by René B. Azurin
by René B. Azurin
Let us combine the letters of the LAKAS and KAMPI parties’ names and refer to the merged party as MAKASALAPI. This will indulge our fondness for clever acronyms and may actually capture the true spirit of the resource-rich conglomeration of the country’s most powerful politicos and their wealthy business cronies. Remarkably, one spokesman boasted that its “colossus of a political machinery” would allow the “super party” to choose even unpopular candidates and make them win. Indeed.
Well, that voluble spokesman might believe that line but the strategists who actually craft strategy for this administration most assuredly don’t. Those pragmatists are not likely to fall into the trap of believing their own propaganda. After all, the memory of former Speaker Jose de Venecia’s massive defeat in the 1998 despite his control of a supposedly unequalled looms large in political strategists’ consciousness. The debacle of the administration’s senatorial slate in the 2007 elections despite its tremendous advantage in both financial and organizational resources is also a telling fact in the current political calculations.
So, presidential aspirants who cannot achieve eminence in the public’s mind – as revealed by poll surveys – might as well abandon their cherished dreams. They will not be chosen by the MAKASALAPI party to be its presidential standard bearer. The imperative of MAKASALAPI’s leadership is to win at all costs and unpopular candidates will not be allowed to squander the party’s considerable financial and organizational muscle in an ultimately losing effort.
Accordingly, going by the latest PulseAsia and Richard Gordon, and Chairman Bayani Fernando will not be given the tap on the shoulder. Despite these aspirants’ obvious – and sometimes desperate – efforts to register positively in the public’s mind, their persistent 1%-and-below poll ratings will make the administration strategists consider them too difficult a carry., administration party aspirants Sec. Gilbert Teodoro Jr., Sen.
This means that it is almost a foregone conclusion that Vice President Noli de Castro will be the administration party’s in the 2010 polls (assuming of course that there will be an election and that it will be a presidential one). As I see it, the administration’s strategists do not have much choice. No other candidate who willingly associates himself/herself with the current administration seems capable of achieving enough popularity to make MAKASALAPI’s financial and organizational resources sufficient to make victory indisputable. The possibility must be considered that a Garci clone may not be able to answer “Yes, Ma’am” to the infamous question, “Will I still win by one million?”
With that as given, let me speculate on some of the other moves wily administration strategists will make. One certain move will be to maneuver to ensure that at least one other candidate with an “oppositionist” image will join the race. The strategists will consider this essential to split the votes of the contra-administration public. The effect sought will be much like the impact of Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004 or of Imelda Marcos’s on Eduardo Cojuangco’s bid in 1992. Divide-and-conquer is always a good strategy: breaking up the enemy into separate camps makes each one easier to deal with.’s candidacy on the supposedly unbeatable
Looking over the current tableau, the MAKASALAPI strategists will consider Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. as the real opposition and the principal stumbling block to their plans of conquest because of his high popularity ratings and his own formidable financial and organizational resources. They might therefore try to prevail on administration ally Nationalist Peoples’ Coalition (NPC) to field – and fund – another “opposition” candidate to split Mr. Villar’s support. In this respect, Sen. is said to be acceptable to the administration strategists.. The other (less likely) NPC possibility is Sen. Loren Legarda. I suspect that the option of NPC fielding a separate “opposition” candidate is currently enjoying ascendancy in the administration strategists’ minds over the one where the NPC bet runs as vice president to Mr. De Castro. The thinking might be that this will give them two chances to win and resources can be swung to one or the other depending on who has the better chances close to election day.
It is certain that the MAKASALAPI strategists, through their “deep penetration agents”, will goad former President Joseph Estrada into filing his candidacy because this will cause fissures in the opposition and throw them into disarray. Their calculation here is that Mr. Estrada will definitely be disqualified by the Supreme Court anyway, but his candidacy, however short-lived, will cause confusion in opposition ranks. An assumption by Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay of this opposition candidacy will be considered by them a welcome development. The more oppositionists there are, the whole lot merrier.
If Sen. II does not decide to coalesce with any of the other candidates, it will be a five-cornered race.
There will likely be one other candidate – making it a six-cornered race – in the 2010 presidential elections. This extra candidate will be the so-called “moral force” choice of certain good-intentioned citizens’ groups. Such a candidate could be Governor Grace Padaca, Governor Ed Panlilio, Chief Justice Reynato Puno, businessman Manuel Pangilinan, evangelist , or someone still waiting to emerge from relative obscurity. The MAKASALAPI strategists can be counted on to work behind the scenes to make sure that such a candidate emerges and joins the race. To this end, they might, through their agents, even dangle funding. Such a candidate will be seen by them as only eroding further the support base of the contra-administration forces.
Personally, I think that MAKASALAPI’s main asset is money (lots of it) and not its political machinery.. That so-called “colossus of a political machinery” is actually unreliable because it is not based on any unifying philosophical ideal or moral principle. The political alliances stitched together in this “super party” are convenient and mercenary and, as Mr. De Venecia saw to his dismay in 1998, do not necessarily deliver votes at the crucial local level.
Still, realistically speaking, the MAKASALAPI strategists have what they can reasonably feel is a winning strategy. It will take some inspired “strategizing” on the part of the contra-administration forces to even have a chance.