MANILA, December 10, 2003  (MALAYA) THE question posed was reasonable: Would Fernando Poe Jr. slide down to the vice presidential slot to preserve opposition unity? His answer: Why not?

The principal has spoken. So why are the self-appointed handlers in high dudgeon, saying that for FPJ it's the presidency or nothing? It's FPJ who's running. If he wants to run for barangay councilor, that's none of Sen. Edgardo Angara's or his spokesman's business.

The opposition has a clear shot at the presidency. Gloria Arroyo is a demonstrated incompetent. She is a goner despite the resources available to the incumbent. Raul Roco is doing well in the surveys. But his lack of organization and a temper as mercurial as Gloria's would weigh him down in the long days ahead. He, like Gloria, is also fond of wrapping himself in a cloak of principles. When word gets around how he had treated former clients and friends, the armor of this knight would not shine as brightly.

The opposition has two strong, probably unbeatable, candidates in FPJ and Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Ronnie currently has the edge in the ratings, but Ping is the hardened warrior who can better face up to the expected demolition job by the administration.

But if both of them run for the presidency, all bets are off on the opposition.

Surely Ping and Ronnie know this. Ping has been repeatedly saying he will be content with finishing his term as senator if he is not chosen opposition standard-bearer in a fair selection process.

Until yesterday's Bulong Pulungan at the Westin Philippine Plaza, Ronnie had been out of public view and tight as a clam about his options. It's reassuring to hear him say his dream will not be a bar to unifying the opposition.

And that's the problem. His handlers are more obsessive in their dream to become kingmakers than the putative king himself.

Angara is destroying the LDP in his manipulative reorganization of the party's regional and local leadership. He is blocking every attempt to arrange a one-on-one between Ronnie and Ping.

It's time Ronnie and Ping themselves take matters in their own hands. Let it not be said egos stood in the way of an opposition victory in May.

Worse, Gloria might just squeak by through massive cheating in a packed race. Ronnie's or Ping's conscience would never let them forget for bringing this tragedy on the people.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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