad, was the visit that Aquino, Villar and Estrada respectively made with Brother Mike Velarde’s El Shaddai charismatic community during their Easter Sunday celebration. Noynoy, accompanied by his celebrity-siter Kris and other siblings, got a warm burst of applause as he read his short speech. “But the crowd smothered Estrada with applause and cheers as soon as he appeared on stage and interacted with him all throughout his short appearance,” he observed.
Tatad forecasts major swings of support during the last month of the campaign when the undecided and still not fully committed voters make their final choices. “We predict that the bulk of these votes will go to Estrada because of his palpable and superior appeal to voters,” he said.
He suggested that we will see here the same kind of surprise sprung by the late Fernando Poe Jr, in 2004. “During the final month of that campaign, all the pollsters reported that support for President Arroyo had climbed up to 37 to 40%, while that of FPJ had fallen to below 30%,” he said. “When the actual votes were counted, FPJ swamped GMA in all of Luzon by close to 2 million votes. Only the slow tally of votes from the Visayas and Mindanao reversed the writing on the wall.”
Tatad took issue once again with local pollsters for not using modern methods of polling and observing professional and ethical standards. “Until now the pollsters have failed or refused to disclose all necessary data about their surveys, particularly the identity of those who had paid for the survey, who conducted the survey, the questions asked and the order in which they were asked, including the “rider” questions contributed by secret sponsors, the interview method used, the actual samples used and how they were chosen, the margin of error, and the exact size of the undecided, etc.,” he said.
He opined that had there been a serious attempt to accurately measure popular support for the national candidates by using the correct methodology , asking the right questions, and using truly representative samples, Estrada would be leading the presidential pack in the survey, and some candidates, from presidential to senatorial, who are “rating” high in the flawed surveys, would not rate as high.
“This is akin to the 2008 American experience when the US pollsters and media were uniformly talking of Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton as the sure contenders in the US presidential elections until the Republican and Democratic conventions chose John McCain and Barack Obama instead,” he said. #