Friday, January 19, 2007

"Third Force" Can Put a Closure to GMA-Erap "War"

Over the past few weeks, the idea of a "Third Force" ticket was floated in the national media and has been the subject of much discussion in the blogosphere. According to media reports, the so-called "Third Force" will be composed of the Wednesday Group of reelectionist senators comprised of Manny Villar, Kiko Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, Joker Arroyo plus Congressman Noynoy Aquino and Mrs. Sonia Roco. Talks are reportedly ongoing with the other 3 reelectionist senators (Lacson, Angara, Loi Estrada) and possibly with other interested parties towards the formation of a common "Third Force" slate this coming May 2007 elections.

Understandably, the idea of a "Third Force" was quickly shot down by both administration and pro-Erap opposition forces. Political analyst Lito Banayo called it the "Third Farce" while GMA political adviser Gabby Claudio downplayed its chances in the polls. Of all the detractors, it is perhaps Inquirer columnist Belinda Olivares-Cunanan who succinctly and most-effectively summed up the "put-down spiel" for a Third Force. In her column titled "Third Force Often Ends Up Third," she argued that all third force tickets in the past from Recto to Roco lost the elections. She concluded that a "third force" is not a viable proposition in this country.

But if we analyze the current mood of the people, I believe that a "Third Force" ticket has never been a more attractive and viable idea, especially in the context of the malaise that is plaguing our politics today. And the only way our country can start getting out of the GMA vs Erap war which has been poisoning our politics since 2001 is by the "Third Force" sweeping the coming senatorial race.

In her column, Cunanan cited presidential "Third Force" candidates, but not senatorial candidates. Although I agree with her observation that a "Third Force" is not viable during presidential elections, the same cannot be said in a senatorial race. A senatorial campaign is vastly different from a presidential campaign. In a one-on-one presidential fight, a "third force" candidate is often dismissed as a spoiler or viewed as a "vote-splitter." But in a senatorial election wherein voters pick 12 candidates, one is not forced to choose between Candidate X and Candidate Y (to borrow Billy Esposo's line) but can pick as many as a dozen candidates (and with the present crop of senatoriables, I cannot even make myself decide on 12). While a presidential candidate hopes to get only 51% to win while a senatorial candidate targets 100% of the voters to land in the Magic 12. Hence, a presidential run is a zero-sum, "pula-puti" game while "name-recall" is the name of the game in a senatorial campaign. In a presidential race, all you have to do is present yourself as the "lesser evil" and people will vote for you (Filipinos have this habit of voting for the "lesser evil" if only to make the candidate they hate most lose). In a senatorial race, candidates who make the deepest impression on the most number of voters wins.

I feel that the current mood is ripe for a "Third Force." Never before have I seen such hopelessness, pessimism and cynicism in our people - and we are supposed to be an inherently optimistic people! Most people I talk to are neither for GMA nor for the Erap-led opposition. I can sense Filipinos are already tired of the bickering and want to put some closure on the GMA vs. Erap war which has been going on for the past 6 years. Ordinary Filipinos today are apathetic towards politics and their apathy is manifested in the low number of new COMELEC registrants and the low voter turn-out during elections. I think the people will opt for a ticket which is neither pro-GMA nor pro-Erap, a group that will be independent of GMA and Erap, a "third force."

If there is no "third force," people will be forced to choose between senatorial candidates who are either pro-GMA (pro-Cha Cha, anti impeachment, etc.) or pro-Erap (pro-impeachment, work to free Estrada). Without an alternative "third choice," the internecine GMA-Erap warfare will continue up to 2010 and beyond. Our country will never be able to put closure and get out of the rut. A "third force" victory at the polls will send a clear message to pro-GMA and pro-Erap forces: people are already tired of your poisoned politics! If the "third force" will fail this elections, we will see more of the "eye-for-an-eye" brand of politics in this country wherein each action by the opposition is met by an opposite reaction by the administration.

Having only two sides to choose from is problematic especially for those senatorial candidates who are hoping to become President someday (and believe me, most of them have a moist eye on MalacaƱang) because casting their lot with GMA or Erap is a dead-ender. 2007 is a dress rehearsal for the 2010 presidential elections and should Senator Villar, for example, run under the United Opposition ticket, he would be hard pressed to present himself as a "unity" candidate come 2010 because he would be mired in the bitter, "take-no-prisoners" GMA-Erap war. The same would happen to him if he decides to run under GMA's ticket. So if I have the wherewithal to raise P500 million for my own campaign, why would I allow myself to be hemmed in by the administration or opposition?

I think Villar would stand to gain the most by bankrolling a "Third Force" senatorial ticket. This is so because if he manages to get all of his Wednesday Group reelected (Pangilinan, Recto and Joker Arroyo) plus Noynoy Aquino and Sonia Roco elected, he would effectively expand his Wednesday Group and solidify his hold on the Senate presidency. With at least 6 senators and Vice President Noli de Castro (who pundits claim has no plans to run for President) by his side not to mention a "revived" Nacionalista Party, Villar could become a solid contender in 2010 provided he lands within the top 5 list of winning senators.

Thinking ahead to the 2010 presidential elections, a Manny Villar vs. Mar Roxas fight will be good for the country not only because both are perceived to be level-headed, business-friendly politicians but because both are not closely-identified with either Erap or GMA. Our people are already tired of Erap and sick of GMA. They are looking for other alternaatives besides the current politicians who cannot seem to let go of the past and only want to prolong the acrimonious atmosphere in politics. It would truly be a shame if the "Third Force" slate would not push thru for it is the only way out of the quagmire that is Philippine politics today.


Anonymous said...

i agree - if villar and company can persuade a few more "electable" people possessing name recall and voter credibility, it will surely be to the nation's benefit due to the "magamo" perception of both admin and opposition groups.

Dominique said...

It feels like that old kids' game:

"Do you want this OR that?"


But seriously, your arguments have merit. GMA is positively "ugh" but I'm not too hot for Erap, either.

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is multi-party or two-party?

And who's the author of multi-party and two-party system in the Philippines anyway?