Are you a political officer, or do you work for someone planning to run for senator? Is your principal already a senator, and running for reelection? Is he or she presently occupying a different post, in the public or private sector, and planning to run for a seat in the Senate?

This article is about you, and them; or them, and you.

Here we will attempt to look at political operations, not strategic communications. This means we will try to answer the question “Where?”, not “How?”.

Ready?

 

Total Voting Population

The total voting population of the Philippines, according to the data used by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) for the 2016 national and local elections is 54,363,844.

To be sure, this figure would go up when the next elections come up, during the 2018 barangay elections, or during the 2019 midterm national and local elections.

Without a doubt, the best number that should be used for any discussion on elections is the actual and exact figure. However, due to the unavailability of anything definite at this time, the next best basis is the latest official figure, which is that number used during the 2016 national and local elections: 54,363,844. This is what will be used in all references to the total voting population in this article.

Set?

 

Number of Votes to Win in a Senatorial Election

Based on the results of the 2016 senatorial elections, a candidate for senator needs to get at least 14,144,070 votes (the number of votes garnered by the candidate who occupied the twelfth and last slot), or roughly 26% of the total voting population, or roughly 32% of those who actually voted, in order to win. For reference, the candidate who ranked first got 18,607,391 votes. This is roughly 34% of the total voting population, or roughly 42% of those who actually voted.

Based on a recent national survey on senatorial preferences for the 2019 senatorial elections, a candidate for senator needs to get 12,503,684 votes (the number of votes garnered by the presumptive candidate who occupied the twelfth and last slot), or roughly 23% of the total voting population, in order to win. No computations, as of yet, can be made based on the voter turnout, since the election has not yet taken place. But, if it is assumed that those who will actually vote in the 2019 elections is the same percentage as those who actually voted in the 2016 elections, then this same number of votes (12,503,6840) will be roughly 28% of the assumed voter turnout. For reference, the presumptive candidate who ranked first in the aforementioned survey got 36,967,414 votes. This is roughly 68% of the total voting population, or roughly 83% of those who are assumed to vote.

However, for purposes of setting targets, the rule is, as usual, as always: the higher, the better. Therefore, a relatively safe goal would be at around 30% of the total voting population (not of the assumed voter turnout). In the 2016 senatorial elections, the winning candidate who ranked sixth got 30% of the total voting population. In the pre-election survey for the 2019 senatorial elections mentioned above, the presumptive candidate who ranked sixth got 28% of the total voting population.

Therefore, to reiterate, 30% would be a relatively safe goal. 30% of the total voting population is 16,309,153 votes. This, then, is the target number of votes.

The question that this article will attempt to help answer, as previously mentioned, is not “How?”, but “Where?”, to find these more than sixteen million votes, given the reality that not all senatorial campaigns are created equal.

Go?

 

The Regional Landscape

The whole of Luzon comprises 55.95% of the total voting population.

The whole of Visayas comprises 20.69% of the total voting population.

The whole of Mindanao comprises 23.36% of the total voting population.

If we look at the National Capital Region (NCR) and its two neighbors, Regions III and IVA, then together they already comprise 36.66% of the total voting population.

In any case, these are the percentages of all the regions of the country, from highest to lowest:

Region                        %

1 Region IVA                14.02%

2 NCR                          11.50%

3 Region III                  11.14%

4 Region VII                 7.92%

5 Region VI                  7.80%

6 Region V                   5.74%

7 Region I                    5.43%

8 Region VIII                4.96%

9 Region XI                  4.89%

10 Region X                 4.67%

11 Region XII               4.15%

12 Region IX                3.55%

13 Region II                 3.53%

14 ARMM                    3.24%

15 Region IVB              2.92%

16 CARAGA                 2.85%

17 CAR                        1.67%

 

 

The Provincial Landscape

For purposes of this portion of the article, each city in the NCR shall be considered as a “province”. In addition, based on the COMELEC list, Cotabato City and Isabela City (Basilan) are treated as special provinces, so they shall both be treated in this portion of the article as “provinces” as well. Therefore, there are a total of 100 “provinces” in this portion of the article: 81 real provinces, 17 cities in the NCR, and 2 special provinces.

The top 3 real provinces out of 100 “provinces” (according to the number of registered voters) already comprise more than 10% of the total voting population.

The top 6 real provinces out of 100 “provinces” (according to the number of registered voters) already comprise more than 20% of the total voting population.

The top 10 real provinces out of 100 “provinces” (according to the number of registered voters) already comprise more than 30% of the total voting population.

The top 14 real provinces out of 100 “provinces” (according to the number of registered voters) plus Quezon City already comprise more than 40% of the total voting population.

The top 18 real provinces out of 100 “provinces” (according to the number of registered voters) plus Quezon City and Manila already comprise more than 50% of the total voting population.

The top 25 real provinces out of 100 “provinces” (according to the number of registered voters) plus Quezon City and Manila already comprise more than 60% of the total voting population.

The top 34 real provinces out of 100 “provinces” (according to the number of registered voters) plus Quezon City, Manila and Caloocan already comprise more than 70% of the total voting population.

The top 45 real provinces out of 100 “provinces” (according to the number of registered voters) plus Quezon City, Manila, Caloocan, Makati and Pasig already comprise more than 80% of the total voting population.

The top 56 real provinces out of 100 “provinces” (according to the number of registered voters) plus Quezon City, Manila, Caloocan, Makati, Pasig, Taguig, Valenzuela, Muntinlupa, and Las Piñas already comprise more than 90% of the total voting population.

This means that the remaining 25 real provinces, 8 cities in the NCR, and two special provinces (35 areas out of 100 areas) only comprise 10% of the total voting population.

 

The Voting Population of NCR Cities vis-à-vis Provinces

Quezon City (1,150,342) is comparable to Leyte (1,151,497). Leyte is the 13th largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

Manila (974,479) is comparable to Zamboanga del Sur (975,950). Zamboanga del Sur is the 15th largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

Caloocan (648,933) is comparable to Cagayan (647,035). Cagayan is the 26th largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

Makati (397,587) is comparable to Compostela Valley (408,539). Compostela Valley is the 43rd largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

Pasig (390,923) is comparable to Sultan Kudarat (392,693). Sultan Kudarat is the 45th largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

Taguig (369,095) is comparable to Surigao del Sur (367,528). Surigao del Sur is the 48th largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

Valenzuela (318,931) is comparable to Davao Oriental (319,942). Davao Oriental is the 56th largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

Muntinlupa (309,595) and Las Piñas (304,311) are comparable to Camarines Norte (300,890). Camarines Norte is the 57th largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

Parañaque (291,067) is comparable to Sarangani (300,075). Sarangani is the 59th largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

Pasay (253,824) is comparable to Occidental Mindoro (249,734). Occidental Mindoro is the 62nd largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

Marikina (217,711), Mandaluyong (200,760) and Malabon (194,733) are comparable to Tawi-Tawi (183,879). Tawi-Tawi is the 63rd largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

Navotas (125,795) is comparable to Aurora (126,525). Aurora is the 70th largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

San Juan (71,225) is comparable to Dinagat Islands (69,051). Dinagat Islands is the 77th largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

Municipality of Pateros (33,938) is not really comparable to any province, but the closest to it is Camiguin (57,570). Camiguin is the 80th largest province (out of 81) in terms of number of registered voters.

 

Allowable Expenses

Using the latest official figures, the law allows each candidate for senator to spend PhP163,091,532.00 (PhP3.00 per registered voter). If and when the candidate is without any political party and without support from any political party (running as a genuine independent), then the candidate can spend PhP271,819,220.00 (PhP5.00 per voter).

If and when the overseas absentee voters (1,376,067) are included in the computation of allowable expenses, and they must be included, it would be PhP167,219,733.00 and PhP278,699,555.00, respectively.

Per records of the COMELEC, based on the submitted Statement of Contributions and Expenses (SOCE) of the senatorial candidates for the 2016 elections, there were seven candidates who spent above and beyond the one hundred million mark, but still within the legally permissible expenditure levels:

1 PhP199,146,623.72 (independent candidate);

2 Php163,787,074.02 (with political party);

3 PhP157,077,338.62 (with political party);

4 PhP131,867,403.89 (with political party);

5 Php120,197,670.90 (with political party);

6 PhP119,420,789.92 (independent candidate);

7 PhP 106,788,173.62 (with political party).

One hundred million is one hundred million! Only seven out of 50, or 14%, of those in the certified list of candidates, were able to produce this kind of money. Be that as it may, two out of these seven lost, and three out of the five who won landed at the bottom six of the winner’s circle. Hence, campaign funds alone do not guarantee victory, or even a higher ranking. Thus, political strategists must look at other factors besides just having the money to spend, or at least strategize the wise use of resources even if they are abundant.

 

Practical Considerations

Now we know the total voting population, and the number of votes necessary to win in a senatorial election.

Now we know the regional landscape, the provincial landscape, and the voting population of NCR cities vis-à-vis provinces.

Now we know the allowable expenses.

But, still, the question remains: Where will we get the more than sixteen million votes to win?

 

1 Ideal Scenario

The ideal scenario, of course, is that a candidate for a seat in the Senate will visit, as well as engage in field operations in, each and every “province” (81 real provinces, 17 cities in the NCR, and 2 special provinces). In this portion of the article, we will also use the same treatment as previously made above, in that each city in the NCR shall be considered as a “province”. In addition, Cotabato City and Isabela City (Basilan) are treated as special provinces as well.

Field operations include, but are not limited to, full sorties, quick whistlestops, postering, leafletting, recorrida, among others. All these mean airline tickets, hotel accommodations, venue reservations, crowd mobilizations, vehicle rentals, design and printing of campaign materials, shipment and transportation of campaign materials, installation of campaign materials, distribution of campaign materials, among many other related and relevant expenditure items.

Assuming that a senatorial candidate has a campaign budget of at least PhP100,000,000, and, to reiterate, only seven out of 50, or 14%, of those in the certified list of candidates for the 2016 senatorial elections were able to produce this kind of money, then this would mean that this candidate would only have a budget of around PhP1,000,000 per “province” (81 real provinces, 17 cities in the NCR, and 2 special provinces). But, of course, this is further assuming that every centavo goes to field operations, which is never the case.

The truth of the matter is, the strategic communications aspect of the campaign, especially advertisements on television, radio, and print, as well as news management and media relations, usually eat up the chunk of the campaign fund, from a low of 60%, to a high of 80%, and even beyond.

Let us say, for example, that 70% goes to this component (strategic communications) of the campaign, then the PhP100,000,000 immediately becomes only PhP30,000,000 for field operations. Consequently, this translates into a budget of only PhP300,000 per “province” (81 real provinces, 17 cities in the NCR, and 2 special provinces).

To break it down further using the province of Cebu, the largest province in terms of number of registered voters (2,722,288), as the implementation area, this provincial budget translates into an equivalent of only around PhP5,660 for each of the three independent cities, six component cities, and 44 municipalities of Cebu. PhP5,660! Imagine spending only this amount of campaign budget for field operations during the entire duration of the official campaign period in cities like Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu City, or any other city or municipality for that matter! You cannot, right? This is like PhP63 per day for the 90-day official campaign period.

Even if we use Batanes, the smallest province in terms of number of registered voters (11,006), as the implementation area, the provincial budget translates into an equivalent of only around PhP42,857 for each of its seven municipalities. Remember, this budget is supposed to cover all these: airline tickets, hotel accommodations, venue reservations, crowd mobilizations, vehicle rentals, design and printing of campaign materials, shipment and transportation of campaign materials, installation of campaign materials, distribution of campaign materials, among many other related and relevant expenditure items. And, do not forget, this is for the entire duration of the official campaign period. It is still unimaginable, right? This is like PhP476 per day for the 90-day official campaign period. And this is already in the smallest province in the country, with only seven municipalities.

Again, the assumption in the above computations for Cebu and Batanes is that the budget of the candidate is at least PhP100,000,000, and 30% or PhP30,000,000 goes to field operations. What if the budget is smaller, or so much smaller, which is the case for most other candidates?

Now there is a reason why the ideal scenario is called an ideal scenario. It is merely ideal, never real.

Given the computations above, it even sounds way less than ideal, or not at all.

 

2 Real Situation

The real situation is that most campaigns do not have funds running in nine figures, while on the side noting that nobody has ever won a senatorial campaign spending less than eight figures.

It has already been repeatedly mentioned in this article that only seven out of 50, or 14%, of those in the certified list of candidates for the 2016 senatorial elections were able to raise and spend nine figures, and two of the seven even lost. Among the election winners, the lowest declared campaign expenditure is PhP34,781,663, while most spent within the vicinity of PhP90,000,000. Just for kicks, two of those who lost spent nine figures and five of those who lost spent eight figures. What a waste. Together they spent almost PhP700,000,000. And this amount only includes what were officially declared, and this amount does not yet include those who spent seven figures and less.

Anyway, this is how expensive running for office has become, and there is just no guarantee of victory, despite spending eight figures, or even nine figures.

The real situation is that most candidates can only personally visit only about half of the “provinces”, even less, or much less, during the entire duration of the official campaign period.

To start with, the official campaign period is only “90 days”.

To be sure, it is physically impossible for any candidate to visit a province or provinces each and every day during this time. If and when we assume that the candidate will spend all weekends as his or her rest days, which this two-day break per week usually happens anyway during a senatorial campaign whether weekends or not, then this “90 days” immediately becomes only 65 days (there are about 25 Saturdays and Sundays during the official campaign period for the 2019 senatorial elections). Therefore, this is already 35% less than the total number of “provinces” (81 real provinces, 17 cities in the NCR, and 2 special provinces).

Sure, a candidate can attempt to swing by two or more provinces in one and the same day, using jets and choppers (definitely not commercial airlines, with all the queuing and all the waiting), and of course a convoy of vehicles, but this would mean doing only quickies, and nothing deeper or wider. Without a doubt, this would also mean consuming a large portion of the total campaign budget just for these special and private transportation services. And, looking at the rough computations previously made above, it is simply impracticable to make this happen, or at least make them happen often enough.

The real situation is that there is no perfect campaign, or complete campaign, and a candidate can only do something so much, or be somewhere so much.

So there.

 

3 Proposed Solutions

The candidate must visit, and the campaign team must engage in field operations in, ONLY the top 34 real provinces out of 100 “provinces” (according to the number of registered voters) plus Quezon City, Manila and Caloocan which already comprise more than 70% of the total voting population.

Wild? Yes.

This means that the candidate, and the campaign team, will NOT hold events and activities, and all other types or forms of field operations, in the remaining 47 real provinces, 14 cities in the NCR, and two special provinces (63 out of 100 areas) which merely comprise 30% of the total voting population.

Wild? Yes.

The necessary implication, or consequence, of this kind of strategy is that the goal of getting 16,000,000 votes must be taken, mostly, from the 34 real provinces and the three cities in the NCR (as indicated above).

Of course, while being conservative is the way to go, being unrealistic is not. Therefore, in the computations on where to get the target number of votes, some should still be allocated to the areas that will not be included in the field operations, hoping that the strategic communications component of the campaign (especially advertisements on television, radio, and print, as well as news management and media relations) can and will already reach those places somehow.

In any case, for the purposes of this article, we will aim to get 90% of the target number of votes for the candidate (14,400,000) in the included areas of operation, and only 10% of the target number of votes for the candidate (1,600,000) in the excluded areas of operation.

 

As for the 90% (14,400,000), these are the target number of votes per area:

 

As for the 10% (1,600,000), these are the target number of votes per area:

 

In addition, these are the number of days that a candidate must visit the included areas of operation (based on 65 days as previously discussed):

 

If and when the candidate manages to get all of these votes in all of the above areas, then the candidate will most probably win, and will even more probably land somewhere in the middle of the winner’s circle. If and when the candidate falls short a little here and a little there, he or she can still win, but the chances are already bordering on the dangerous, especially if and when he or she falls short significantly in all or most areas.

The candidate, and the campaign team, must spend the field operations budget in ONLY the top 34 real provinces out of 100 “provinces” (according to the number of registered voters) plus Quezon City, Manila and Caloocan which already comprise more than 70% of the total voting population.

Wild? Yes.

This means that the candidate, and the campaign team, will NOT spend for events and activities, and all other types or forms of field operations, in the remaining 47 real provinces, 14 cities in the NCR, and two special provinces (63 out of 100 areas) which merely comprise 30% of the total voting population.

Wild? Yes.

But this means that more money will be spent in the areas where there are more voters, and less (or even zero) money is spent where there are less voters.

Therefore, using the same budget for field operations pegged at PhP30,000,000, instead of just having PhP300,000 per “province” (81 real provinces, 17 cities in the NCR, and 2 special provinces), we will now have more than PhP800,000 per area. But, of course, this is if we divide the field operations budget equally among the included areas of operation. And, of course, we will not.

 

This is a sample computation of a more scientific budgetary allocation:

 

4 Other Options

During the course of the campaign, not all provincial trips will begin and finish in “Manila”. This means that not all of these trips are “fly in/fly out” types where candidates get out from Manila on the first commercial flight available to visit a province then go back to Manila on the last commercial flight available from wherever he or she may be. If and when private planes are resorted to, depending on the area, several airports still do not have night flight capability, so either campaign time is very limited if round trip or the trip will only be one way. In not too few occasions, the trips are one way. In fact, many of the trips are really overnight or more nights, covering several provinces per leg. Therefore, if one or more of these provinces included in the particular leg may not be in the recommended list of 34 provinces and three cities, then minor field operations may be conducted in these “drop by” areas as well, since the candidate and the campaign team is already present in these areas anyway. It must be noted, however, that any time, effort and money spent on a non-priority area is time, effort and money NOT spent on a priority area.

While the earlier assumption was that there will be NO field trips on weekends, or that there will be at least a two-day break on a weekly basis to be considered as free time, this is a luxury that most candidates cannot afford. Usually, these days are spent by the candidate meeting with his campaign team, socializing with contributors or potential contributors, doing the rounds in mainstream and social media in the capital, or catching up on rest and sleep, and more rest, and more sleep. These days, however, can likewise be spent covering more ground, while still not leaving “Manila”. Remember the comparisons made between NCR Cities vis-à-vis Provinces? A candidate can choose to go to “alternative” locations. A candidate can choose to campaign in Makati (397,587) instead of going to Compostela Valley (408,539) which will require passing through Davao City by air then Davao del Norte by land; or campaign in Pasig (390,923) instead of going to Sultan Kudarat (392,693) which will require passing through General Santos City by air then South Cotabato by land; or campaign in Valenzuela (318,931) instead of going to Davao Oriental (319,942) which will require passing through Davao City by air then Davao del Norte by land; or campaign in Muntinlupa (309,595) or Las Piñas (304,311) instead of going to Camarines Norte (300,890) which will require passing through Camarines Sur by air or Laguna and Quezon by land; or campaign in Navotas (125,795) instead of going to Aurora (126,525) which will require passing through Bulacan, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija by land; and so on, and so forth (please refer to The Voting Population of NCR Cities vis-à-vis Provinces section above). The point is that if a candidate wants to run the extra mile, then the better destinations are the nearest, cheapest and hassle-free ones, which are similar or at least comparable anyway to the farther, more expensive and logistically-complicated areas. Actually, if and when the candidate decides to cover ALL of the 16 cities and one municipality in the NCR, using all or some of the supposed two-day break per week, then this would already be like covering at least 10 more provinces in addition to the priority areas.

Finally, let us talk about volunteers, whether by title or by action (yes, there are at least two kinds, and there are several combinations of these two kinds in varying degrees). Volunteers may offer time, effort and money. Volunteers may offer time and effort, but not money. Volunteers may offer money (this may be enough, this may not be enough), but not time and effort. Whatever it is, based on experience, there will always be expenses involved, even if volunteers offer time and effort, including money. There is rarely such a thing as everything. For example, let us say for the sake of argument that there is a volunteer in Dinagat Islands (69,051), or in Siquijor (68,988), or in Apayao (64,867). Materials still have to be produced, and these materials still have to be shipped, and the field operation to install these materials still have to be somehow coordinated by the internal campaign team, among others, thereby still taking organic time, effort and money away from the priority areas. To reiterate, any time, effort and money spent on a non-priority area is time, effort and money NOT spent on a priority area. Unless if these supposed volunteers commit 100%, which is, again, rare, then this type of campaign is not aggressively recommended, but may be carefully maneuvered to inflict as minimal interference as possible to the game plan. The best use, therefore, of volunteers, is that which drags the central campaign in the least way possible, which is social media (but this shall be discussed in a succeeding article).

 

Summary

First, aim to get around 30% of the total voting population (not of the assumed voter turnout) which is 16,309,153 votes.

Second, aim to raise at least PhP30,000,000 specifically for field operations, or whatever maximum amount can be raised specifically for field operations, then adjust accordingly by reducing (if the campaign fund is smaller) or increasing (if the campaign fund is larger) the budgetary allocation for some or all of the areas of operation.

Third, conduct field operations in ONLY the top 34 real provinces out of 100 “provinces” (according to the number of registered voters) plus Quezon City, Manila and Caloocan which already comprise more than 70% of the total voting population.

Fourth, allocate budget for ONLY the top 34 real provinces out of 100 “provinces” (according to the number of registered voters) plus Quezon City, Manila and Caloocan which already comprise more than 70% of the total voting population.

Fifth, strategically evaluate all the other options that may be available, while always bearing in mind that any time, effort and money spent on a non-priority area is time, effort and money NOT spent on a priority area.

Are you ready for wild? Wild could be the way to win.

 

Editor’s Note: The author is the Senior Vice President for Electoral Campaigns of ISTRATEHIYA, a one stop shop for all strategic communications and political operations requirements, whether for government or corporate affairs, or for elections purposes.

 

 

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