Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Don’t Overestimate Your Strengths, Never Underestimate Your Enemy

With barely a week to go many are saying that the elections in Iloilo City are all over save for the counting. Mayor Jerry’s campaign is currently hobbled by money problems and internal squabbling while Vice Mayor Jed is presently facing “resume padding” allegations. For his part Undersecretary Larry Jamora’s ratings seems to be picking up at the expense of Mabilog, but with only less than a week to go ‘til election day it is “too little too late.” Maybe if the campaign period was six months, Jamora would have a chance of winning. Thus, many coffee shop pundits are predicting a Gonzalez-Gonzalez-Pesina sweep following the disintegration of the Treñas and Mabilog camps and the meager uptick of Jamora’s rating.

This is probably the reason why almost no one in Iloilo wants to place a bet on Treñas and Mabilog. Ilonggos will bet on anything and there are a lot of “election betting” going on in the city right now. People are placing bets from as low as 100 pesos to several million pesos. My source at the DPWH told me that private contractors were setting up a P2 million pot but that the pro-Treñas and pro-Mabilog contractors backed out of the deal a week ago. The deal fell through because the pro-Treñas and pro-Mabilog contractors reportedly wanted only to bet on who will win in Arevalo, not in the entire city - suggesting that the Gonzalezes already have “locked-in” Jaro, Lapaz, Lapuz, Mandurriao, Molo and City Proper. Now I don’t know about you but I understand that DPWH contractors have very sharp political senses and I would put more credence on their reading of the political situation more than any “scientifically-done” mock poll or two-bit “survey-survey.”

As I see it, Mayor Treñas and Vice Mayor Mabilog made two grave errors: 1.) they underestimated their opponents and 2.) they both overestimated their strengths. These are two very basic rules in politics which even neophyte politicians know which Treñas and Mabilog in their hubris failed to observe. “How has it come to this?” is a question Mayor Jerry Treñas and Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog must be probably ruing today.

At the onset of the campaign period, the two were quite popular and seemed very sure of winning. Recall that at the start of the campaign period, Congressman Raul Gonzalez, Jr. was being depicted by the Treñas camp as “lawlaw” while the old man Gonzalez was being derided by the Mabilog camp for his being “hindi na katuknol.” Since the father is “hindi na katuknol” and the son is “lawlaw,” Treñas and Mabilog must have thought that they could convince enough barangay leaders to abandon the Gonzalezes and join their quest for personal glory. But the Gonzalezes were able to answer the issues against them and their group has remained solid. Today no one is calling Congressman Gonzalez “lawlaw” anymore after he bared his impressive legislative track record (6 laws authored) while Secretary Gonzalez has on several occasions compellingly displayed that while his body is weak, his spirit (or “dungan”) is still very strong. And contrary to their expectations, the “Grupo Gonzalez” political machinery did not “implode” but remains as formidable as ever. It counts among its members 138 out of the total 180 Barangay Captains and majority of Barangay officials in the city, the 35,000-strong Women’s Brigade of Dra. Pacita Gonzalez, and the volunteer youth group ICYGG (Iloilo City Youth for Good Government) led by Dennis Gonzalez.

On the other hand, Mabilog could not satisfactorily answer the “resume padding” allegation against him. His answer – that he is a “late bloomer” – is seen by many as a further indication of his glibness and penchant for exaggerating his self-importance. It is the height of arrogance to compare one’s self to Bill Gates and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who needless to say are giants in world history. (For the information of the good vice mayor, Churchill was not a drop-out. His grades were not good enough for Oxford University so he went to SandhurstBritain’s equivalent to our Philippine Military Academy here – where he graduated, earning a commission as a second lieutenant in the cavalry unit Our Queen’s Own Hussars. He then distinguished himself serving as a brave young officer in India, Egypt and South Africa during the Boer War. He parlayed his war exploits into a career in politics and the rest, as they say, is history.)

But Vice Mayor Mabilog’s problems is nothing compared to the problems Mayor Treñas is facing presently. It is said that Treñas fabricated the “security-threat” story so that he will have a valid reason to just stay in his house and not go out campaigning because he has already run out of funds. Various Treñas camp insiders have confirmed that Manny Villar’s money is not forthcoming and that the promised financial contributions from his beloved Chinese community was less than they expected. Money is the lifeblood of politics. Without money, the gears of politics will not roll so I don’t know how Mayor Treñas intends to win this election without sufficient money. That is why I believe, with things as they currently are in Iloilo City, that the elections are all but over save for the counting.

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