Winning lessons for the opposition
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-01-09
In the build-up to the May 2007 elections, the single biggest mistake that the opposition can make is to presume that they are assured of victory just because there is an overwhelming anti-administration public sentiment.

One important lesson I’ve learned in my over 36 years as a marketing professional is that Brand Y isn’t sold by merely promoting an anti-Brand X sentiment (Brand X signifying the brand that one has to beat). An anti-brand sentiment may drive consumers away from Brand X but that does not guarantee the sale of Brand Y.

To capture the market, the promoters of Brand Y must convince the consumers on the reasons why they should switch to Brand Y.

In the past two years since the Garci tapes surfaced, the opposition could only arouse the people’s ire against Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But they failed to get the people’s support to remove Arroyo and put them in power. No vision
All this time, all we hear from the opposition are criticisms and attacks against the alleged Palace squatter. Over and above that, they offer neither vision nor platform of government. It is the classic case of eroding consumer confidence in Brand X but failing to sell Brand Y as the alternative.

True enough, survey after survey validated Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s steady slip in public trust ratings and there is solid basis for all the public dissatisfaction and cynicism. Arroyo’s steady plunge in public trust ratings had even exceeded the lowest ratings of Marcos and Estrada in the immediate few months before the two presidents were ousted by People Power.

Yet there is no rush to take to the streets in the manner that people poured out spontaneously in the upheavals of EDSA I and EDSA II. Obviously, Filipinos no longer want Brand X but they also don’t find Brand Y attractive. Wrong product
The other factor weighing down the opposition is their continued association with a failed product, former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada. The opposition suffers from a big credibility problem that stems from showbiztocracy. They ran Joseph Estrada for president in 1998 and followed this up by running Fernando Poe, Jr. in 2004.

Now we see them rallying once again around the disgraced Joseph Estrada. It defies the established pattern of human and consumer behavior. People and consumers are always seeking new ways to improve their lot and not to re-live sad experiences and traumas.

If you are disgusted with your present cellular phone, do you see yourself buying the old analog cellular phones that Mobiline, the once-upon-a-time market leader, used to offer? So what makes the opposition think that we want to go back to the Joseph Estrada era when the peso and the stock market crashed and the presidency was defiled by his working habits (or should I say non-working habits)?

I count as one of the severest critics of the Arroyo regime which I find to be worse than the Marcos regime. The Marcos regime was an officially declared dictatorship – Proclamation 1081 – while the Arroyo regime operates like a dictatorship under the guise of a democracy. I am among those who Mike Arroyo has sued for libel.

But if you were to ask me if I would be willing to return the country to the showbiztocracy era of Joseph Estrada, regardless if Estrada is the head of state or not, my answer would be: "NO WAY!"

On this point, I believe that I echo the sentiment of a lot of people, especially the middle class. Now if it is altogether lost on the opposition, the middle class was the engine that propelled EDSA I and EDSA II. In 2004, the middle class opted to disregard the glaring signs of massive cheating and the railroading of Madame Arroyo’s proclamation simply because they considered showbiztocracy to be a fate worse than Arroyo. Ideological battle: Democracy vs. Dictatorship
The opposition fails to learn from the lesson of Cory Aquino’s phenomenal rise to power in 1986. They’ve been trying to duplicate People Power but they haven’t provided the vital ideological element that propelled Cory Aquino to power.

The 1986 political battle was not just between Cory Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos. If that had been the case, Cory Aquino would not have even garnered half of the votes that she got in the 1986 Presidential Snap Elections. Person versus person, Cory had nothing to offer in terms of experience and track record in public service in a country that had not yet elected then a woman president.

It was an ideological fight – democracy versus dictatorship. People went for democracy. Cory was merely the symbol.

This is the biggest challenge facing the opposition in the coming elections – how to transform the elections into an ideological battle. Only by turning the elections into an ideological battle can the opposition hope to offset the regime edge in resources and superior political machinery.

Ideological means succeeding to create the national perception and mood of ‘them’ versus ‘us’, the bad rulers versus the people, lies versus truth, evil versus good, virtual dictatorship versus real democracy, more misery versus reform and economic salvation.

By going with Estrada, the opposition fails to offer reform. By failing to inspire the nation with a credible vision for the future and a platform of reform, the opposition candidates cannot credibly project themselves as part of ‘us’ (the people). Rather, the opposition candidates will only be viewed as the same as ‘them’ (the status quo). When less is more
One of the biggest decisions that Cory Aquino made in 1986 that led to the successful ouster of the dictatorship is to go it without the Left. People may seem lukewarm toward the Left today but they feared the Left back then in 1986. True enough, Marcos used the Red Bogey against Cory Aquino – one of the biggest campaign issues raised during the 1986 campaign.

In the opposition today, there are groups who are not tainted by the historical baggage of the Marcos, Estrada and Arroyo regimes. These are the people who should now seriously consider forming a real alternative for the nation, an alternative not just to the personalities but also to the way that we have mismanaged this country.

We know how the Arroyo regime is already rejected by majority of Filipinos. We can see how the opposition in its present state has failed to rally the people. The country needs the political Brand Y, now more than ever.

Who will rise to the challenge and provide the alternative?

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