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Interesting times, extraordinary elections

No matter what comes up in the runup to 2022, what is clear at this point is that these are really interesting times.

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Let’s face it. The raging pandemic has become a game changer of sorts particularly with the onset of the highly-transmissible Delta strain of Covid-19.

Despite all the noise from ongoing realignments, political plans have been thrown overboard, rallies and sorties have been ruled out and emerging as the biggest challenge in the runup to next year’s national elections is how to campaign with the deadly strain hovering above our heads.

Do we see Zoom rallies becoming a fad? Or candidates going around the countryside in big bikes and avoiding the usual personal handshakes with the common folks?

This is where we think local governments come into the picture. Local barangays are expected to play a key role in the distribution of campaign materials and other election paraphernalia. And how about explainer videos that should present the candidates’ respective platforms? That, we believe, is crucial, too.

We are not surprised why unofficial campaign managers are now talking about focusing on the grassroots and making alliances with regional groups. They see their pivotal role in spelling victory or defeat.

In this kind of situation, survey companies will likewise play a key part. We are sure as the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening that they will be raking it in.

Fact is, we’re no longer surprised too that OCTA Research group, which is supposed to be an independent analytic firm that has been feeding us science-based figures on the pandemic, has forayed into political surveys.

It made headlines recently when it came up with its Tugon ng Masa survey that showed the leading contenders in both the presidential and vice-presidential derbies. It, however, was no different than the results of other survey and polling outfits.

What gives? Lawmakers, stunned by the OCTA move, immediately called for a probe of its activities for reasons only our honorable solons know. The survey was widely cited by mainstream media.
The question now being asked is why is OCTA now competing with such noted survey firms as SWS, Pulse Asia and Publicus in the political field?

Last we heard, OCTA is actually made up of members of the academe of the University of the Philippines and University of Santo Tomas. Because of this, the group was generously cited in its initial forays in the pandemic research, the country reeling as it is from a dearth of data analytics specialists.

It is worthy to note that data analysis plays a big role in science-based decision making and this is where OCTA earned its spurs, so to speak. Aside from the Department of Health, which provided the data paving the way for the first two hard lockdowns in the metro, OCTA figures have generously been cited by mainstream media.

Critics, including our lawmakers, however, are now doubting the motive of OCTA in venturing into political surveys, pointing out how its data could be used by the opposition against the government to demonize the pandemic response.

We heard from a very reliable source that one of the incorporators of said survey group is actually a good friend and La Salle Greenhills classmate of a former House leader who is casting a moist eye on the presidency but has no place in the ongoing realignments and could settle for a Senate seat.

The OCTA expert, currently an assistant professor at the UP Department of Political Science, was among those who endorsed the lawmaker for the speakership, saying he is the most qualified then.

While OCTA is composed primarily of faculty members and alumni of the country’s premier state university, UP Diliman associate professor Peter Cayton clarified that the group does not exist in UP’s organizational structure. The corporation’s principal office is located inside Alpha Village in Matandang Balara , Quezon city.

This prompted lawmakers to order the probe, noting how data from the group and the DoH are conflicting, creating confusion. One solon said they will also assess the methodology used by the group.

The picture may be getting clearer. And sinister groups could be using the pandemic to paint a false picture of the real situation. As the Delta variant continues to throw a monkey wrench into the political calendar, it looks like we are in for an interesting 2022 campaign.

Already, the launch of the Ping Lacson-Tito Sotto tandem has already been postponed to 8 September in deference to the reimposition of the enhanced community quarantine. We’ve seen Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso crossing fences from the National Unity Party to Aksyon Demokratiko. And oh, yes, things have not been as solid in the ruling party, too.

Will Sara, the prodigal daughter, throw her hat into the fray considering that Senator Bong Go, her father’s longtime aide, is now the consensus choice by PDP Laban as its presidential bet with no less than President Duterte making himself available to be his running mate?

Without them saying it, the yellow opposition seems to be bracing for an Isko Moreno Domagoso presidential run with the hemming and hawing VP Leni Robredo still undecided (waiting for better survey results?) and talking with other contenders as well.

With only two months left before the filing of certificates of candidacies, other candidates are posturing to be Sara’s running mate. There’s Senators Win Gatchalian and Sonny Angara, as well as Bongbong Marcos who obviously is still reading the landscape.

No matter what comes up in the runup to 2022, what is clear at this point is that these are really interesting times. And Filipinos, we are sure, are looking forward to the May elections next year with bated breath, pandemic or no pandemic.

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