, April 22, 2024

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"Bobotante": The Alibi of Losers

  •   6 min reads
"Bobotante": The Alibi of Losers
By Vincent R. Pozon

There is an election coming, and it will start soon enough; we will hear the rich and the pretenders bash the poor. They will call the neglected and the suffering amongst us immature, unready, unintelligent.

Sometimes they do let on; the feudal lords hiding inside them will refuse to be restrained by rules of courtesy, and they will grumble why the uneducated have suffrage.

Every so often, there will be lawmakers who will want the uneducated disenfranchised, disallowed from voting. "People given the right to choose their leaders only need to comply with the 'at least 18 years old' age requirement and residency in the Philippines for at least one year", complained the late Miriam Defensor Santiago. These requirements, she believed, “are no longer enough for the 21st century.”

Santiago: Most voters, leaders not educated
Those who are “not educated for voting” are choosing from those who are “not educated for serving.” This, in Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s typically trenchant view, is what ails the Philippine body politic.

Fortunately, it is a democracy. While the choice of the people may not match those of the mapuputi ang kamay, thank the constitution that it is not any less clothed with authority. It is a fact that annoys civil society: why the rest of the country can disagree with them, that people may have choices very different from theirs.

It is a reality they always want to change.

And they have tried. It is easy to understand what prompted President Joseph Estrada to call the civil society the "evil society". If there is any sector that has always tried to subvert the will of the people, it is this thin sliver of society.

The epithet Bobotante is comfortable in the mouths of frustrated kingmakers, of civil society, whose attempts at shaping a country have been sad and all-too frequent failures.

They forget: their choices have not been any better. They forget: they had a president who was imprisoned, too.

"It doesn’t help that of the five presidents who came to power after Ferdinand Marcos, four were anointed by the nonpoor: Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Gloria Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino. The poor have only managed to defy the nonpoor with a single president (Estrada), and even then his term was a short-lived three years as his ouster was orchestrated by the nonpoor", so wrote Joel Ruiz Butuyan. "The succession of nonpoor anointed presidents and the achievements they made—higher GNP, credit rating upgrades, soaring stock market prices, malls in the provinces, and call center jobs aplenty—have improved only the lives of the nonpoor. The lives of the poor remain unchanged."

Similar dream, different lives
The latest survey showing Jejomar Binay as still the front-running presidential candidate has stirred the middle class and the rich (the “nonpoor”) to again mouth their pet refrain: The poor are to blame for all that ails this country because they are unintelligent voters who allow corrupt leaders t…

What then?

Win buy-in. Political campaigns are mostly waged in the mind. The campaign must convince; the customer must be wooed. Implore, beseech, convince. Most importantly, fix the strategy.

Philip Kotler, a major god in the pantheon of gods in management, marketing and change, author of the 4Ps of marketing, wrote, “buy-in is critical. Unless you win support, big ideas never seem to take hold or have the impact you want.”

Without buy-in, without people according your candidate a nod, without winning sympathy, the vision will be beyond reach.

If your candidates aren't doing well, they're either not positioned or packaged well, or they're not promoted sufficiently.

BOBOTANTE is the epithet used by supporters of losing candidates when lashing out.

"To persuade another with whom you disagree with is not to give him a disparaging look or to shout him down, but rather to use convincing reason in the next elections," suggests Dean Antonio La Viña

A caveat

While it will be difficult to change how the matapobre feels about the poor, they should be reminded that their arrogance imperils their comfort and safety, not just their candidates' chances of winning elections.

During the night of EDSA III (a term civil society folks prefer not used because it equates what they regard as a riot of the great unwashed with their People Power revolution), their boat was rocked intensely.

When President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo walked into the press conference after the tumult of the night, the relief was palpable, even via television. "Malacañang came close to collapse", wrote Glenda M. Gloria.

Edicio dela Torre described the convulsion that was EDSA III as the result of 100 days of 'panggigigil' (suppressed emotions), since it had been 100 days since the ouster of Estrada, the man the masses chose and installed.

The Filipino is resilient to a fault, as many have either hailed and bewailed. EDSA III, despite being hastily organized and having no unified command, provides us a recent example of what the masses can do when brought near breaking point.

The country is highly politicized, and it is a poor country. Encouraging or exploiting the divide between civil society and the poor undermines any hope of unity, compromising prospects of real progress. The Philippines, formerly referred to as the Poor Man of Asia, might just relapse, or, worse, implode.

BLAME THE THINKING, lack of resources. But you never blame the voter.

"Mocking the poor for their choice of political leaders—a choice dictated by sheer survival—amounts to mocking their misery and destitution", wrote Joel Ruiz Butuyan. Instead, take the long view: "To achieve the political change (you) long for is to work for the economic uplift of the poor."

Many who use the word bobotante have no inkling of how the poor live. Changing how they see things will require something similar to what progressives call immersion: live with the poor for a week, learn how they cope, feel the shape of their walls from the inside, see the despair in their lives, know that a pack of instant noodles is not a bowl for one but a viand shared by a family. And that is on a good day.

On other days, they make do with what Dr. Ned Roberto calls Surrogate Ulam. Salt, bagoong, sugar, soy sauce, pork oil, coffee, or condensed milk are viands. (An older study includes Pepsi). "In 2012, 45 percent of households in Metro Manila used such substitutes for their meals. The ratios for this were 59 percent in Balance Luzon, 64 percent in the Visayas, and 73 percent in Mindanao."

COPING WITH HUNGER: A pack of instant noodles does not make a bowl for one but a viand shared by a family.

People who use the word Bobotante freely and frequently forget that they are so few, and that the many surrounding their gated communities have pitchforks.

'Mabuti nalang katiting lang sila.
Mabuti na lang at may demokrasya.'

Vincent R. Pozon

After a year of college, Koyang entered advertising, and there he stayed for more than half a century, in various agencies, multinational and local. He is known for aberrant strategic successes (e.g., Clusivol’s ‘Bawal Magkasakit’, Promil’s ‘The Gifted Child’, RiteMED’s ‘May RiteMED ba nito?', VP Binay's 'Ganito Kami sa Makati', JV Ejercito's 'The Good One'). He is chairman of Estima, an ad agency dedicated to helping local industrialists, causes and candidates. He is co-founder and counselor for advertising, public relations, and crisis management of Caucus, Inc., a multi-discipline consultancy firm. He can be reached through vpozon@me.com.

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