The Commission on Elections’ 2nd Division just ruled that former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada can run as a presidential candidate. To be sure, the decision skirted the constitutional arguments by asserting that this is a political question that the voters can only resolved.
The legal road is still a long one for Erap. The decision will almost surely be subjected to motions for reconsideration, appealed to the en banc Comelec, and brought before the Supreme Court.
However it will end, the Erap factor is turning out to be the nearly decisive factor in the coming period. On one hand, his continued candidacy pulls possible votes from the current front-runner,Sen. Noynoy Aquino, and the second-placer, Sen. Manny Villar. His 15% in the SWS December 27-28, 2009 survey–even if divided between the two–can easily lead to a decisive Aquino victory or to a close Villar victory.
Maintaining an Erap candidacy favors Aquino since there is already a dearth of undecided votes for Villar to harvest and the votes of former Secretary Gibo Teodoro are not enough to offset the Noynoy lead. It is also becoming clear that the Aquino votes are a solid one and cannot easily be fragmented.
It is crucial for Villar to convince Erap to step aside and, more favorably, endorse his candidacy. In a turn of fate, the often-derided “has-been” president may will determine the future of the presidential candidates, the presidency itself, and possibly, the nation after 2010.