By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

Bamban and the nature of local politics

“All politics is local” - Thomas P. O’Neill

By now, everyone knows about the lady mayor of Bamban, Tarlac. Social media and formal news outlets are abuzz with discussions on several issues allegedly involving Mayor Alice Guo. Apart from these issues, however, there is one question a lot of people are asking: How did someone, without any experience or political family background, suddenly appear and win a mayoral seat in a small provincial town? The answers to this question will actually reveal how local politics has evolved over the past few years. With the 2025 midterm elections fast approaching, politicians and political strategists alike would do well to take note of the now clearly evolving nature of local politics.

Retail politics is key. Traditionally, local politicians used to rely on the people skills of old style leaders. These “wholesale” leaders are assigned to key areas and are just given funds and the barest of instructions to monitor the people in the said area, bring them to occasional gatherings, and herd them to the precincts on election day. This system also heavily relied on touching base with so-called influential leaders of groups and communities and seeking their endorsement and support. With this system, the local candidates would only go out occasionally to selected areas and just call the so-called leaders and influential persons to medium scale meetings or large gatherings. Guo, on the other hand, practiced the now popular “direct to people” or retail politics campaign style wherein candidates visit all the communities in the town/area to target voters on a small scale or individual basis. In small towns with low voter populations that normally know each other, this method is now seen as a superior method to the traditional “wholesale” campaign.

Guo, during the elections, went to the people where they lived. She tirelessly went sitio to sitio to interact directly with people. She spoke to individuals and listened to them. Despite the heat and the then still present danger of Covid-19, she did not shy away from face-to-face campaigning. Voters appreciated her efforts to visit their areas.

Professionally managed campaigns will trump old style politics. Guo’s campaign was clearly managed by a professional strategist. Her branding, narrative and messaging were clear and on point. Her retail visits to the communities were well curated and orchestrated. A cursory glance of her social media posts during the pre-campaign and campaign period show all the signs of a professionally run campaign. Her image of a caring, approachable, progressive, hardworking and smart candidate was communicated through her speeches, messages and activities such as feeding programs, livelihood sessions and the like. By focusing on activities, and proofs of concept sessions, she showed that she was focused on performance and development. She avoided the usual mud-slinging and the usual political rhetoric of her opponents, thus, creating brand separation from the rest of the political pack.

Social media campaigns synergized with a professionally run retail political campaign is now a must. Even today, Guo with her vlogs and other social media footprints show that she or her team knows how to effectively use social media to communicate and expand her ground campaign. This was one of her key tools during her campaign. A professionally run social media campaign with clear messaging and well-planned posts in terms of frequency and targeting strengthened her campaign.

Endorsements still matter. In addition to the foregoing, Guo was endorsed by the town’s former mayor, thus, increasing her awareness and trust rating with the people. Inheriting the said former mayor’s organization also gave her the core team she needed to jump start her campaign

Logistics is essential. All of the foregoing requires logistics. Without logistics one cannot win local campaigns. With logistics everything is possible.

Even with all the issues being thrown at the lady mayor of Bamban, she can still win the next round of elections, as long as all the foregoing elements remain unchanged. This is the takeaway many aspiring political strategists must understand. National issues and local politics are two different things.

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.