The Manila elites and the oligarchs in the country are baffled as to how and why Kimi and Mark Cojuangco – members of the country’s who’s who; rich, powerful, influential, son and daughter-in-law of Danding Cojuangco of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and San Miguel Corporation lost to two locals– Amado T. Espino, Jr and Amado I. Espino III respectively in the 2016 elections in Pangasinan.
Pangasinan has over 1.2 million voters and belongs to the top 3 vote-rich provinces in the Philippines.
My name is Vanj Padilla, I’m a digital PR strategist and this is the story.
It was February 2014 when Mark Cojuangco, a kumpadre and political ally of the outgoing Governor Amado Espino, Jr, announced his gubernatorial bid in the province. While the Governor was delivering his State of the Province Adress (SOPA), just right after his report, when people and officials are lining up to him to greet him at the lobby of the Capitol Building. Many observers said, Cojuangco’s announcement was done in bad taste. Pangasinenses called him ‘epal’ or ‘agaw-eksena’ (scene stealer).
Even the governor was surprised. He was the standard-bearer of NPC Pangasinan and he was not even consulted of the plan. Because apparently, according to a video clip of MECO chairman Amadito Perez, it was never Mark’s wish to be governor, it was Kimi’s.
From February 2014 up to May 2016, it was all campaign period for the Cojuangcos.
The couple in a duet
The Cojuangco camp started attacking the Espinos of Pangasinan. There were black propaganda all over. Local, national media were even used to malign the governor, Amado Espino, Jr. Legal charges have begun and influence-peddling was obvious.
The objective was to weaken if not destroy the older Espino, Amado Jr- the brain of Team Espino. They thought that weakening him and destroying his reputation will render the others helpless.
With rampant everyday attacks from their paid media hacks headed and funded by Rosendo So, word war began.
Little did they know that (1) Amado T. Espino, Jr thrives in chaos and (2) they have hurt the people who elected him as their leader. Amado Espino Jr. got more than 80% votes during the 2013 elections and that is a solid number to beat.
REALIZATION: You can bring him down but the people, the voting public will uphold him to the pedestal. His performance as the highest official of the province and his love for Pangasinan is unbeatable. It was seen, felt and clearly understood by the people.
The husband and wife Cojuangco and their cohorts heavily relied upon their ‘ally Mayors’ who were themselves candidates for re-election.
A few months after that off-timed gubernatorial announcement, NPC mayors in Pangasinan whom the elder Espino unified in 2013 bolted out from him and supported Mark Cojuangco.
Except 5 or less, majority stayed with NPC. Only God knows how much was promised and given to them. Of course they were expected to deliver votes for the for the couple from Tarlac.
The natives of Tarlac or depended, relied, believed and expected that these allies can and will deliver huge votes for them.
But sad to say, most of them did not.
For one, those Mayors are also candidates. If they focus their energies to Cojuangco, they might end up losing their post. So it is but natural for them to secure their mayorship first before thinking about the couple from Tarlac.
REALIZATION: Me first before you. Or me first, others second.
They do not know their enemy very well. They also know very little of his strength versus their own strength.
Amado T. Espino, Jr. is not an easy opponent.
He is not an easy opponent.
He is a master tactician. The guy is expert in timing. His military background and training as intel man has earned him trust and recognition from several presidents of the Philippines. He has mastered retail politics and his strategies are simple yet very effective.
One netizen told him in his Facebook page “Hindi pa ipinapanganak ang taong tatalo sa iyo Gov.” He was also named as “the Best Governor Pangasinan has ever had” by the 16th Sangguniang Panlalawigan members.
All political pundits admit that “mahirap kalaban si Espines”.
The Espino victory in Pangasinan in this 2016 elections has made a crystal clear political statement in the province and the entire nation.
REALIZATION: No amount of money, machinery, influence, harassment, bastardisation of institutions can beat a clear-cut, simple yet very effective strategy.
While it is true that weakening the brain- Amado Espino, Jr shakes the entire ecosystem, Mark Cojuangco’s PR team, strategy team and everyone in their camp had been lenient about the real enemy.
The most crucial opponent is gubernatorial candidate (now Governor-elect) Amado I. Espino III, the ‘Poging’ son. Pogi is the heir to the throne and namesake of the father.
He is the real deal.
While the Cojuangcos and their media attack dogs are busy with the father, the son has all the time in the world to meet and greet his people. he has all the opportunity to connect with his constituents and his being a village chief gave hope to the grassroots having a powerful voice at the Capitol.
He does not need much proof. His name spelled goodwill to the people. He is a better, younger and stronger Amado Espino.
Among others, these are the four major, major (to borrow Miss Universe runner-up venus Raj’s words) failures of the husband and wife tandem and their campaign team which led to their double loss in the province.
The people understood and took it to their hearts that Pangasinan is for Pangasinenses. The couple from Tarlac living in Metro Manila, who do not have any immediate family or relative living here in Pangasinan, just the two of them sometimes. No real residence, no neighbors no community and cannot even speak the people’s language. That is why inspire of the massive, hi-tech vote-buying scheme as reported in national dailies, they were not able to buy Pangasinan.
Wait for my next story on how Team Espino won by landslide amidst the massive and hi-tech vote-buying, influence-peddling and minimal resources that were available for use.