Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Possible Team-Ups for 2010

1. Noli de Castro and Manny Villar. In the latest SWS survey (March 30, 2009), Vice President Noli de Castro and Senator Manny Villar were the top two presidentiables, garnering 27% and 26% respectively. If the two Wednesday Club buddies unite, they will be the team-to-beat this 2010 elections, moreso if they have the entire administration Lakas-Kampi machinery backing them up. Kabayan Noli is a candidate without a party while Lakas-Kampi is a party in search of a candidate, and many ranking Lakas-Kampi members find him acceptable because he is more "pliable." Villar on the other hand has the money and, more importantly, he knows how to use his money for maximum political mileage. But since he is now "tarred" by the double-insertion scandal, I wouldn't be surprised if his ratings will go down in the next quarterly surveys. It would probably be a wise move for him to slide down and become Noli's vice president and wait for his chances to improve, on or before 2016 (like what GMA did).

If Villar and de Castro do not reach a modus vivendi, there are a number of second-tier presidentiables they can pick as their running mate. The good-looking defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro or the competent Chairman BF Fernando, for example, would make a perfect vice president for the Kabayan (popularity and performance ang drama). For Villar, there's always Senator Kiko Pangilinan (another Wednesday Group buddy who announced recently his availability for the vice presidency) or his most-avid defender in the Senate, Alan Peter Cayetano.

2. Chiz Escudero and Loren Legarda. The two NPC stalwarts are both young, good-looking and popular - the same SWS survey showed Senator Legarda garnering 25% and Chiz Escudero a respectable 23%. Sometimes referred to as the "Obama of the Philippines," Chiz's rock star-looks and glib tongue endear him to the 20- and 30-something crowd (and this group now comprises 70% of our voting population) while Loren's movie star charm also makes her very appealing to the younger set. Both not only look good but also sound good on TV, and TV, more than any other media, will be the single strongest factor that will influence voters' preferences in the 2010 national race. With Danding's financial backing and NPC's disciplined support, any of the two could bag the presidency.

But in the aftermath of GMA's 9-year rule, many pundits observe that Filipinos will not be ready for yet another woman in Malacanang. While Loren may be popular, her estranged husband is currently in jail for homicide (only in the Philippines) and her opponents would surely raise the specter of another "rogue" First Gentleman in the Palace. Chiz meanwhile is perceived to be "too close" to Danding Cojuangco and this makes the other elites uncomfortable fearing a return to Marcosian times wherein all power and money were concentrated in the hands of a favored few.

I've heard the rumors that say a Chiz-Loren or Loren-Chiz team-up is virtually impossible because both are not willing to slide down. I see that in the event that negotiations between the two fail, the person who fails to bag Danding's support will definitely come out the loser. Without financial and party support, it would be too late in the game for either Chiz or Loren to put up a new party. Joining another party would also be out of the question because most already have their standard-bearers. So in the end, I predict that Chiz and Loren will ultimately abide by the NPC party decision because both have been boxed into a corner.

3. Mar Roxas and Ping Lacson. If Mar and Ping could somehow find enough common ground to unite, a Roxas-Lacson/Lacson-Roxas tandem can be a strong Third Force. From where I stand, Mar's economic savvy coupled with Ping's kamay na bakal - Mr. Palengke and Mr. Law & Order - is a perfect combination. Although Roxas got only 15% in the March 2009 survey, SWS noted that this figure represents a 5% increase since their last survey conducted in December 2008. If he continues on this trajectory Mar could very well find himself the frontrunner by December 2009. Although Ping Lacson's modest 14% rating is not impressive, his PR people argue that this represents a solid constituency, Ping die-hards who have never wavered in their support for the man no matter the brickbrats thrown at him by Malacanang.

Mar's elitist and segurista (cold and calculating) image are his main drawbacks. His impending marriage to media personality Korina Sanchez might refurbish that perception. Ping's greatest asset, his kamay the bakal, is at the same time his greatest drawback - while it inspires confidence in our authorities, it also brings fear to other people especially those traumatized by Martial Law. But in our multi-party system, you really need only 30% of the vote to win and Mar's 15% combined with Ping's solid 14% could secure them a win in 2010.

If the team-up does not materialize, Ping Lacson can always go solo again like he did in 2004. Mar Roxas can accede to the desire of his Liberal Party-mates and pick Kiko Pangilinan as his running mate.

Others. Our multi-party system will also embolden others to continue on their quest to capture the presidency. Senator Dick Gordon seem hell-bent on capturing Malacanang despite the fact that this will be his third attempt already I think. Former President Erap Estrada, who despite his ouster and conviction for plunder, still got a 13% rating in the SWS survey also seems very determined to run. Then there are the religious leaders Bro. Mike Velarde and Bro. Eddie Villanueva who think they can convert their cult following into votes. And then there are still the others, would-be reformers and idealists all, who promise to change our country with their "movements-movements," namely Governor Ed Panlilio's "Kaya Natin" Movement, Chief Justice Reynato Puno's "Moral Force" Movement and the latest, Manny Pangilinan's "Ako Mismo" Movement.

I have only listed three tandems because past experience shows that the Philippines only has room for three candidates. For one, political parties (and the businessmen who fund them) only have resources for three sets of candidates otherwise politics will no longer be a "profitable proposition" in the country. As things stand, only Lakas-Kampi has the capacity to field candidates in all positions from president to senators to congressmen down to municipal mayors and councilors. The NPC, Nacionalista and Liberal parties combined may be able to field candidates in 100% of the positions to be contested but individually will be hard put to do the same. In Iloilo City for example, the local race in the last 2007 elections was fought by candidates from Lakas-Kampi and the Liberal Party coalition while the Nacionalista and NPC party did not have a local ticket. A few years back, there was a study that came out showing that most Filipinos, when it comes to national offices (president, vice president and senators), remain undecided whom to vote for up until the day of election. If this study is true, then the importance of a nationwide party machinery is all the more important for a presidential candidate.

Moreover, the Philippine population seemingly only has attention span for three candidates. I observe that most undecided voters, when it is down to two weeks before election day, more often than not are usually focusing or have narrowed down their choice to only three candidates.

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