The May-June Pulse Asia Survey results report, for the first time since he declared his intention to run, Vice President Jejomar Binay not in first place among presidential contenders for the upcoming elections. This result is not entirely a surprise. Since the middle of 2014, Binay has been experiencing a steady decrease in his presidential preference rating as well as his overall approval as the public has been inundated with evidence detailing his and his family’s corruption in government and accumulation of wealth, while Binay and his plethora of spokespeople have not been able to credibly respond.

What, perhaps, is surprising is the class breakdown of Binay’s support.

Binay Presidential Preference (Pulse Asia)

Socioeconomic Class March 2015 June 2015
ABC 22 29
D 30 20
E 33 26

Between March and June, ABC classes were the only socioeconomic section where preference for Binay rose. Preference for Binay markedly dropped among D and E classes. In June, the ABC classes expressed the highest level of support for Binay while the D class expressed the lowest level of support for Binay. With a margin of error of ±3, all of these shift are statistically significant.

In recent years, “bobotantes” has been gaining traction as a pejorative term that essentially blames voters for the ills of Philippine politics. The term refers to voters who elect, and especially re-elect corrupt or poorly performing public officials, and often goes with the assumption that those who do so are poor and uneducated. Some of those who assail so-called “bobotantes” even go so far as to suggest that the Philippines would be better off if elections were determined exclusively by the middle class and that there should be formal education requirements in order to qualify to vote – something that harks to the days when property requirements and literacy tests were used to keep democracy exclusionary.

Many of the self-styled intelligista have blamed the career and popularity of VP Binay on these “bobotantes.” It seems an obvious connection. The public image Binay seeks to project is designed to pander to the poorer classes. Emphasizing his humble upbringing and his dark skin (which unfortunately and quite disgustingly continues to be associated with economic class in the Philippines) has been a central part of the Binay narrative. Meanwhile, the Binay machinery is a quintessential exemplar of clientelism. Both in Makati as well as nation-wide through the sister-cities and other programs, the Binay machine provides much-needed services and benefits. While providing services is no doubt part and parcel of what a government official should do, what makes the Binay version clientelistic is that it is predicated on a patron-client relationship or a quid-pro-quo between him and voters. If the voter does not adhere to Binay’s or his area leaders’ demands, the voter can be excluded from these services. For example: Binay touts that hospital care and senior citizen benefits are free in Makati (which is also not completely true). However, openly criticizing Binay or refusing to attend a pro-Binay rally can result in the revocation of these benefits. Those known to be critical of the Vice President may be the only ones among their neighbors to not receive calamity assistance during the constant flooding that happens during the rainy season. While healthcare and calamity assistance are certainly forms of services, these Makati programs are designed to allow the Mayor to control the population by selectively excluding people from what should be public benefits. Instead of truly universal healthcare that would allow any number of forms of proof that one is a Makati resident, residents must apply for yellow cards with the Binay logo that require, among other documents, barangay clearance. The overwhelming majority of barangay captains are, of course, part of the Binay machinery. Instead of fixing drainage and floodways, the city reserves money for household-level calamity assistance bags, complete with the Binay logo. In this way, Binay uses what should be public funds and programs as a method of instilling personal loyalty and control. Residents always live under the threat that their benefits may be taken away.

Those who have blamed Binay’s heretofore survey performance on “bobotantes” presumably believe that Binay’s image as a “poor dark-skinned orphan” resonantes with poorer and less educated voters and that poorer households, because of their greater need for services, are more vulnerable to clientelistic control. They believe that poorer voters do not care about Binay’s corruption as long as they receive clientelistic benefits. On the other hand, middle and upper class voters are value-voters better able to judge politicians without being tainted by clientelism. This latest Pulse Asia survey, however, suggests that these assumptions are wrong.

Binay’s support among the ABC classes has been statistically consistent since September of 2014 until this most recent survey when it shot up by 7 points. The prior consistency could perhaps be explained by the theory that most middle and upper class voters had already firmly made up their minds about Binay or were already aware of his corruption, and so were not swayed by revelations over the last ten months. However, I am at a loss when trying to think of explanations for this latest spurt among upper and middle class support. I am not aware of any of Binay’s efforts to appeal to the middle and upper classes (besides promises of positions and public works contracts, but which I would imagine are limited to a population too small to have an impact on this survey) and there has been no change in his narrative to make him more appealing to upper and middle classes.

On the other hand, Binay’s main response to the flood of evidence linking him to corruption has been to ramp up local organizing and campaigning, which include media events that pander to his “I came from poverty and am down to earth” image (i.e. boodle fights), the increased distribution of goods, and loyalty checks among local organizers. These all indicate intensified appeals to the D and E classes, including intensified clientelism. By blatantly skirting the ever-growing issues of corruption and believing that entertainment and dole-outs would be adequate distractions to the issues, Binay, like those who use “bobotantes,” assumes that poorer voters are stupid, value-less, and easily bought. However, Binay’s steady decline among both the D and E classes illustrates how erroneous it is to assume that poorer voters are so easily manipulated.

There is no single panacea to the ills of Philippine politics. Meaningful reform and transformation will require the combination of many efforts and solutions. Excluding those assumed to be “bobotantes” from the democratic process is not one of these solutions. Exposing and opposing boboliticos is.

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District Reps. that voted for 1109 that won with less than 50% of votes

Name Percentage Votes Won Total Votes Cast Province Party
CAJAYON, MARY MITZI LIM

27.96%

33575

120099

Kalookan LP
AGYAO, MANUEL SWEGEN

29.05%

23890

82241

Kalinga KAMPI
ARENAS, MA. RACHEL JIMENEZ

30.11%

62046

206049

Pangasinan Lakas-CMD
UY, ROLANDO ADLAO

30.75%

17,513

56,962

Cagayan de Oro City Independent
SOLIS, JOSE GUYALA

31.90%

34,860

109,262

Sorsogon KAMPI
GARAY, FLORENCIO CUATON

32.93%

29,219

88,730

Surigao del Sur Uno
LUNA, CECILIA SEARES

34.87%

34103

97808

Abra LP
ARAGO, MARIA EVITA RODA

35.87%

60,449

168,528

Laguna LP
AQUINO, JOSE II SABIJON

36.28%

43,215

119,126

Agusan del Norte Lakas-CMD
DUEÑAS, HENRY JR. MONTES

36.65%

28564

77935

Taguig KDT
BELMONTE, VICENTE JR. FLORENDO

37.14%

60,054

161,706

Lanao del Norte UNO
PIÑOL, BERNARDO JR. FANTIN

37.41%

62,973

168,315

Cotabato (North) Lakas-CMD
GO, ARNULFO FEGARIDO

37.63%

30757

81726

Sultan Kudarat KAMPI
JIKIRI, YUSOP HUSSIN

38.04%

38,839

102,102

Sulu Lakas-CMD
BAGATSING, AMADO SEVILLA

38.77%

42138

108685

Manila KAMPI
PANCRUDO, CANDIDO JR. PIOS

38.96%

39,136

100,461

Bukidnon Lakas-CMD
SANDOVAL, ALVIN SOTECO

40.19%

71490

177867

Malabon LP
BICHARA, AL FRANCIS DEL CASTILLO

40.46%

62,370

154,141

Albay NP
SUSANO, MARY ANN LABORERO

40.85%

119089

291502

QC Lakas-CMD
ANGPING, MARIA ZENAIDA

41.99%

33427

79,603

Manila NPC
SALVACION, ANDRES JR. DALDE

42.22%

29,720

70,399

Leyte PDSP
UNGAB, ISIDRO TOM

43.14%

49,264

114,195

Davao City PDP-Laban
DUMPIT, THOMAS JR. DE LARA

44.81%

69022

154021

La Union KAMPI
ROMULO, ROMAN TECSON

45.02%

97204

215900

Pasig KAMPI
ABANTE, BIENVENIDO JR. MIRANDO

45.31%

40371

89102

Manila Lakas-CMD
GONZALES, AURELIO JR. DUEÑAS

45.45%

84797

186564

Pampanga KAMPI
MENDOZA, MARK LLANDRO LATORRE

45.73%

97218

212592

Batangas NPC
SY-ALVARADO, MA. VICTORIA REYES

46.05%

98664

214268

Bulacan Lakas-CMD
RUIZ, NERISSA CORAZON SOON

46.16%

116,115

251,525

Cebu KAMPI
EMANO, YEVGENY VINCENTE BEJA

48.32%

77,076

159,519

Misamis Oriental Lakas-CMD
SAN LUIS, EDGAR SULIT

48.46%

96038

198184

Laguna Independent
NICOLAS, REYLINA GESTUVO

48.94%

88121

180047

Bulacan Lakas-CMD
ENVERGA, WILFRIDO MARK

49.41%

74921

151635

Quezon KAMPI
ABLAN, ROQUE JR. RAVELO

49.90%

58292

116820

Ilocos Norte Lakas-CMD
SALIMBANGON, BENHUR LAGO

49.90%

67,277

134,813

Cebu KAMPI

District Reps. that voted for 1109 with smallest margins of victory in 2007 – Bottom 30

Name Votes won Votes won by #2 Difference Province Party
SALIMBANGON, BENHUR LAGO

67,277

67,173

104

Cebu KAMPI
PANCRUDO, CANDIDO JR. PIOS

39,136

38,935

201

Bukidnon Lakas-CMD
LUNA, CECILIA SEARES

34103

33493

610

Abra LP
ARENAS, MA. RACHEL JIMENEZ

62046

61429

617

Pangasinan Lakas-CMD
GARAY, FLORENCIO CUATON

29,219

28,547

672

Surigao del Sur Uno
BRAVO, NARCISO JR. RECIO

27,726

26,917

809

Masbate KAMPI
MAMBA, MANUEL NOVENO

71413

70549

864

Cagayan LP
UY, ROLANDO ADLAO

17,513

16,555

958

Cagayan de Oro City Independent
DIASNES, CARLO OLIVER DONA

4430

3454

976

Batanes KAMPI
SANDOVAL, ALVIN SOTECO

71490

70331

1159

Malabon LP
DUEÑAS, HENRY JR. MONTES

28564

27107

1457

Taguig KDT
SALVACION, ANDRES JR. DALDE

29,720

28,244

1476

Leyte PDSP
AGYAO, MANUEL SWEGEN

23890

22408

1482

Kalinga KAMPI
MERCADO, ROGER GAVIOLA

82,583

80,956

1627

Southern Leyte KAMPI
ABLAN, ROQUE JR. RAVELO

58292

56072

2220

Ilocos Norte Lakas-CMD
SOLIS, JOSE GUYALA

34,860

31,840

3020

Sorsogon KAMPI
BARZAGA, ELPIDIO JR. FRANI

188009

184626

3383

Cavite KAMPI
RUIZ, NERISSA CORAZON SOON

116,115

112,475

3640

Cebu KAMPI
CAJAYON, MARY MITZI LIM

33575

29773

3802

Kalookan LP
AQUINO, JOSE II SABIJON

43,215

39,403

3812

Agusan del Norte Lakas-CMD
TUPAS, NIEL JR. CAUSING

66,437

62,368

4069

Iloilo LP
ABANTE, BIENVENIDO JR. MIRANDO

40371

35089

5282

Manila Lakas-CMD
CHONG, GLENN ANG

36,097

30,356

5741

Biliran LP
ROBES, ARTURO BARDILLON

55278

49485

5793

San Jose del Monte City KAMPI
NAVA, JOAQUIN CARLOS RAHMAN ARANO

37,285

31,223

6062

Guimaras KAMPI
BAGATSING, AMADO SEVILLA

42138

36023

6115

Manila KAMPI
GATCHALIAN, REXLON TING

36251

29944

6307

Valenzuela NPC
MENDOZA, MARK LLANDRO LATORRE

97218

90184

7034

Batangas NPC
ROMARATE, GUILLERMO JR. ABITONA

68,534

61,431

7103

Surigao del Norte KAMPI/Padajon Surigao
COQUILLA, TEODULO MONTANCES

86,232

78,956

7276

Eastern Samar PMP

District Reps. that voted for 1109 with smallest margins of victory in 2007 – Bottom 30

Name Votes won Votes won by #2 Difference Province Party
SALIMBANGON, BENHUR LAGO

67,277

67,173

104

Cebu KAMPI
PANCRUDO, CANDIDO JR. PIOS

39,136

38,935

201

Bukidnon Lakas-CMD
LUNA, CECILIA SEARES

34103

33493

610

Abra LP
ARENAS, MA. RACHEL JIMENEZ

62046

61429

617

Pangasinan Lakas-CMD
GARAY, FLORENCIO CUATON

29,219

28,547

672

Surigao del Sur Uno
BRAVO, NARCISO JR. RECIO

27,726

26,917

809

Masbate KAMPI
MAMBA, MANUEL NOVENO

71413

70549

864

Cagayan LP
UY, ROLANDO ADLAO

17,513

16,555

958

Cagayan de Oro City Independent
DIASNES, CARLO OLIVER DONA

4430

3454

976

Batanes KAMPI
SANDOVAL, ALVIN SOTECO

71490

70331

1159

Malabon LP
DUEÑAS, HENRY JR. MONTES

28564

27107

1457

Taguig KDT
SALVACION, ANDRES JR. DALDE

29,720

28,244

1476

Leyte PDSP
AGYAO, MANUEL SWEGEN

23890

22408

1482

Kalinga KAMPI
MERCADO, ROGER GAVIOLA

82,583

80,956

1627

Southern Leyte KAMPI
ABLAN, ROQUE JR. RAVELO

58292

56072

2220

Ilocos Norte Lakas-CMD
SOLIS, JOSE GUYALA

34,860

31,840

3020

Sorsogon KAMPI
BARZAGA, ELPIDIO JR. FRANI

188009

184626

3383

Cavite KAMPI
RUIZ, NERISSA CORAZON SOON

116,115

112,475

3640

Cebu KAMPI
CAJAYON, MARY MITZI LIM

33575

29773

3802

Kalookan LP
AQUINO, JOSE II SABIJON

43,215

39,403

3812

Agusan del Norte Lakas-CMD
TUPAS, NIEL JR. CAUSING

66,437

62,368

4069

Iloilo LP
ABANTE, BIENVENIDO JR. MIRANDO

40371

35089

5282

Manila Lakas-CMD
CHONG, GLENN ANG

36,097

30,356

5741

Biliran LP
ROBES, ARTURO BARDILLON

55278

49485

5793

San Jose del Monte City KAMPI
NAVA, JOAQUIN CARLOS RAHMAN ARANO

37,285

31,223

6062

Guimaras KAMPI
BAGATSING, AMADO SEVILLA

42138

36023

6115

Manila KAMPI
GATCHALIAN, REXLON TING

36251

29944

6307

Valenzuela NPC
MENDOZA, MARK LLANDRO LATORRE

97218

90184

7034

Batangas NPC
ROMARATE, GUILLERMO JR. ABITONA

68,534

61,431

7103

Surigao del Norte KAMPI/Padajon Surigao
COQUILLA, TEODULO MONTANCES

86,232

78,956

7276

Eastern Samar PMP