[PHOTO AT LEFT - A young Kiko supporter points out to Miel Pangilinan where she is in a family photo poster during the Bataan stop of the Kumilos Kasama si Kiko Karavan. Miel is the daughter of re-electionist Sen. Kiko Pangilinan and actress Sharon Cuneta.]

MANILA, MAY 11, 2007 (STAR) COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva - I could only imagine the stress of the candidates as the May 14 elections draw near. With less than 72 hours left of the official campaign period, the tight race to Congress is at the homestretch. The stress turns to distress especially for the 37 candidates running for the Senate because there are only 12 slots up for grabs.

What could further add to the stressful situation for these candidates, particularly the re-electionist senators, are the results of mock polls and opinion surveys that come out every now and then in media. In these surveys and mock polls, obviously the candidates from the Genuine Opposition (GO) have been lording it over their counterparts from the administration-backed Team Unity (TU). However, at this stage, it is still anybody’s race.

I have always taken the position that what matters more than the results of surveys and mock polls, is the official result of the elections. What should worry more these senatorial candidates is the value of endorsements and the grassroots support, especially those mobilized by local government officials who are also running in the coming elections on Monday.

It is said, and rightly so, that figures don’t lie. The Opposition has failed to field candidates in 68 of some 230 congressional districts and it is only competitive in 20 percent of the areas where they have bets. Of the 80 or so gubernatorial contests, 75 pro-administration candidates are sure to win because many of them are virtually unopposed. One of them is Lakas-CMD reelectionist Gov. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar. Instead of campaigning for his re-election, Evardone has been pre-occupied in supporting the administration’s Senate ticket as TU media director.

Evardone has taken up the cudgels for the TU senatorial candidates who have complained about "slanted" survey results coming out from the Social Weather Station (SWS). He personally filed a complaint against the SWS before the Nebraska-based World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) for alleged "mercenary work" that this opinion polling firm has undertaken for the GO. This case would be a good opportunity for the SWS to clear its stature that has been tainted by these complaints.

The cat is out of the bag. Candidates leading in these surveys and mock polls are not in the list of those being endorsed by traditional large voting blocs like the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) and the El Shaddai charismatic movement. Both the INC and the El Shaddai endorsements showed an equal mix of TU and GO candidates, plus one or two independent senatorial bets. I compared the INC and the El Shaddai endorsements and I noticed that my personal list of Senate bets I would vote for has, more or less, the same names.

The INC has six TU, five GO and one independent candidate who reportedly got the blessings of INC executive minister Eraño Manalo. The six TU Senate bets in the INC list are re-electionist Senators Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo and Ralph Recto, former presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor, Bukidnon Rep. Miguel Zubiri and ex-Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III. On the other hand, the GO bets included in the INC list are re-electionist Senate president Manuel Villar, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, House minority leader Francis "Chiz" Escudero and Tarlac Rep. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and ex-Sen. Loren Legarda. Independent re-electionist Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan made it in the INC list.

In the list of the El Shaddai, headed by Bro. Mike Velarde, it is reportedly composed of a balanced mix of five TU, five GO and two independent senatorial candidates. Among the TU bets who made it in the El Shaddai list are Angara, Arroyo, Zubiri, Defensor, and Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay. The five GO Senate bets to get the El Shaddai support reportedly include Villar, Escudero, Aquino, Lacson, and Legarda. Aside from Pangilinan, former Senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan is the other independent candidate who would get the El Shaddai support.

The reality on the ground, unlike the surveys and mock polls, is that many of these pro-administration city and town mayors will also carry in their sample ballots the names of many, if not all of the 12-man TU ticket of President Arroyo. What do Quezon City Mayor Sonny Belmonte Jr., Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and Binalonan town Mayor Ramon Guico interestingly have in common? They belong to the exclusive club of 243 municipal and 24 city chief executives scattered all over the country who are full-time campaigners for the TU senatorial ticket because they are all unopposed re-electionist local officials. This would really make a deeper cut into the GO’s much vaunted edge over TU bets whom they beat in surveys and mock polls.

So I was not surprised when some of the TU senatorial candidates like Defensor and Pichay who were supposedly lagging in surveys have made big gains in terms of greater awareness about them. Speaking of Pichay, I was glad to learn that he has publicly declared his intentions to seek for a review of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001 should he win in the Senate race. Pichay joined Sotto in their commitment for Congress to find out why EPIRA has failed to fulfill its mandate to lower power rates.

I am making a headcount of those candidates who would really work for the interest of electric consumers like us who continue to pay the price of inefficiency and incompetence of top executives in the state-run National Power Corp. No less than Sen. Arroyo vowed to look into these shenanigans at the Napocor which he suspects as the reason why after six months of the typhoon devastation, his fellow Bicolanos continue to suffer long hours and intermittent blackouts up to now. Our country needs more stable power supply, not more power-tripping officials.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved