Rethinking Mar Roxas

If there is any takeaway from Mar Roxas and Duterte’s slapserye, it only shows that Mar Roxas is the bigger loser of the duel. Indeed, Duterte’s unique charisma has his followers defending him to death. From his daring of Mar Roxas to release his Wharton records to inadvertently cursing the Pope. One makes you think that simply playing Duterte’s game of being tough ass will not work in Mar’s favor.

In fact, Mar Roxas public relations (PR) strategy in totality isn’t really getting him the popularity he needs to win the election. How many times does he have to be a traffic enforcer to relate with the poor? Or he could probably do fist bumps with school children, and bring out this sort of pa-cool vibe with the youth. Maybe he could rely on KatNiel to get the youth vote. But in any case he tries to relate with the masa, the people still don’t buy it.

Mr. Palengke no longer applies

And that’s the problem with Mar Roxas’ campaign strategy. The Liberal Party and his PR team must understand that the voting masa today aren’t as easy to convince compared to before. With communication technologies becoming more accessible to the poor, utilizing the same PR strategy from 10 years back doesn’t work anymore. The masa may enjoy their slapstick teleseryes from time to time, but nonetheless they hold a much higher standard when deciding who to vote for.

Ultimately, what the masa wants is someone who can promise them a decent standard of living without worrying about their children being stuck in the cycle of poverty. This is why they’re willing to vote for someone like Vice President Binay, even if he has allegations of corruption. Just look at how Binay’s PR has emphasized free health care, free education, and other social services in the tune of Only Binay.

We from the middle and upper class will find Binay’s PR as a joke or even unconvincing. And yes, we from the bourgeoisie will easily assume that the masa are so shallow to fall for such promises. But if you’re someone who comes from the lower echelons of society, you’ll see this differently. After all, when you’re constantly hungry and feel as if the system is being unfair towards you, Binay’s promises seems to be the masa’s guaranteed future. They’ll settle with him because the way they see it: “even if he is corrupt, at least he will feed us”.

For Mar Roxas, the masa can only ask how Tuwid Na Daan could feed the poor.

Frankly, Mar Roxas’s gimmicks such as pretending to be a traffic enforcer will not tell the masa how you plan to feed them. It only makes him look even worse.

Who is the real Mar?

So we know that Mar Roxas’ current PR isn’t working, so what can we do about it? For starters, the Liberal Party must go back from scratch and reassess who really is Mar Roxas. Before we look at his experience, we must first look at his character. He’s no masa boy, but everyone – even from the poor – love someone who is likeable as a person.

So what makes Mar Roxas likeable? Is he a good husband? Is he intelligent? He’s obviously rich, but can the Liberal Party machinery show that even a rich man can serve the poor?

When you’re able to emphasize his good traits, it’s time to look at his experience. What did he do in his stint as congressman, DTI Secretary, and heck even as DILG secretary? Of course, the biggest question is how did his policies in his previous positions helped the poor? If it’s true that Mar Roxas authored the cheaper medicines act, his PR could easily relate this achievement by emphasizing how he made medicines more accessible for the common masa. It’s these kinds of things that his commercials should brag, instead of being pa-cool with celebrities.

Dealing with controversies

Moreover, he must answer the hard questions that continue to pound him, particularly his perceived failure to revitalize the MRT and his achilles heel during Yolanda.

I’ve noticed that whenever Mar Roxas talks about his debacle with the MRT, he tends to be too technical. Good for those well informed about trains, but terrible to most who do not understand his jargons. His PR team must find a way to make the technicalities more understandable. If he can do this, the people may just buy it so long as they find it reasonable.

For Yolanda’s case, he must find a way that proves he did more than enough to prevent the catastrophe that took place – and he must package this message in a way that doesn’t sound like he’s blaming someone else. Because people are tired of the blame game when it comes to Yolanda, they want accountability at the forefront of the said issue.

Maybe he could emphasize the fact that Yolanda was the strongest typhoon on record, and therefore he could only do so much as DILG Secretary to prevent the catastrophe. But of course that’s not enough, we know that accountability is what people want. If he needs to apologize for it, even if he believes that he has no need to do so, then so be it. He could apologize, then explain how becoming president will make it easier for him to compensate the victims of the tragedy. He’ll certainly get bruises by doing so, but at least it would lessen his image as an uncaring and heartless person.

The long journey to Malacanang

There is still a long way before the May elections, giving him ample time to prove that he deserves the presidency. It’s surprising that with all the machinery and finances that Mar Roxas has, this has still failed to capture the hearts and minds of the public. Binay and Duterte seem to be the more popular choice. But if Mar wishes to beat them at the popularity game, he must realize that his gimmicks will not win him the presidency.

Tuwid Na Daan will be an insufficient message to get him the votes in 2016. It only worked in 2010 because they were going against a very unpopular and said to be corrupt administration. But people today are looking for stability and a guaranteed future, which for them is just as important – and maybe even more so – as an honest government. Mar Roxas needs to look for another message that will get people’s trust back to him.

But to do so, he must humble himself by recognizing his weaknesses. Only then can he become a formidable presidential candidate. Only then, could we may see a Roxas Administration in 2016.

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