Can Noynoy top Magsaysay's 1953 vote tally of 68.90%?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-10-22

Mahar Mangahas of the SWS noted in his column last Saturday that the Ramon Magsaysay 1953 poll victory over then incumbent president Elpidio Quirino still stands as the most lopsided presidential election. The percentage final tally was 68.90% for Ramon Magsaysay of the Nacionalista Party (NP), 31.08% for Elpidio Quirino of the Liberal Party (LP) and 0.02% for Independent Gaudencio Bueno.

In percentage terms, the Ramon Magsaysay 1953 vote will be very difficult to match. It is easily topped in actual numbers as there were only around 4.2 million voters in 1953 when Magsaysay got 2,912,992 votes while there are now over 40 million voters.

Magsaysay’s NP running mate was the late president Carlos P. Garcia who won over Quirino’s LP running mate, Jose Yulo, by a 62.90% versus 37.10% vote tally. There was no third candidate for Vice President.

Such was the power of Magsaysay’s coattails that along with him and his vice president, the NP also won five of the eight Senate seats that were up for election in 1953. Two of the eight Senate seats were won by Fernando Lopez and Ruperto Kangleon of the Democratic Party and the last seat went to Lorenzo Tanada of the Citizen’s Party. The LP did not win a single Senate seat.

Magsaysay was originally from the Liberal Party, serving as Quirino’s National Defense Secretary. Having successfully contained the Communist Huk rebellion in Central Luzon, Magsaysay gained national prominence and was pirated by the NP to run against Quirino in 1953.

History repeated itself in 1965 when the NP once again pirated a member of the LP — Ferdinand E. Marcos — to fight and win over incumbent president Diosdado Macapagal of the LP. In fact, two administration members were pirated by the NP for the 1965 presidential election, the other being Macapagal Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez.

National hero Ninoy Aquino, father of 2010 presidential frontrunner Senator Noynoy Aquino, played a crucial role in the quelling of the Huk rebellion that made Magsaysay president. Ninoy Aquino negotiated the surrender of Huk Supremo Luis Taruc. Magsaysay eventually became a Godfather to the wedding of Ninoy and Cory C. Aquino.

Mahar was right in saying that for now the Magsaysay 1953 poll victory record percentage of nearly 69% appears to be safe. Mahar said this in the context of Noynoy Aquino’s 60% rating in the SWS September 18-21 nationwide survey.

One of the key factors that led to the 1953 LP election debacle was the immense unpopularity of the Quirino administration. Quirino rose to power in the 1949 presidential elections under a cloud of doubt. There were loud denunciations of widespread cheating. The country was almost pushed towards a civil war because of the questions surrounding Quirino’s 1949 election as president.

The big 1953 percentage win of Magsaysay was also facilitated by the fact that the presidential contest was effectively a one-on-one. A majority vote marked poll victories under the old electoral system with only two political parties effectively competing. The winner easily garnered 51% of the vote. Third force entries could not match the national machinery of the NP and the LP.

Under the post-Marcos era’s multi-party system, a majority vote in presidential elections has yet to happen. The best record thus far was made by Joseph Estrada in 1998 when he garnered 38% of total votes cast. Before the entry of Noynoy Aquino in the 2010 presidential race, the 38% tally of Estrada in 1998 seemed unbreakable. With at least three to as much as eight other presidential candidates, a majority vote became a pipe dream.

With his 60% showing in the recent SWS nationwide multiple choices survey and concomitant rating of 51% in the single choice Rider survey, Noynoy Aquino could become the first presidential candidate under the multi-party system to attain a majority vote. Considering the ideological factor working in his favor (change versus status quo, good versus evil, trust versus distrust, people empowerment versus traditional patronage politics), he could still expand his 51% rating.

The Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration can be likened to the Quirino administration of 1953 in that it is suspected of stealing the 2004 presidential election, scandal plagued and extremely distrusted. Expect the economic impact of the recent Tropical Storm Ondoy and Typhoon Pepeng to intensify the people’s clamor for change and reform.

This effectively dooms the candidacy of administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro and as will be later exposed — the back-up administration candidate. There are reports that the administration is really pinning its hopes on a supposed Opposition presidential candidate it is secretly supporting to beat Noynoy.

Can Noynoy match the 1953 Magsaysay percentage feat of 68.90%? That will depend on how Noynoy can effectively reinforce the ideological factor that is working in his favor.

For Noynoy’s rivals to be able to remove the ideological factor that dooms them, they must convince the voters that they are not representative of traditional patronage politics, that they should not be distrusted, that they do not perpetuate the status quo and that they are not evil.

But just how many will believe them when they claim all that?

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