Posts Tagged ‘Villar’

The filing of candidacy for the 18,053 seats–from senators to municipal councilors–has ended yesterday. As expected, the majority of key positions will be contested by members, loyalists or affiliates of dominant political clans. The Senate race is heavily affected with the dynastic disease, with almost all candidates of the Liberal Party coalition and the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) tracing their antecedents (and credentials) to political families.

We have the following 18 candidates who are from prominent political families in the two Senate slates: Sen. Francis Escudero, Sen. Loren Legarda, presidential cousin Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, former senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Rep. Maria Milagros Magsaysay, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, vice-presidential daughter Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito, Rep. Juan Ponce Enrile Jr., former senator Ernesto Maceda, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, former senator Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, former senator Richard Gordon, ex-senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, former Tarlac governor Margarita Cojuangco, Rep. Cynthia Villar, and Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara.

The three others–former MTRCB Chairperson Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, and former AKBAYAN representative Ana Theresia Hontiveros–are not known to belong to traditional dynastic clans. Three candidates–Escudero, Legarda, and Poe-Llamanzares–are common candidates of the LP coalition and UNA.

At the local level, political clans and dynasties are all over the political landscape–from the Marcoses in Ilocos Norte to the Dutertes of Davao City. Only a sprinkling of candidates are non-dynasty or non-traditional politician, the most notable of whom are the two Catholic priests on leave who are running for governorship–former Pampanga governor Fr. Eduardo “Among Ed” Panlilio (Pampanga) and Bicol Regional Development Council Co-Chair Fr. Leo Casas (Masbate).

The uncontrolled proliferation of political dynasties betrays the severe weaknesses of the political party system in the country. There simply are no checks and balances in place to curb or even guide the self-serving political agenda–and by extension the carpetbagging economic agenda–of dominant political clans. At worst, these clans turn into warlords with control over territorial fiefs and their power protected by political violence, electoral fraud, and vote-buying.

The weaknesses are starkly manifested in the dearth of original Liberals in the Liberal Party senatorial slate. The three Liberal Party members in the 12-person list are either newly-sworn party members (Madrigal and Aquino) or a turncoat from another party (Magsaysay). In addition, Sen. Pimentel, who is the president of UNA’s member-party, the PDP-Laban, runs under the LP coalition.

In the UNA slate, the situation is much the same with the three leaders (Vice-President Jejomar Binay, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, and former president Joseph Estrada) reserving seats for their own children (Nancy Binay, Jackie Enrile, and JV Ejercito). Rep. Mitos Magsaysay is from Lakas-Kampi, the erstwhile main opposition party.

The phenomenon of common candidates (Escudero, Legarda, and Poe) can only happen in a situation of  an absence of real opposition. Both the LP coalition and UNA parties are in the ruling coalition headed by President Aquino. The opposition that is the Lakas-CMD-Kampi is a pitiful, dying shadow of its former overpoweringly dominant stature–it cannot even field a single senatorial candidate and its head, former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is able only to run for a congressional seat in Pampanga.

All roads now lead to Malacañang and Aquino. Of course, the political configuration will change in the run-up to the 2016 elections. Meanwhile the real–but covert–fight in the 2013 elections are between the would-be presidential aspirants in the 2016 presidential elections. As such, what we are witnessing is a proxy war.

Meanwhile, political dynasts sit comfortably and go with the tide of the president’s electoral wishes even as they profess support to all sides of the presidential contest. They are survival specialists, after all.

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The announcement by Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, Jr. of a coalition into the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) between the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) led by Vice-President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay and the Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) led by former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada is a major indication that the 2013 midterm national and local election season has already arrived. Most political events, including the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, will thus be affected, one way or the other, by these elections or by the requirements of these elections.

Before this, the ruling Liberal Party (LP), under its president Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, has started its own moves vis-a-vis the 2013 elections. It has undertaken a series of high-profile party raiding, primarily from the ranks of a weakening Lakas-Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-Kampi CMD). One of the recent examples is the switch to the LP of the Ebdane father and son team (Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane and newly-elected 2nd District representative Omar Ebdane) in Zambales.

The LP move and the PDP-Laban coalition building will define the 2013 electoral contest. By no means, however, are these two the only players. There is still the formidable Nacionalista Party led by Senator Manuel “Manny” Villar who reportedly handed the reins to Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. This party keeps its cards close to its chest but quietly organizes on a nationwide scale.

A new party, the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP), led by Lito Lorenzana, has also organized and is challenging the Lakas-Kampi CMD on its political ideology. Before it, the National Unity Party, led by Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, split from the the Lakas-Kampi CMD. The latter, considerably weakened due to turncoatism of most of its members to the ruling coalition, is still considered the leadership of the political opposition and is still led by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

A Left party, the Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party (Akbayan) is a significant member of the ruling coalition and an LP ally. Another Left formation, consisting of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis, Anakbayan, and the like, today plays the independent game, although they aligned with Villar’s and Marcos’ NP during the last elections.

At any rate, the irony of the 2013 elections is the fact that opposite wings of the ruling coalition, LP and PDP-Laban, will lead separate senatorial slates. There is also a distinct possibility of a third NP-led slate.

The principal reason for these developments and scenario is the early pole positioning for the 2016 presidential elections. The president has announced his decision to forego any political move to prolong himself in power and will definitely step down in 2016. It thereby precipitated the early scramble of presidential aspirants to maneuver in the 2013 elections and even before to capture strategic resources such as financing, local alliances, and campaign infrastructures and capabilities.

The 2013 elections is a hunting ground for 2016 elections. No presidential aspirant can ignore its importance. Nor can politicians, whether national or local, ignore the implications of the 2013 elections for 2016 elections and on their own political fortunes. The political hunting season is open.

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Pulse Asia issued its last survey results before the May 10, 2010 elections. the significant findings one can glean from it are the following:

1. Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has already built up a formidable 39% share of the votes, 19% over Senator Manuel “Manny” Villar’s 20%. or a nearly 2-to-1 advantage. At this point, Senator Noynoy Aquino is already above the estimated threshold for a landslide victory.

2. Former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada had the same percent share of votes as Manny Villar at 20%.  He is poised to overtake him in the next two weeks at the current rate he has been increasing his votes.

3. Senator Manny Villar failed to stem the downward trajectory of his votes which started in February 2010. Now, it is plummeting and threatening to nosedive.

The same pattern emerges in the vice presidential race with a new twist.

1. Noynoy Aquino’s running mate Senator Mar Roxas has maintained his lead despite a 6% dip in his ratings, from 43% to 37%.

2. Villar’s running mate, Senator Loren Legarda, further drifted down to 20% and has been overtaken by Erap Estrada’s running mate, Mayor Jojo Binay who has a notable upsurge from 19% in March to the current 28%.

3. Mayor Binay now threatens even Senator Mar Roxas’ lead and can be considered as a major contender now to win the vice-presidency.

More or less, these results are mirrored in the surveys of SWS. Manila Standard, DZRH, and even in the rumored internal survey done by Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

If these trends hold, then we can expect a clear, even a landslide win for Senator Noynoy Aquino on May 10. If his lead is maintained above 15%, there is little possibility for election cheating to succeed without a sharp response from the aggravated citizenry.

The last quarter inches towards its last two minutes. If strategies of the candidates behind the frontrunner have to be changed, it is now the time to do so. Failure to adjust dooms the quest.

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So, here we are, taking a deep breath and poised to plunge into the last, best, and all-including-the-kitchen-sink stage of the 2010 elections. For all the presidential candidates, this is it–the make-or-break part of the campaign. The one to emerge from the campaign waters may well be our next president.

The SWS survey of April 16-19, 2010–and other surveys in the same period–confirms the previous SWS March surveys (commissioned and non-commissioned) and had quite a few surprises of its own. For one, Jejomar Binay overtook Loren Legarda at the second spot in the vice-presidential race. Second, the Villar counter-attack on Noynoy since the last survey did not dent the latter’s vote. Third, Erap Estrada’s figures stopped growing.

It is still a one-on-one contest for the presidency, with Erap acting as the wild card, either as a dark horse or as an arbiter of the outcome. What makes this interesting is that if he is out–voluntarily or otherwise–then who will benefit from his votes. That will certainly impact on the two running ahead of him. As it is, Erap’s continuing candidacy is a fountain of grievance for the Villar camp and a source of nervousness for the Aquino camp.

The surveys so far point to a possible landslide for Noynoy Aquino. The benchmark for me is if he reaches the 15% margin over Villar by election day–that’s a landslide. Some surveys, notably the DZRH and the Manila Standard, already showed him hovering around the percentage point. This assumes of course that the actual voters’ choices follow the preferences of the registered ones (the latter being the basis of the surveys).

The last few minutes, including the last two minutes, forces the strategies of the running presidential candidates. The leading candidate has to maintain–or even increase–the pace to provide the insurance for a clear victory. The second-placer has to pace himself and make a decisive move at a critical moment–for there is only one chance left before  time runs out on him. The third-placer has nothing to lose but his third-place finish–he can go flat out in his campaign. The others may just watch the contest go by and contemplate their post-election job offers. Voters are king!

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Justice Secretary Alberto “Al” Agra decided last Friday, April 16, to clear of any liability in connection with the Maguindanao massacre ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and cousin Akmad Ampatuan Sr., mayor of Mamasapano town in Maguindanao. Using the least believable defense–alibi–as basis, he threw out the direct testimony of a witness, the various circumstantial evidences pointing to an Andal Ampatuan family conspiracy, and the law books on the meaning of probable cause.

Understandably, all–including his own prosecutors–condemned his decision. The only remaining question is why. Why did he issued it in the first place? Why last friday and not anywhen else? Why risk a life-long reputation and become a legal pariah?

The only viable context to view his outlandish decision is the 2010 elections. Because we are talking here of the Ampatuan clan, the personal friends of president Macapagal-Arroyo’s family. Of the hard-fought presidential battle and the losing presidential bid of GMA’s candidate(s?).  Of Maguindanao, the notorious nest of election cheaters and Garcillano when he was a fugitive.

What is happening in the Maguindanao in the 2010 elections? The Ampatuans, after the massacre, conveniently hid their candidacies behind other candidates, notably that of governatorial candidate Datu Ombra Sinsuat. Rumors had it that it was DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno, architect of the Maguindanao state of emergency–existing until today–who paved the way for this transfer.

However, there were reports that the Ampatuans do not want to lose power and they are highly suspicious of the move to the Sinsuats which can be interpreted as a real power transfer and their demise as the political overlords of Maguindanao and even of the ARMM. Last month, the old man, Andal Ampatuan, Sr., called for a loyalty meeting of his candidates in his cell in the Davao City army camp

The meeting happened at a time when the two major survey outfits, Social Weather Station (SWS) and Pulse Asia, indicated a widening gulf between the front-runner, Noynoy Aquino and his closest rival, Manny Villar. These also indicated the end of the realistic bid for victory of Gibo Teodoro’s candidacy.

In this meeting, he outlined an electoral strategy for the 2010 elections aimed at ensuring victory for his candidates and, significantly, for presidential candidate Manuel Villar. His main rival, Esmael “Toto” Mangungudatu–whose wife and relatives were among those massacred earlier–was aligned with Secretary Gibo Teodoro and, possibly later, with Noynoy Aquino.

Basically, the strategy revolves on using his controlled areas in Maguindanao and elsewhere to deliver overwhelming votes to his candidates. If rumors are to be believed, this would mean the old method of ballot substitution and ballot-stuffing of the PCOS machines, or the forcible reversion to the manual election system. In both cases, the vaunted–and largely still-existing–Ampatuan armed group will be used to intimidate all those participating in local polls within their controlled areas. Maguindanao now has a 600,000+ registered voters, up from 500,000+ in the 2007 elections.

Of course, the problem is how to ensure loyalty and supervise the execution of the strategy–all the key Ampatuan leaders are in jail! Simple. Then get them out of jail!

This is where the cat got out of the bag. The role of the hapless Mr. Agra is to be a fall guy in a multi-billion, multiple stakes political game. Somebody had to get the Ampatuans out–his was the role assigned by the hard-boiled political strategists.

However, the a second cat got out of the bag–that is, the link between the Arroyos and the Villar candidacy. So far, this political resurrection of the Ampatuan is the clearest circumstantial evidence of the link. This is a real link, if only because of the risks involved in this desperate act.

The 2010 elections is now joined–the Aquino-led people’s coalition against the Villarroyo-led disparate coalition of  the Marcoses, the Sisonites, the military rebels and the hard-core trapos. Is this the August 2009 people power scenario. Yes, it may be.

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