On Thursday, May 4, Facebook and other social media sites enjoyed yet another massive influx of clicks and shares thanks to the looming presidential elections. The seed of the uproar? A political ad targeting Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and his, oftentimes, rough manners. It aired on ABS-CBN, paid for by vice presidential candidate, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
The pro-Digong camp absolutely hated it. Watch if you haven't:
If you belong in the Duterte camp, the only natural reaction is to fight back. If this were hoops, that's your team being called shit by its rivals. Hindi ka aatras. If anything, such an attack only makes you want to lock arms with people who share your beliefs and march forward against a common enemy. That enemy, at the moment, is Trillanes whose obvious aim was to break the momentum of Duterte's campaign—as he had done so by exposing Duterte's alleged secret wealth. Conflicting reports and unproven documents had blunted the force of that attack.
As for the controversial advertisement, it's too early to tell what the fallout will be, but our gut tells us that that too will fall short of making a significant dent in Duterte's bid—to the joy of some, to the dismay of some. We wonder what return on investment Trillanes is expecting out of these, suddenly coming out of the woodwork to brandish the biggest pitchforks against the Davao mayor.
Now how about the voters whose pitchforks aren't pointed at anyone in particular and are undecided? Will this be the ad that sways their vote? Is this the ad that makes them say "Tangina, ayokong matutong magmura ang mga anak ko, hindi ko na iboboto si Duterte"? The ad certainly attempts to make an appeal to the emotion, taking carefully selected bits of Duterte's patented gutter language and juxtaposing them with footage of wide-eyed kids learning from his examples. Don't forget the ominous music, too.
The truth definitely hurts, says Trillanes. And Trillanes isn't entirely lying either. Kids do have this tendency of emulating grown-ups, specially those looked upon as authority figures. In that sense, he has a point that's worth weighing. For some—young parents with kids who are as old as the ones in the ad—that point will be heavy enough to tip the scales to another candidate. It's an important segment: Twenty-eight million of the 50 million registered voters come from Generation X (1961-1980) and Generation Y (1981-2000). The young parents that the ad targeted will most likely come from these generations.
Most likely, however, the said demographic is a sensible, thinking bunch. They'll see the ad for what it really is: a poisoning of the well that features a jumble of "negative" moments taken out of context. It feels like a last-ditch effort to down a candidate who has shown a measure of invulnerability against controversies that would've taken down less charismatic presidentiables. There's a sense of desperation emanating from this sudden barrage aimed at Duterte. Unfortunately for detractors, it feels like this sort of attack might be too shallow and weak to hold back its target's march. Look at the actual YouTube page of the video. Of the 117,000 views since being uploaded yesterday, it has received 2,345 thumbs down versus the 320 thumbs up. It's a small sample size, but you can see that, on YouTube at least, the video hasn't had its desired effect.
To be clear, we aren't promoting Duterte in this article. We are merely pointing out the fact that the advertisement, in no uncertain terms, wants to bring down Duterte. Their means, however, feel like simplistic political mudslinging to which people are too aware of and are tired of nowadays. Today's better-informed electorate isn't as easily swayed by campaigns that attempt to pander to emotion. Just ask Vice President Jejomar Binay and his attempt to gain sympathy by calling himself "pandak" and "nognog."
If anything, such efforts are insulting to the intelligence of the voting populace. In spite of a still-present tribal mindset ("my candidate is better than your candidate!") they respond more to carefully arbitrated public debates than to classic trapo-moves such as this one.
But this is the twelfth round, guys. And someone needs a knockout. People will be attempting to throw haymakers—lowblows, even. These miss more often than not, and thus, we go to the cards come May 9.