Monday, September 7, 2009

Not so fearless forecasts

It’s early days yet. Many things could and would happen, even after the early withdrawal of Mar Roxas and his endorsement of Noynoy Aquino as the standard-bearer of their Liberal Party in the forthcoming presidential elections.

Their party has announced a Noynoy-Mar tandem, even if formally, Aquino has yet to declare. This has become standard operating procedure in Philippine politics. Candidates play jele-jele bago quiere, the pidgin Hispa-noy translation for playing coy. “Aayaw-ayaw pero kiliting-kiliti”, my yaya, Ate Elisa used to say. In the case of Noynoy, it’s beyond kiliti. Sadyang gusto.

In the case of Mar, it’s relief. Now he has time to smell the flowers and take care of his private life. At least until he goes for Number Two. To accept the LP draft, Mar is likely to first wait at who the possible competition will be. He can after all run for re-election as senator, and easily come out first among twelve.

Noy, child of destiny his supporters hope to make him, will have little time even for the love of his life, Councilwoman Shalani Soledad of Valenzuela, who used to be a youth volunteer of Ping Lacson, later a member of his Senate staff.

Young Chiz Escudero, one of the three or four topnotchers in presidential surveys, is a shoo-in for vice-president if elections were held today. His former buddies in the lower House kept whispering that it would be a Villar-Chiz tandem, and their camp asked SWS to do a rider question on tandems. The June voters, still mesmerized and ga-ga over Villar’s airtime blitz, gave the tandem its highest approval.

But Escudero turned the tables on C-5 at Taga. He declared with severe finality that he would not “in conscience” join somebody who does not personify the good governance that he advocates. Ouch! Tinaga si Mr. Itik! Ah, the determination of the youth, attaboy! Mumbling that Chiz was just being “immature”, the duet of Gilbert and Adel could only dourly state, “kung ayaw mo, huwag mo”. He, he, he, na-semplang kayo.

Meanwhile, Ping Lacson fired a shot into the bow of an Erap redux sailboat. The former president, chanting the need for unity, kept threatening to run if the rest of the opposition would not unite behind a single candidate. “Uniting” meant giving way to him, as if he was some kind of political demi-god. I remember Lacson sometime in 2002 describing Erap as some kind of a “spiritual” leader for the opposition. I cringed in utter discomfort, lest people look at me as I was his spokesperson then, and later Ping admitted wrong choice of words.

“Why don’t you be the first to withdraw?”, Ping asked his former boss. And Erap (or Erap’s spokesperson) was livid, “How dare you lecture the former president, you who wouldn’t give in to Erap’s choice of FPJ in 2004?” So now Lacson says he will deliver a privilege speech in the Senate, and let the chips fall where they may.

Amidst all this excitement within the opposition, there is little the acolytes of Dona Gloria could say or do. They have a “reluctant” candidate in Vice-President Noli, who has kept them guessing all these months. The eager-beavers, Bayani and Gibo, wait in the wings. Gibo even struts proudly with an ID tag proclaiming his admiration for his Dona, never mind if he is perceived as “tuta” even by the soldiers. BF of course admires only his own dogged determination.

In the last Pulse Asia Ulat of late July and early August, Gibo garnered 4 votes out of 1,800 respondents. Bayani had 18. And Noli got 16% or 288 votes. That should be enough to daunt any level-headed person, but since Noli was still playing coy (maybe because no financial figures had been assured), the palace gets 49 governors to declare for Gibo. That’s 61% of all the provincial CEO’s in the land. Noli only has 16% of the sample voters polled. He, he, he. Gibo’s spirits soar, thinking perhaps that these Janus-faced governors could deliver the votes of their constituents. One of them, a lady friend of mine, used to be for Mar, and also Chiz, and now likely also for Noynoy. But Gibo at 0.02%, wow!

November 30 fast approaches. As of today, that’s only 82 days away. Unless automation is stopped by the Supreme Court, that’s when every candidate for every post will file.

And come November 30, 2009, there will be the following candidates (Pollyanna’s and nuisance candidates not included):

Because his numbers are high, thanks to the billions he had spent, Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party will definitely run. His vice-president? Maybe Kiko Pangilinan. The Wednesday “nationalists”.

Noli de Castro might bite into the GMA apple, provided he is assured the “juices” haven’t dried up. Gilbert is the PaLaKa fallback, not Bayani. If Noli does not bite into the poisoned tree, then it has to be Gibo. All he needs is to garner 10%, they assure him, because Gabby Claudio assures that the humongous party machinery can deliver, by “command”, another 15%. Vamos a ver. FVR won in 1992 as Cory’s anointed, by getting a mere 23.4% of the total. But aside from the ARMM, where governors who likewise read the surveys are susceptible to change their minds at the last minute, no other place in this benighted land can give a command performance. Certainly not by command of a hated lame duck president. Noli might take Gibo as his veep. But Noli will not run for veep at all, so Gibo, if he is chosen by his Dona, may have to take in Dick Gordon, or BF, or maybe Speaker Nograles. Why not Martin Romualdez? That should be a “circus”, in French at that.

Erap will file his certificate of candidacy on November 30. I cannot predict who his vice-presidential candidate will be. If he is disqualified, his party cannot nominate a substitute candidate, not even his veep. Jojo Binay would rather run as vice-president to another, his protestations of loyalty to Estrada notwithstanding. Believe me.

Now, if midway through the campaign, Erap’s numbers are not as re-assuring of victory as they were in 1998, and if his lawyers advise him that the high tribunal will not likely give his political double-take its benediction, the former president is bound to withdraw, and endorse the one candidate with whom he feels a greater level of affinity with (whether the candidate’s or the party he belongs to). His endorsement value might work with voters of the E income level. And when he withdraws, his vice-president cannot substitute.

Chiz Escudero, I predict (it’s really a no-brainer) will be the candidate of the Nationalist People’s Coalition. If Loren Legarda agrees to slide down to the vice-presidency, it will be a Chiz-Loren tandem, pretty strong from where we sit. But if Loren eschews another run for the second post, Chiz could pair with Ping Lacson or Jojo Binay. Still pretty strong.

Will Chiz not prefer to run for vice-president, where, analysts say his numbers are assured? His party, the NPC, seems determined to run a full slate this time. And Chiz is quite an adventurous character, with a prodigious gift for communication none of the other candidates could better.

And now comes Noynoy. The concept of pedigree, his and Mar’s, sounds nice to the elite, but in a tough campaign, pedigree holds little water, and could even be turned into a liability among the “masa”. “Sila lang ba ang bukod-tanging anak ng Diyos?”, I could almost hear the other candidates, or their spokespersons, appeal to the D and E, who altogether comprise 85-90% of the electorate. But the Liberal Party has already chosen their tandem, and so to the hustings will these sons of the political elite march.

My not so fearless forecast?

Come the starting gate, there will be five: Villar and whoever else GMA anoints --- that’s two for one side. Arrayed against them will be Erap, Chiz and Noynoy, for the opposition side.

When Erap withdraws, there will be four down to the finish line. Chiz and Noynoy for the forces of reform; Villar and whoever GMA anoints for the forces of business-as-usual. Mar, in his withdrawal speech, calls this the “fight between Good and Evil”.

* * *

In our Thursday article last week where we analyzed Mar’s retreat, we wrote that the “Black and White movement, along with a few columnists, turned up the heat on a still grieving family…(such that) Noynoy felt like a challenge was upon him, and there was a legacy of leadership the burden of which he had to face”.

Ging Deles, also my colleague at the FSGO, and Leah Navarro told me this wasn’t so. In fairness, they did not weigh in for either Mar or Noynoy. They told me that they just left the two to talk and decide things for themselves. Just as the rest of the Liberal Party stalwarts aver. They were all too stunned at the sudden course of things.

* * *

So in the end, who will make it to become the 15th president of the benighted land? It’s early days. These are not yet “fearless” forecasts.

But let me be clear. I will never go for business-as-usual. No matter how marginal change may be under a polity so corrupted and a society so diseased, there should be some light at the end of the benighted tunnel if we as a people choose between two who are credible enough when they call themselves the agents of reform.

It’s not a consummation we would highly desire, preferring revolutionary reform in its stead, but with a people so patient, so persevering, so unwilling to undertake risks and so afraid to cut the Gordian knot, we just may have to plod along.


Orlando Roncesvalles said...

There is a poli sci finding that the best practical hope is one who looks like a "trapo," is acceptable to trapos, but will abandon the trapos. Does it mean it's not so hopeless after all?