Will the Liberal Party make another monumental blunder?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-08-23

Had Liberal Party (LP) stalwart Jovy Salonga studied marketing instead of law, he could have been one of our country’s great presidents. Jovy Salonga certainly had the bona fides to match if not exceed Ninoy Aquino. However, Salonga lacked the most important winning ingredients in politics — the marketing sense and the strategic thinking of Ninoy.

When Dictator Ferdinand Marcos called for a parliamentary election in 1978 — instead of capitalizing on the opportunity to awaken and arouse the citizenry, Salonga led the Liberals to boycott the process. Boycott was a form of intellectual snobbery — the boycotters’ way of saying that “We will not play along with your rigged process Mr. Marcos.”

Ninoy Aquino knew that the process was rigged but he saw zero benefit in boycott. Instead, Ninoy saw the great opportunity to be able to ventilate issues and generate public awareness of how Marcos was abusing his power and ruining the country. Without the process, Ninoy realized that the Marcos media monopoly would not allow them to ventilate their issues.

Ninoy correctly assessed that Marcos would not allow them to place some of their products on the shelves but the process provided them the great bounty of free advertising and the rare opportunity for brand building. Ever the strategic thinker that Jovy failed to be, Ninoy knew that the 1978 election was only one of the many battles to be fought and that the benefits of the free advertising and brand building far outweighed the prospect of “dignifying” what is obviously a rigged process.

The 1978 process marked the eclipse of the Liberal Party and the birth of Laban. By boycotting the 1978 election, Salonga only managed to relinquish the Opposition brand to Ninoy’s Laban. In 1978, Ninoy planted the seeds for the Cory victory of 1986. By the time, Cory was in Malacanang Palace, Joker Arroyo, then Executive Secretary, described the Liberal Party as big enough to fit in a Volkswagen.

Now, it appears that Jovy Salonga is about to commit the same mistake when he proposed last Thursday that the Liberal Party should field a Mar Roxas-Noynoy Aquino tandem in the 2010 presidential election. That means Mar for president and Noynoy for vice president.

What is wrong with Salonga’s Mar-Noynoy proposal?

Just like his 1978 blunder, the Mar-Noynoy tandem proposal lacks strategic thinking and violates the clear marketing imperatives. Salonga is again pandering to what he perceives as the “proper order” of things, as things should be — but fails to notice what the consumers (voters) really want. This is clearly a case of marketing Seppuku which nobody who studied Marketing 101 will ever attempt to do.

In 1978, Salonga felt that the LP should not “dignify” the rigged election and that the “proper” move was to boycott. Now, he probably feels that the LP had already announced Mar as their presidential candidate and that Mar had been campaigning and spent too much money already. Ergo, Jovy probably thinks that it is only right to make Mar the LP presidential candidate.

For boycotting the 1978 election, Jovy Salonga’s LP was deprived by the voters of their rightful status to be the Opposition Party. Laban, which fought the romantic battle of 1978, became the battle standard to which the Cory “Yellow Army” rallied.

Now, Salonga is pushing the LP to commit the same mistake. Here are the flaws in Salonga’s Mar-Noynoy proposal:

1. Any political watcher will attest that it is Noynoy that generates the excitement. Noynoy is now seen as the heir to Camelot which many Filipinos want to experience again. Other than Marketing 101, Logic 101 will dictate that you go for the top prize using your best entry.

2. While Noynoy is stirring the 2010 political pot, even now being called a game changer, Mar has been lackluster in the presidential polls. Latest surveys show Mar floundering in the 4th to 7th places. Even Raul Roco who lost in the 2004 presidential election was rating much better than Mar is rating now. Roco topped the early surveys for the 2004 presidential election.

3. If Manny Villar is said to be topping the surveys or always in the top three because of ad spending, then Mar should at least be second in the surveys to Villar because Mar has the second biggest reported ad spend. On top of ad spend, Mar enjoys more news coverage than Villar. But Mar is not even in the top three now. In marketing, this is the sign of what is called a weak brand. It is an indicator that people are aware of the brand but are not really keen on buying it.

4. The ‘market demand’ for Noynoy works only if Noynoy is running for president. People know that a vice president cannot bring back Camelot. If Noynoy is made to run as vice president, that will not save Mar from defeat. Filipinos are known to split their votes just as what happened in 1992 and 1998. If the LP objective is to win the presidency, then they are running the wrong candidate if they choose Mar.

5. If Mar is the LP presidential candidate, all the current top rating presidential candidates will persist in running simply because they are ahead of Mar. However, if Noynoy is chosen as the LP presidential candidate, there is a good chance that many will opt to drop out or slide down to vice president. They know a game changer when they see one. Joseph “Erap” Estrada may even opt to campaign for Noynoy instead of running and further splitting the Opposition votes — assuming the Supreme Court allows Erap to run.

6. The biggest tragedy that can happen to the LP is for it draft Mar for president and lose Noynoy to another party that will have the good sense to recognize a presidential winner. The LP must not forget that the PDP-Laban is the original Cory Aquino party for the 1986 Snap Presidential Election before Doy Laurel agreed to be Cory’s vice president. A Noynoy-Jojo Binay 2010 tandem can prove to be very exciting.

Ninoy Aquino was the biggest blunder and missed opportunity of the Liberal Party when they did not support his decision to fight the 1978 political battle. The Liberal Party must not repeat that mistake by not recognizing the mandate of history for Noynoy Aquino to run for president in 2010.

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A great disservice to P-Noy

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