MANILA, January 7, 2004 (STAR) HERE'S THE SCORE By Teodoro C. Benigno - Well, our politicians finally did it. They hogtied EDSA then stabbed it to death in broad daylight. And so we weep as a nation. The courageous multitudes weep, they who defied the powers that be in 1986 and 2001 and made EDSA happen. When just two days ago, the doors slammed open, and FPJ and GMA announced their senate listings, the shock was rude, jarring and palpable. Many cronies and guerrillas of Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada were back. Yes, the crooks and the money-lenders, the buccaneers.

We were all so proud of EDSA. Now we’ve all been betrayed. What shall, what can we do? We’ll let the future decide that.

Without any doubt, Ninoy Aquino is rolling mightily in his grave. It was he, his assassination that triggered the 1986 EDSA. And so are the brave hearts, the men and women who fought and laid down their lives during the Katipunan revolution against Spain and the insurgency against America. Alas, our heroes thought they had left a legacy. Well, what we have today – to use the more colorful vernacular – is unguyan, babuyan, ratratan, saksakan, sampalan, sabunutan, dengoyan, bugbugan.

When you come down to it, the shock is all the greater. Why? Because it was the profligate and conscious doing of the two leading presidential candidates, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Fernando Poe Jr. They should have known better than to erase the demarcation lines of EDSA and break its spine with coldblooded impunity.

Both GMA and FPJ had dipped their fingers in holy water. They posted their presidential candidacies – so they said – with clean hands. Really? The EDSA faithful, the hundreds of thousands who created People Power have now gone to the Wailing Wall. There they vomit the pain of being betrayed. The Marcoses are back. The Estradas are back. The jokers and the jackasses are back. The evil-doers are back.

A lot of faces civil society thought had journeyed to political limbo are back. No wonder the EDSA veterans stopped dead in their tracks when they saw the likes of Ernie Maceda, Juan Ponce Enrile, Francisco Tatad, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, Lito Lapid, John Osmeña, Imee Marcos. And Jumping Jehosophat, who in hell is Pia Cayetano? And, cut off my leg and call me Shorty, did I hear right when GMA said, "I am married to our country." Ma’am, you said thaaat?

Let’s look at the latest IBON survey.

As we expected, FPJ has spurted to the lead with 26.08 percent. Raul Roco, who has topped all previous Ibon presidential surveys, slid to second with 22.46 percent. Noli de Castro, who had yet to accept GMA’s vice presidential offer when the survey was taken, ranked third with 14.46 percent. GMA placed fourth with 10.50 percent, Ping Lacson fifth with 10.41 percent. So after all, Kabayan is not that formidable?

This early, FPJ is already taking off. It seems there is no stopping him. What was also significant about the Ibon survey was that just over 10 percent approved of GMA’s presidency, while 70 percent – egad, this is awesome! – disapproved. If Ibon is to be believed, GMA is already or almost a goner, and not all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can bring GMA’s shattered presidential jar together again.

What is then the lesson to be learned?

The May 10 elections next year, assuming they are held, will be a seething cauldron of turbulence. Why? The sacred seal of EDSA has been broken. The crooks, the criminals, the money-lenders are back. Imprisoned felon Joseph Estrada has been allowed by the Sandiganbayan to soon leave the country for a surgical knee operation in the US. This is a gross violation of the Constitution. This is kicking EDSA in the groin. This guy should remain in jail with bars.

By all testimonial accounts, Estrada could be sentenced to death for plunder charges. He is not even entitled to bail. On top of it all, we have topnotch orthopedic surgeons who can perform the surgery here with effortless ease. But no, GMA, or so it seems, wants Erap’s masa votes, so there you are. When Erap leaves for the US, he is virtually a free man. If he should return, by his odds his best friend FPJ will be in power. He will be pardoned or amnestied and, begorra, happy days are here again.

* * *

Now, regardless of how I feel about the elections – I have often said it could soon explode in our faces – let me get something off my chest. If I were an ordinary voter, I would much prefer Loren Legarda as pangalawang pangulo than Noli de Castro. Not that it would matter really in the long run. The Lorens of this world, the Nolis of this world some day will whirl into oblivion, and with them the GMAs and the FPJs.

Loren Legarda, for all her faults and her overweening ambition, is a whole lot better than Kabayan. She is bright, smart, articulate, experienced, can act and think on her feet. I doubt that Noli can. All he brings to the GMA presidential candidacy is a voice, a slickly combed hair, a sullied integrity, and a myth. The myth is that he is an expert communicator in Tagalog. Translated further, Noli can reportedly masticate the English agenda of GMA, dribble it in easy and understandable Tagalog to the masa. And there, voila, lies his genius. To boot, his resounding popularity will lift GMA’s presidential ratings during the campaign.

I don’t buy this baloney.

The unfolding campaign will demonstrate that Ms. Legarda is the better communicator. She will be able to charm the masses more than Noli can. She is no slouch in Tagalog herself. She can breathe into the hustings what FPJ may not be able to – a gut feel for issues, a feline charm and yes, oomph and an ocho-ocho come-on that Noli does not have. La Loren shone best during the Senate impeachment trial of Estrada, a performance rivalled only by that of Raul Roco. If Kabayan were already a senator at that time – when English was the lingua franca during the proceedings – I don’t know if he could have hacked it. I have never heard Kabayan speak English.

This is no slur. Whether we like it or not, English remains along with Pilipino our official language. It is the language of instruction in our schools, colleges and universities. We communicate to the outside world in English. Ju Hintao, president of China, speaks English well. As did his predecessor Deng Xiaopeng. Everybody who is anybody in the world today speaks English. Or is fast learning the language. Ariel Sharon speaks English well. So does Yasser Arafat. So do the leaders of Africa.

Assuming the campaign proceeds normally, assuming further that the GMA-De Castro ticket wins, assuming even further that GMA gets sick or is incapacitated, Noli de Castro takes over. Kabayan, what do you do? You hire an interpreter? How about participation in international conferences where your presence is needed, you do not speeka da Eenglish? All our caregivers abroad speak English. You can’t?

I’m wagering that it will be – again assuming everything goes just fine and dandy – Loren Legarda who will triumph in the vice presidential race over Noli de Castro. She is fast catching up. In due time she will certainly overtake Kabayan in the surveys. It’s a pity. Now the story can be told. During the Senate impeachment trial and immediately after, I was in close contact with Raul Roco and Loren. Both were enthusiastic about my idea they be paired off for the 2004 presidential elections, Raul for president, Loren for vice president. The team-up was unbeatable.

In fact, the three of us had some sort of confidential understanding or agreement the twin would meet soon and seal the undertaking.

But something happened along the way. Loren at the time never wavered. She saw the team-up as just dandy, perfect. Raul also did. But the "Women for Roco", one of the strongest boosters of Raul, just didn’t like Loren. In fact, many bad-mouthed her, wouldn’t touch her with a ten-foot pole. Roco liked Loren Legarda but couldn’t go against his female brigade. So he waited for better times. They never came. In my case, I figured Raul Roco would benefit immensely if by then he had formally announced the team-up with Loren.

They could, even that early, have barnstormed the country together. They could have lighted up the media, ignited the citizenry, energized the crowds as nobody could. They could have rocketed. But Raul wavered too long. Loren waited too long. And when she couldn’t wait anymore because not even myself could arrange a rendezvous, Loren finally jumped to the opposition. Before that, she sought my counsel, as she often does. Fretful and disappointed that I couldn’t even bring them together for a meetings, I just kept my peace, then reluctantly nodded. When Raul finally called up, declared the Women for Roco had changed their minds about Loren, it was too late.

What ultimately matters in presidential jousts is chemistry. This FPJ and Loren have. I don’t see this in Noli de Castro and GMA.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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