The single most formidable political force in the country today as shown by the results of the May 13 elections is not President Duterte nor his daughter, Sara, who made her debut in the national political scene with her newly-formed party Hugpong ng Pagbabago.
It is ABS-CBN’s top-rating soap opera “Ang Probinsyano. “
It also affirms what surveys have been showing that television, not social media, is still the number one source of information by the electorate.
Just to show how much the Filipino people believe in the longest running soap opera in the country, two partylist groups bearing the name “Probinsyano” – Ang Probinsyano and Probinsyano Ako – are in the top ten, assured of seats in the House of Representatives.
Lito Lapid, the movie actor-turned- politician whose unimpressive 12-year stint in the Senate (2004 – 2016) is best described by Senate reporters as chairman of the committee on silence, won another term.
What did he do in the three years that he was out of the political scene and why did he not fade away in the people’s mind? He was Romulo “Leon” Dumaguit, in “Ang Probinsyano”, the leader of the rebel group Pulang Araw who later formed a vigilante group with the main character, SPO2 Ricardo Dalisay, played by movie actor Coco Martin.
He also joined in ABS-CBN’s provincial tours promoting “Ang Probinsyano”, always in the camera frame with Martin.
In a way, re-electionist Grace Poe’s number two showing, despite his seemingly low-key campaign, can also be attributed to the political clout of “Ang Probinsyano”, which is based on her late father, Fernando Poe Jr.’s 1997 film of the same title. Her mother, Susan Roces, is one of the characters in the soap opera.
Poe was endorsed by Martin, who has the highest endorsement value among celebrities, according to Publicus, a group that does political analysis and strategy.
Can Ang Probinsyano sustain its popularity up to 2022? What if Coco Martin runs for public office?
Many are also wondering if Ang Probinsyano’s political influence would have an effect on Duterte’s desire to oust the Lopez family out of ABS-CBN?
While many of those who oppose President Duterte are dismayed that none of the Otso Diretso candidates did not win, outgoing senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a consistent critic of Duterte, sees a silver lining for the opposition.
In an analysis of the election results, Trillanes said, “Believe it or not, despite the undeniably wholesale defeat of the opposition at the polls, there were so many positive takeaways that we, the enlightened Filipinos, can build on moving forward.
“First, the Duterte cult image and following have been shattered. In the aftermath of the 2016 elections, the euphoria, optimism and conviction of the Duterte voters were so contagious, that almost all the Roxas, Poe and Binay voters were instantly converted. They hoped that Duterte, the so-called architect behind the ‘safest city in the world,’ would indeed deliver on his promises. He is the One, his diehards claim. Well, that illusion is over now and it wasn’t even fun while it lasted. Regardless what the faux surveys say about his approval rating, the way Filipinos regarded him in June 2016, is much different than the way they regard him now.
“While the spin masters and the uninitiated would claim that the election results reflected the dominance of the Duterte brand, most of the winners in the Senate race are already established names in politics, who would’ve won regardless of who is the sitting President they’re allied with. Also, Tolentino was the 13th placer in the 2016 race, so he is not really considered a newcomer. Therefore, only Bong Go and Bato Dela Rosa can be considered Duterte creations and alter egos. Other candidates that he or daughter Sarapersonally endorsed for the Senate, like Dong Mangudadatu, Jinggoy Estrada, Jiggy Manicad, Freddie Aguilar and Raffy Alunan, lost badly too. Even close ally and incumbent Senator JV Ejercito is in danger of losing his seat.
“As to Bong Go, think about it, after pouring billions of pesos before and during the campaign; pressuring the LGUs to deliver their command votes; getting endorsements from major religious groups; and being personally campaigned for by a supposedly extremely popular incumbent president; he was only able to muster at most 44 per cent of the vote.
“Hypothetically, if the LGUs were neutral instead of delivering the command vote for the admin candidates, Bam Aquino would’ve easily ended up being in the top 6 and Mar Roxas in the top 12. Or, if you give the lesser known opposition candidates just a hundred million pesos each for their TV ads, they would’ve made it, too. Consider this, Gary Alejano, the Magdalo candidate, who was a relatively unknown name in national politics prior to the campaign, spent approximately three million pesos in TV ads and yet he garnered more than 4.5 million votes.
“In sum, there was no Duterte factor in this election, only the usual money politics in full display, plus the expected political pressure on the LGUs. “
Trillanes took note that Bam Aquino garnered more than 14 million votes. “It could be a base that the opposition could build on for the political battles ahead,” he said.