By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

Know the landscape before you start something

“Always be aware of your surroundings.” - ancient quote

The filing of candidacy for the coming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections is from Aug. 27 to Sept. 2.

A few days ago, a childhood friend of mine told me that he decided to run for barangay chairman in the said elections and asked me what his first step should be in terms of strategy.

After unsuccessfully trying to convince him to change his mind, I asked him what I ask all my potential clients before they start anything. Have you studied the political landscape? A former student of mine also approached me and asked my advice on his plans to set up a large business in a province. I also asked him if he knew both the business and political landscape in the area.

According to Collins Advanced Dictionary, a landscape is “all the features that are important in a particular situation.” Political landscape is the set of circumstances, features or data in a community, locality or country that can affect your chances of getting elected. This can include current and past, political parties or groups data, voter date, voting history, past and current events, local or external players or personalities, competitor strength and other matters. After studying the political landscape, a potential candidate must be able to answer the following questions: Is there a need for you to run? Will your candidacy or possible winning benefit the community? Is a run practicable or doable? Only after answering these questions in the affirmative can you then sufficiently know the landscape for your purposes.

In studying the landscape, numbers and surveys are essential tools to properly analyze your data. Even in barangay elections, number crunching is an important step in the analysis.

For example, if the barangay or community has a low voter turnout history, then, that puts newcomers at a disadvantage because the incumbent normally has a core of employees, semi- employees and steady organization to draw upon. The challenge would be to get voter interest to improve to increase the pool of voters to draw upon. Concepts like the Pareto principle and other statistical tools have, in my experience, been very useful in target settings.

With all the landscape data and analysis, you can then answer the questions: Is the present chairman or official effective? If the answer is yes, then your desire to run is selfish and will be seen as such by the community. Will your running be beneficial to the community? Even if the present official is not effective. The next question is whether or not you can do better.

If you cannot convince yourself that you can do better or be more beneficial to the community, then again, there would be no point in running. The last question is where all your landscape data will come to play. Can you win? Given the time left to start planning, organizing and campaigning, the landscape or environment might be too inhospitable for a successful run.

In business, knowing the overall political landscape along with the business landscape in a local or national community is also an essential first step before starting any endeavor. It is not enough to know that a business enterprise can turn a profit. Sometimes, a new business can be inimical to the interests of the entrenched powers that be in a community.
If that is the case then, many things could be done to ensure your failure. In the case of my old student, he realized that he would be going against the main business of a local official. My advice is that, if you want to pursue this business given the landscape, then he should be prepared for this difficulty.

At any rate, I reminded both my friend and student that ghost month for 2023 will start around Aug. 16 and end around Sept.14. If you believe in these things then it really would be inadvisable to start anything during these times.

In politics, business or life, in general, it is always important to know the landscape.

This is my oblique observation.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.