OF TREES AND FOREST
By MANNY VILLAR
Three weeks into the campaign and the 62 senatorial aspirants are crisscrossing the archipelago, attending televised debates, recording TV and radio ads, meeting with campaign strategists, and putting their best foot forward before the electorate, who on May 13, will exercise their sacred right to choose their leaders.
If I wasn’t so focused on being an entrepreneur, I’d say I miss the campaign trail. But I love my renewed spirit of entrepreneurship. So what I can do is just offer my unsolicited advice to senatorial candidates. I have been through three congressional campaigns and three national elections so I have a bit of experience in this regard.
But I will not focus on the usual issues surrounding campaigns. I will not tell candidates how to run their campaigns. I know most people focus on campaign tactics. You must have the right strategy and a tight messaging. You need to put together an efficient organization to implement your strategy. You need to raise resources because national campaigns are very expensive. You need to brush up on many national and even local issues. You need to do all these things. They have well-paid, experienced campaign managers and strategists for that.
But let me just add one more thing about strategy. I think it is becoming increasingly important that candidates run a scientific campaign. What I mean is that your tactics and decisions must be based on data and credible information. Where you go, what your message is, where to get the required votes should not be based on conjectures or “kwentong kutsero.” It should be based on scientific research—surveys and FGDs will help a lot on this. But as I said, let us leave that to the experts.
I am more interested in the personal perspective of one who is running for office. This is going to be the toughest 90 days in a candidate’s life both physically and emotionally. Well, financially too but let’s leave that for another column. The campaign will take its toll on you. So it is important to keep a positive vibe.
Do not get too emotional. You are never going to please everyone. In an inherently partisan exercise such as an election campaign, you will be criticized. Some of them above, but many, below the belt. Especially in this age of social media when it is so easy for a viral fake news to destroy reputations. Your opponents will hit you hard but it is important to take it all in stride. Do not go down to their level. This is a campaign not a brawl. And do not forget what you are supposed to be doing—explaining your vision to our people.
Get to know the country and the people. The campaign trail will take you all over the country. It is exhausting but also rewarding. Use the campaign to know the country. When I ran for senator and later for president, I had the opportunity see, I mean really see, our beautiful country. You will visit areas you have never visited before. Take it in. Take your time to admire the beauty of the countryside. Cherish the chance to meet ordinary but fascinating people. Believe me, some of the best conversations I’ve had were with ordinary Filipinos who would just come up behind me, give me a hug and tell me stories about their lives.
Finally, and I believe, more importantly, have fun. I know political campaigns are grueling, tough, and tension-filled but enjoy the wild ride. Experience moments of joy and laughter with your staff and your family. For one, it creates a positive atmosphere in the campaign instead of making it gloomy and depressing. Humor is an important weapon for a successful campaign. This is an experience you will never forget, so make the most of it.