Loren's edge, from a Manila Times column

Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The Manila Times

By Marlen V. Ronquillo

Loren’s edge

Young Filipino voters can be broken down into two types. The first one vote for leaders. The second type vote for saviors.

The youth leaders who reportedly picked their presidential preference several days back and named Mar Roxas and Manuel Villar as their number one and number two choice definitely belong to the first type. They voted for their kind of leaders and role models.

Career-oriented and success-oriented young men and women obsessed with upward mobility tend to go for Roxas and Villar. Roxas and Villar are rich, relatively young and they move in the circles of the rich, young and powerful. Appended to their names are impressive corporations and holdings, which they or their families own.

They are, undeniably, ideal role models for young men and women that have high aims and big ambitions. Who would not covet top-of-the-line SUVs?

The problem is there is not much in the country’s current demographics—youth demogra­phics to be specific—that indicates that Roxas and Villar automatically gets a political edge because the young and the ambitious are backing them.

Of the total youth population, only 20 percent go to college after high school, and a very negligible share of this 20 per cent gain entry into premier schools such as UP and Ateneo de Manila.

The bulk of the 20 per cent that enters (or gets admitted into) a non-premier college and university has very modest ambition in life. This is to secure a decent job so he or she can help defray the family expenses or send a younger sibling to college. There is no ambition to be a Master of the Universe.

The 80 percent that does not go to college either gets a voc-tech education or joins the armies of drifting, aimless young men and women.

There is a wall that practically separates this bracket of struggling young men and women from the class that aspires to be a CEO, CFO or COO. A huge chasm separates their dreams and hopes and life direction. The Masters aspire to lead, the struggling group has modest goals.

The struggling young men and women (and this makes up the majority of the Filipino young) will vote not for role models. They will vote for somebody who they feel will give them a fighting chance in life, a leader cum equalizer. These young men and women are not at all dazzled by wealth and glamour (which they will not have) and by the long list of corporate holdings appended to the names of Villar and Roxas.

These young men and women will vote for a savior. And this is the huge voting bloc that will give the definitive edge to Senator Loren Legarda in case she runs for the presidency.

This is a silent voting bloc that is outside of the media and polling loop. It is a giant of a sleeper that is capable of delivering a tidal wave of votes. More, because its voters are driven more by desperation than ambition, there is a guarantee that they will walk miles to vote for their preferred candidate for president. And their candidate of choice is Sen. Legarda.

The plus of Senator Legarda is this: while she is the unanimous choice of the youth voters looking for a savior, she also scored decently in the poll among youth leaders. The best of both worlds, so to speak.

That she has no corporate baggage to speak is another plus for Senator Legarda . In a long campaign, the long list of corporate holdings attached to the name of a candidate becomes a drag. Questions are inevitably asked on the possible vested interests of presidential candidates. Doubts start to form in the voters’ consciousness.

Admittedly, there is another candidate who will present himself as a savior, Vice President Noli de Castro. But the camp of Senator Legarda can easily eviscerate his appeal with the youth sector looking for a savior rather than a role model.

With the following as anchor arguments, Noli de Castro’s candidacy can readily go down in tatters:

1. He is a stooge of the Arroyo administration;

2. He is a toady of a powerful business family;

3. He lacks the IQ to be a national leader;

4. His integrity is not beyond question; and

5. He has been a fence-sitter for long.

In 2010, the Lakas-Kampi endorsement that Noli will surely get is the equivalent of a kiss of death.

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