The lunar “ghost month” ends this week.  As of today, the two publicly known pollsters, Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations,  shall have finished their field research, and are tabulating their findings.  Next week, could be even in the next few days, the findings will be out.

One should normally expect the Liberal’s Mar Roxas to have a “bump” after his public anointing followed by political hyper-activity, on the air with all those ads with PNoy,  as well as in the hustings.  How big a bump is worth the suspense, never mind Edgar Erice’s “in-house” blather.

And what about Binay, who has been doing retail campaigning, scooping rice with his hands in public “lamon” shows called “boodle fights”, shaking every hand and kissing every lola and tiya along the way?  Did this stave off a further decline in his ratings, as the Liberals wish?  Or is his  “solid” 20-25 percent, as the UNA claims, still loyal to him?

What about Senadora Grace?  Did her much criticized reaction to the INC rally shave off some points from her popularity index?  (One survey did not capture that moment in their snapshot.  As for the other, Poe’s “pandering” to the religious sect may not have gained enough traction yet in the respondents’ minds).  Did her FPJ-inspired ads inspire?  Did the Rizalito David charges before the SET resonate enough, or was the Poe camp’s deflection of the citizenship cum residency issue into the “awa”-inducing  foundling tale generate even greater sympathy?

In fact, I hear from some quarters close to her that our common friend, Bibeth Orteza and her husband, the acclaimed director Carlitos Siguion Reyna, are filming a new ad revolving around the child found in a baptismal font at the Jaro Cathedral.  Clearly trying to awaken, and hopefully reinforce sympathetic emotions.

What upon the other hand, is the effect on the random respondents of Duterte’s hemming and hawing?  “Pabebe”, some netizens commented.  Has his novelty worn off from so much denial? 

Last Monday afternoon, Duterte, in his native Davao, called a press conference to announce that he would not run for the presidency in 2016.  It was a statement that caught his supporters and friends by complete surprise.  Somewhere in Makati, a group was preparing campaign plans, discussing budgets, organization, and staffing patterns.  Suddenly, at a quarter before five, the news from Davao adjourned the meeting abruptly.

So what will the snapshot of the last few days of August and the first September morn days state?

Since Duterte’s startling announcement is not yet captured by the field research, my sense is:  Grace will still be on top, with her numbers in the mid-30s.  Binay will still be second in the low 20s, but his decreasing numbers would be so close to Duterte and Roxas.  In fine, the three major presidentiables will be closely bunched together, almost 20, but not quite.  Erap would be in the higher single digits, seven points or so.  And the rest would be in the very low single digits.

The question after the September morn snapshots will be:  Can Grace sustain her numbers?  What will happen at the SET?  Questions of her qualifications will continue to hound her, courtesy of both the Mar and Jojo camps, and independent citizens like Rizalito.

Just remember that periodic surveys are snapshots of a particular time frame.  They change, not with the seasons, as our El Nino will mean hot days from now until after the elections of 2016, punctuated by a strong typhoon or two in the last four months of this year.  They change depending on whether the contender’s message attracts, resonates and becomes a reason to believe.

Or whether his or her political narrative becomes, well … “panis”, “bumenta na”, “trapo ang dating”, “ay, mali!”, “gimmick lang ‘yan”, “nambobola”, “walang pagbabago”… whatever.

Recall that in 2009, following the death of President Cory and the outpouring of public sympathy towards her family, PNoy felt the pressure among his Liberal party-mates to run for president, in place of the single-digit rating Mar Roxas.  By September, the Makati Business Club, which had joined the hallelujah chorus, commissioned a Lingayen-to-Lucena-corridor quick turn-around survey.  The result?  An astounding 54 percent for PNoy.

But as political fortunes would have it, PNoy’s nationwide numbers tumbled down to 36 percent by end-January 2010, days before the official campaign period began.  Meanwhile, on the back of a catchy jingle and very good advertising campaign, Manny Villar’s numbers inched up to 34 percent, placing him in a statistical tie with PNoy.

What does this tell us?  That it’s too early to predict “winners” and dump “losers”.  Voters will cast their ballots on May 9 next year.  That’s 243 days from now, and a lot of twists and turns can yet happen along the way to D-Day.

Remember how in 2004, everyone and his mother swooned over the certainty of an FPJ victory, and how little by little, the sitting president, Gloria ate into the movie idol’s numbers inch after inch?  And how a confused campaign and a difficult-to-handle principal agonizingly caused the late FPJ’s “sure win” to become a tight race.

Gloria won with a little help from Garci.  And the legendary FPJ resigned himself to a bitter loss, which could have led to his early demise.  Quite sad.

The 1992 presidential elections was one of the most hotly contested in contemporary Philippine history.  Monching Mitra had virtually every local politician and congressman in his pocket at the start of the game.  Fidel Valdez Ramos had only seven congressmen and a gaggle of local officials when he bolted the LDP and formed his Lakas-NUCD.  But the Cory Aquino endorsement became a potent weapon that ate into Mitra’s machinery advantage.  It likewise helped that FVR, one of the leaders of the Edsa Uno uprising, had quietly organized his own personal political machine while he was Cory’s defense secretary.  And he himself was a good strategist, having been a military tactician throughout his career. 

The real surprise of that season was Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the fiery Ilongga who parlayed a mere bureau director’s position into a launching pad for the presidency, capturing the imagination of the nation’s youth, and almost made it.

Not until the last two weeks of the 1992 campaign did it become clear that Mitra would lose, and that the contest was widely thought to be a toss-up between FVR and Ambassador Eduardo Cojuangco, who got the INC endorsement.  Little did pundits expect that it would be a cliffhanger between FVR and Miriam.

Even closer in time, nobody gave Binay a Chinaman’s chance as vice president when the campaign started.  The INC went for an Aquino-Roxas ticket.  Yet Binay squeaked to victory with a 700,000 vote margin.  Imagine if the INC had endorsed him, that lead over Mar would have been some two million.

So relax.  The Third Quarter readings are just that—readings of a particular point in time.  September morn’s front-runner may be a goner by December eve.  Next week’s tail-ender may yet spring a surprise come January.

And there’s 90 days of an official campaign starting Feb. 8, 2016.  Anything can happen in the topsy-turvy world of Philippine politics.  Don’t even discount the possibility of No-El.

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