The general elections from president to municipal and municipal councilors on May 9 are just five weeks or 35 days away. I checked some of the election campaigns of the main presidential and vice-presidential candidates, the Bongbong Marcos (BBM)-Sara Duterte tandem and the Leni Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan couple.
The Leni-Kiko duo drew record crowds at campaign rallies as early as April 1 (source: https://web.facebook.com/TeamLeniKiko/photos):
1. Pasig (March 20), 130,000+;
2. Bacolod, Negros Occidental (March 11), 86,000+;
3. Tagbilaran, Bohol (April 1), 80,000+;
4. Catarman, Northern Samar (March 28), 73,000+;
5. Borongan, Eastern Samar (March 29), 54,000+;
6. Tarlac (March 23), Camanava (March 26), Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija (March 22), 50,000+ each;
7. General Trias, Cavite (March 4), 47,000+;
8. Malolos, Bulacan (March 5) and Isabela, Basilan (March 16), 45,000+ each;
9. Iloilo City (25 February), 40,000+; and,
10. Zamboanga (March 17), 35,000+.
The BBM-Sara tandem rallies also have huge crowds, but they didn’t put crowd estimates. But according to the photos presented (source: https://web.facebook.com/BongbongMarcos/photos), they seem to have larger crowds than the Leni-Kiko gatherings, and they do so almost daily. Their swing in Mindanao from March 27 to April 2 – from GenSan to Zamboanga, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Norte and Sur, Lanao and Bukidnon – showed crowds in the tens of thousands per event, from morning to night.
The Manny Pacquiao and Isko Moreno campaigns also have large crowds, but they don’t meet as often and aren’t as dense as the Leni and BBM crowds.
NO OVERFLY IN COVID CASES
Since the start of the official campaign period for national office on February 8 or eight weeks ago, political rallies have drawn tens of thousands of people per event, shoulder to shoulder, without distancing for many hours, without temperature control, without vax card control. And yet, there has not been a single incidence of COVID surge, either in major cities or nationwide – none. But we read the usual alarmist statements from government virus “experts” about more infections. See for example the Department of Health (DoH) warning which was contradicted by data from these two reports in Business world: “Ignoring protocols could lead to increased infections – DoH” (Mar 29), “PHL records among lowest daily coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia” (Mar 30).
The theory (and the story) must conform to the data. Always. No exception. In the COVID pandemic, the theory or narrative is: no more huge gatherings, no distancing for hours, no widespread vaccination, then more infections and cases. Also consider OCTA’s infamous and misleading terms, “superspreader” events that require “circuit breaker” lockouts.
So what if theory and data don’t agree with each other? In real natural science, one must maintain and respect the data and reject the “theory” or the narrative – it amounts to an ordinary assumption. But in politics and political science, you have to ignore the data and support the narrative. And that’s why despite eight straight weeks of large numbers of people gathering for many hours without distancing, many even wearing their masks under their mouths, we’re not seeing any outbreaks of COVID. But the government is keeping the soft lockdown and mobility restrictions on and pushing mass vaccination. It is no longer a question of medical science but of political science and military science.
GOOGLE TRENDS IN THE CAMPAIGN
There are no results from voter preference surveys conducted in March by SWS and Pulse Asia, the country’s leading polling companies. In the absence of such data, proxy data must be used, such as estimated crowds per political rally by major contenders, discussed above. Another proxy is “interest over time” from Google Trends.
Interest over time numbers and scores represent search interest relative to the highest point in the graph for the given region and time. Peak popularity is 100, 50 means the term is half as popular and 0 means there is not enough data for that term. While political surveys use samples of only 1,200 to 3,000 people, Google Trends processes billions of bits of data, millions a day.
So, I searched for Leni and BBM and here is the result.
Interest in the Leni campaign is growing – from 40 in the first half of February when the official campaigns started, to 46 at the start of March and 67 at the end of March. The score reached 96 on March 20, during the huge rally in Pasig, and peaked at 100 on March 21, when photos of the huge crowd from that night were further circulated and reported the following day.
The BBM campaign is losing interest – from 34 in the first half of February to just 28 in the first half of March. He returned to 40 in the second half of March, but that was well below Leni’s 67 in the same period.
So, from two sets of data – photos of campaign rallies and caravans, and Google Trends – BBM seems to maintain its lead in the first but it loses in the second set of data. Good. His chances of becoming president are slim.
CAUSES OF DEATH, PSA DATA
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) released cause of death data for 2020 and 2021 last week, March 29. I researched their previous reports and included data for 2018 and 2019 below. Since there were no excess mortality or deaths in 2020 compared to 2019, I compared 2021 to 2019. The data shows the following.
First, there was a huge increase in deaths in 2021 when more COVID infections occurred and mass vaccination began – 145,700 more deaths than in 2019 and 152,200 more deaths than in 2020.
Second, if deaths from COVID – identified virus UO7.1 and unidentified UO7.2 – are excluded, there were still 39,000 more deaths in 2021 compared to 2019.
Third, there were more deaths from ischemic heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and cerebrovascular disease in 2021 than in 2019. This coincided with more cases of myocarditis, blood clots and related diseases some days or weeks after vaccination in 2021, or even until 2022.
Fourth, there were fewer deaths from pneumonia, cancer or neoplasms, lower respiratory tract diseases and tuberculosis in 2021. The assumption “deaths from ordinary pneumonia were counted as deaths by COVID” may be appropriate for this situation.
Five, the continued lockdown and business closures (KTV and music bars, some hospitality stores, etc.) resulted in fewer deaths from assaults/fights and transport accidents, but more deaths from malnutrition and suicide or intentional self-harm (See the table).
Since the “no more huge gatherings, no distancing for hours, no more COVID infections” narrative has been proven wrong by the huge campaign rallies, the government should drop all mobility restrictions and the presentation of a compulsory vax card or negative PCR tests for work and travel.
Three real economic risks facing the Philippines this year: 1.) Persistently high public debt that will require high taxes, from 8.22 trillion pesos (real and secured) in 2019 to 10.25 trillion pesos in 2020 and 12 150 billion pesos in 2021; 2.) high inflation, from 2.6% in 2020 to 4.5% in 2021, and expected to reach 5% or more in 2022 with very high energy and commodity prices; and, 3.) weak GDP growth this year, from -9.6% in 2020 to 5.7% in 2021. Our citizens and businesses should be freed from various mobility restrictions to produce more goods and services , reduce inflation and increase economic output.
The two main presidential candidates, in particular Vice President Leni who is catching up, should have clear policies to open up the economy widely and clearly, and remove all existing and planned mobility restrictions for people and businesses. .
Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers.