What a Difference a Townhall Meeting Makes
Studies show that Filipino voters choose their candidates based on popularity and public image. But the conduct of townhall meetings shows that with access to information and open discussions, voters change their preferences and choose their candidates based on performance.
The Movement for Good Governance (MGG) with its Chairman Prof. Solita Monsod has been using a scorecard since 2009. The qualifications of candidates are assessed based on three criteria: efficiency, empowering characteristics, and ethical character. A five-point system is used:
1 = Mahina (Weak)
2 = Kulang (Inadequate)
3 = Pasang-awa (Mediocre)
4 = Magaling (Good)
5 = Ang Galing-galing
Assessment is based on facts based on written records of the candidate. Then, voters are asked to explain their choices, share stories, ask questions, and engage in friendly debates among themselves.
In a townhall meeting with the household staff in Forbes Park, a Binay supporter said her children enjoyed scholarships. A Duterte advocate in BF subdivision shared how his candidate helps the Lumads. Another supporter in PANA mentioned the need to impose discipline Duterte style. An admirer of Santiago in the same townhall admired the bright mind of the Senator. A religious shared how Senator Poe supported their anti- poverty programs.
The voters share their reservations on the candidates as well. A mother said that having a bully like Duterte as President will not serve as a good model for children. A participant from Tagaytay was apprehensive about the Poe-Cojuangco connection and how it seems that her decisions are based on convenience. The common issues raised against Binay are the allegations of corruption . For Roxas, it is how government handled the rehabilitation of Tacloban. The health of Santiago and Duterte are part of the discussions. A senior citizen said he was dismayed when Roxas gave up his candidacy for the Presidency in 2009.
Voters ask to be clarified on the constitutional provisions on candidates’ qualifications. They are ably explained by Atty. Christian Monsod, former COMELEC Chairman and Delegate to the 1986 Constitutional Convention. He shares his insights on major issues such as the rule of law and stresses the need to discuss platforms of candidates on social justice and the concerns of the poor.
Voting is held prior and after a townhall meeting. In all the townhall meetings, voters changed their preferences. The only constant was the preference for Leni Robredo as Vice President even during the first vote. Voters expressed a preference for Roxas in 4 townhall meetings with a slight margin over Poe. In the Malolos townhall, Poe was the preference of the young volunteers during the pre-voting. In the PANA meeting and that which was held with the clients of a commercial bank, the preferred choice was Duterte. After the townhall, Roxas consistently became the top choice with a significant lead over the others.
In the case of local candidates, Pena was the choice for the mayoralty post in Makati and his lead widened after the townhall meeting. Voters chose J dela Cruz for Governor of Bulacan and garnered 73% of the votes.
One voter summed up why he changed his choices in a townhall at PANA. He said, “I cannot unhear what I heard.”
Results of the Townhall Meetings
February 16, 2016, Tahanan ng Mabuting Pastol, Tagaytay City
NGO and Religious Leaders (55 participants)
March 12, 2016, Malolos City
PPCRV Volunteers (233 participants)
|De la Cruz||57%||73%|
March 14, 2016, Makati City
Household Staff (165 participants)
March 15, 2016
Clients of a Commercial Bank (63 participants)
March 18, 2016, Dagupan City
NGO and Religious Leaders
March 28, 2016, BF Homes, Paranaque
Residents (210 participants)
April 6, 2016
Members of Philippine Association of National Advertisers (PANA)(103 participants)