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When popularity, deep purse spell victory in party list race

It’s no surprise that groups that enjoy high name recall and those that can fund a nationwide campaign have made it to the top 10 in the party list elections, according to a dean of the University of the Philippines.

ACT-CIS, backed by broadcaster Erwin Tulfo, led the party list race with 2,595,767 votes based on the partial and unofficial tally of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)-Inquirer Transparency Server as of 11 a.m. on Thursday.

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Funds, Duterte supporters

“ACT-CIS has a lot of funds and they were campaigning nationwide,” Dean Ma. Fe Villamejor-Mendoza of the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

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It also helped that the Tulfos are vocal supporters of President Duterte, Mendoza said.

“They really heavily campaigned. It was tri-media plus social media. They were reaching out to those who felt like they had no voice and that’s very attractive messaging,” she said.

Other party list groups “simply don’t have that kind of campaign funds,” she noted.

 

DOT ad deal

The Tulfos were involved in the controversial multimillion-peso advertising deal involving the Department of Tourism (DOT) then headed by their sister Wanda Tulfo-Teo, People’s Television Network Inc. and Tulfo-owned Bitag Media Unlimited Inc.

“So, of course you know where the campaign funds came from, di ba?” Mendoza said.

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Two groups that bear the title of the popular television series “Ang Probinsyano” in their names have also made it to the top 10.

Ang Probinsyano (fifth as of Thursday morning) and Probinsyano Ako (eighth) both used the popular television series to attract votes, Mendoza said.

“Even if those two party lists did not have clear platforms, they saw that they could win because of the popularity of the TV show. In fact, Ang Probinsyano was even endorsed by Coco Martin, the actual lead actor of the program,” said the UP official.

The party list system was originally envisioned to give marginalized sectors more representation in the House of Representatives. But it has evolved to become a way into politics for members of political families who might not be seen as sure winners in the congressional districts.

‘Bastardized’

“[The victory of Ang Probinsyano and Probinsyano Ako] also tells us how party list as a system to enter politics has been bastardized, especially by those already associated with political families,” said Prof. Jean Encinas-Franco of the University of the Philippines’ political science department.

Probinsyano Ako’s first nominee, Rudy Caesar Fariñas, is a scion of a powerful political clan. He is the son of outgoing Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas.

On its Facebook page,  the group said it wanted to be the voice of the Ilocanos in Congress. Photos from the campaign trail, however, saw its members campaigning heavily in regions outside Ilocos, such as Ilagan City in Isabela province (Region 2), Baguio City (Cordillera Administrative Region), Tarlac City (Region 3) and San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan (Region 3).

The Fariñas family, which also owns a bus company, put campaign materials on its entire Metro Manila fleet.

UP Dean Mendoza said Probinsyano Ako benefited from the celebrity endorsers of Ang Probinsyano.

“There’s definitely windfall to the other one, and they benefited since people thought they were related,” she said.

Ang Probinsyano’s nominees are Alfred delos Santos, Ronnie Ong, Edward delos Santos, Ronaldo Tuazon and Eubendino Bitor.

Guaranteed seats

Under the party list system, a group needs to get 2 percent of the total votes for party list to win a seat.

What remains of the 59 seats allotted in the House for party list groups will be distributed among the groups that got more than 2 percent. At most, a group can get three seats.

Both Ang Probinsyano and Probinsyano Ako are almost guaranteed of at least one seat in the House.

Because party list groups were randomly arranged on the ballot in the midterm elections instead of being listed alphabetically as in previous polls, the groups have had to look for more creative ways to stand out, Mendoza said.

Hence, the use of popular personalities like the Tulfos and Coco Martin.

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