Expect intensified demolition after Villar's 33% SWS rating
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-07-28

The SWS (Social Weather Stations) Second Quarter June 2009 presidential survey that was released last Wednesday may be music to Manny Villar’s ears but it will also line him up for intensified demolition.

Here are the highlights of the SWS survey that should worry Villar’s rivals:

1. Villar topped with a 33 percent rating — the first time a 2010 presidential wannabe rated over 30 percent. When Joseph “Erap” Estrada won the 1998 presidential elections, he garnered 38 percent of the votes — considered then a landslide victory.

2. Villar managed to get a 33 percent rating even when Estrada went up to second place with a 25 percent rating. Villar was not affected by the Erap factor. From being first or second in previous surveys, Vice President Noli de Castro slid down to fifth place.

The surprising strength of Manny Villar cannot be appreciated if the qualitative aspect of his candidacy is not factored — specifically the image that he has successfully projected. The only major inputs of Villar have been his television commercials which reinforced the fact that he came from the ranks of the poor.

Villar rarely grabs a front page banner headline and many times when he landed on the front page it had to do with the Senate demolition job related to the debunked ‘double insertion’ controversy hatched by Senator Panfilo Lacson.

This consistency in Villar’s ratings shows that he has successfully sold his ‘once poor, always there to help the poor’ story. In past columns, your Chair Wrecker noted that Villar’s ‘once poor’ story is a priceless political asset. It is not just the equivalent of the 1998 “Erap para sa mahirap” (Erap for the poor) magic but a potentially more powerful political handle.

Erap was never poor. The Ejercitos were among the upper class families of San Juan. Erap studied at the Ateneo de Manila University not because he was a scholar but because his family could afford to enroll him there. Erap did not finish his course in Ateneo not because his parents ran out of money to enroll him but because he did not make the grade.

Villar did not just survive the Erap surge to second place but he also went up from 29 percent in May to 33 percent in June. Noli de Castro was not as lucky. Noli de Castro, like Erap, is also getting most of his votes from the masses. It stands to reason that when Erap almost doubled his ratings from 13 percent to 25 percent, de Castro was badly affected.

Erap’s candidacy could be enhancing Villar’s chances of winning in 2010. How? Erap is depriving Escudero, Roxas et al from getting the votes of the masses. It is impossible to elect a president with just the support of the middle and upper classes which account for no more than 12 percent of the voters.

Villar gained despite the Erap surge because his ‘once poor, always there to help the poor’ story has earned him the empathy of the masses.

It would therefore appear that the key to victory for Noli de Castro, Chiz Escudero and Mar Roxas is to cajole Erap to quit the race.

Perhaps by coincidence, right after the SWS June 2009 survey was released, it was announced that the Ethics Case Hearing of Villar will resume soon. It is doubted though if that will affect Villar’s ratings. That issue has been belabored for several months but did not affect Villar at all, as evidenced by his continued rise in ratings.

The Erap experience of 1998 proved that attempts to demolish a candidate can backfire.

Those spiteful jokes against Erap in 1998 may have reinforced, instead of erode, the loyalty of his adoring masses. The masses are especially possessive once their empathy had been earned, once they feel that a particular candidate is one of them. An attack on their idol is taken as an attack on them. Villar may have already attained this level of empathy.

Loren Legarda is only partly right when she said in so many words that Villar’s performance is due to his ad spending. Being a communicator, Loren cannot deny that more than the ad spend, it is the successful communication of the Villar story that worked wonders.

Legarda et al should study what they are projecting instead of carping on being outspent. Cory Aquino had very little media resources in 1986 owing to a Marcos media monopoly but her story sold well.

The most aired brand commercials are not necessarily the best selling commercials because message, not frequency, determines what wins and loses in the market.

Still ten months away from the 2010 elections, these ratings will change. Some ratings will fall. Some will rise higher.

A MUST read opus of Victor Corpus
At Greenbelt 4, Makati City, on Thursday (6 p.m.), July 30th — Ret. General and former rebel Victor N. Corpus will formally launch his sensational book (“America’s Dim Mak Points”) which your Chair Wrecker rates as a MUST read.

We will write more about Vic’s opus in a future column.

Vic outlines how the feared US-China war will be fought and who will likely lose. We Filipinos will find ourselves in ground zero in the event of that US - China war.

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