ERNESTO MACEDA: STRUTTING ROOSTERS

MANILA, December 10, 2003  (MALAYA) THE disarray in opposition ranks is starting to worry the more sober and experienced leaders of the different opposition groups.

Two weeks after FPJ announced he was running for president, it seems that instead of moving forward, his candidacy is still stuck at the starting gate.

No platform has been announced. The vaunted members of a high level economic team are still a mystery. Outside of Senators Tito Sotto and Edgardo Angara, the managers and handlers of FPJ's presidential campaign are still unknown. This has prompted Sen. John Osmeņa to say he is running as an independent and has challenged FPJ to identity who are his advisers and campaign handlers.

The rift in the LDP has widened. And for LDP Secretary Gen. Butz Aquino to make a serious charge that FPJ handlers are preventing him from meeting with Sen. Ping Lacson is difficult to understand. And Sen. Nene Pimentel insists he is still a presidential candidate.

The defection of Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn and Cagayan de Oro Mayor Vicente Emmano to GMA are significant events. Already four congressmen identified with Ambassador Danding Cojuangco have announced for GMA. And many others are moving to the sidelines. It is very clear that the FPJ campaign has not moved to consolidate and ensure the support of personalities not sympathetic to the administration.

It is significant too that Sen. Angara and Sen. Tito Sotto have not been able to get LDP originals Rep. Celso Lobregat and Zamboanga City Mayor Caling Lobregat and other LDP heavyweights to toe the party line. Of course, they already lost Sen. Pong Biazon to the Roco campaign. Sen. Johnny Ponce Enrile has been marginalized.

The situation has been doubly exacerbated by the insistent TV statements of Manny Portes and Boots Agsawan, FPJ movement heads, that they do not need party watchers or politicians because their people will do the watching for FPJ.

There's a big difference between the FPJ and Erap situations. One year before 1992, Erap visited over 600 towns over an eight- month period before he decided to run for President, then slide down to VP. We know that for a fact. We arranged it for him and accompanied him. In 1998 Erap's Jeep was gathering signatures and issuing IDs two years before the elections. Erap was fully supported by a formal PMP-NPC-LDP coalition. Erap's campaign was handled by professionals.

Erap's think tank led by UP public administration expert Dean Raul de Guzman had been refining his program of government for President since he won as vice president in 1992.

Today, it is exactly five months or 150 days to election day. And the Comelec has not even issued its rules and guidelines for the automated voting and counting procedure.

It is not surprising that Inquirer senior editorial consultant Amando Doronila has come out with a front page story that the presence of four candidates makes it favorable for GMA.

I repeat, FPJ has this election won unless he finds a way to lose it. And to make matters worse, his handlers are already counting the chickens before they are hatched.

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On the GMA side, things are not looking rosier. It's a bleak Christmas for everybody. The CBCP has come out with a statement that GMA has lost her moral basis for a six-year term.

It looks like Bishop Eddie Villanueva is not supporting GMA. It should be clear to all political analysts that the Iglesia ni Cristo will not be for GMA. And El Shaddai Chief Brother Mike Velarde is playing coy.

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The recent to-do between PNP generals has again confirmed corruption in the PNP and the obvious readiness of GMA to cover up by getting Generals Ebdane and Matillano to shut up instead of using the opportunity to prove that she does not tolerate corruption by her boys. The public perception is that the GMA administration is now equally guilty of the charges they used to unseat President Erap. Archbishop Oscar Cruz says the jueteng payola is much bigger now under GMA.

By all indications, GMA will field a lackluster senatorial ticket with only two or three probable winners.

And GMA's biggest problem now is how to determine who of those pledging to support her will stay the course until election day. Or will they just stay long enough to get funds and then drop her?

As in the FPJ camp, it looks like non-politicians with very little field experience are calling the shots.

Interesting indeed.

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Sen. Tito Sotto says 95 percent of the movie industry leaders will support FPJ. But Nora Aunor has indicated she is for GMA. Vilma Santos' husband Ralph and Sharon Cuneta's husband Francis have given signals of independence from Malacaņang and may support Noli de Castro if he decides to run for president.

Ramon Revilla and Bong Revilla are definitely for GMA. Kris Aquino is confused while steady Mayor Joey Marquez is trying to hang on to his Lakas membership.

Aga Muhlach and wife Charlene will probably join dad Pepito Verez Perez inb the FPJ camp. But the Vera Perez family is split.

Most of the popular young stars are tied up with ABS-CBN or GMA-7 and will toe the line drawn by their studio bosses.

It looks like Sen. Sotto may be overestimating the extent of movie people support. It maybe more realistic to say that 60 percent may be for FPJ, 20 percent for GMA and 20 percent to the highest bidder


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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