Understanding treachery in the Senate power play
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-07-08
The euphoria hadn’t quite settled and reality bites are already stinging at voters as they watch the Senate power play and back stabbing. After demonstrating a powerful condemnation of the Arroyo regime’s Team Unity that showed only two of its Senate candidates squeezing through the Magic 12, the nation is appalled to witness the unfolding sad reality of a fragmented Opposition.

Not only that, this early, some presidential wannabes, sights trained towards the 2010 showdown, are slithering towards Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her Senate allies. They do this without even showing token recognition of the fact that people voted for them to effectively rein in and redirect the Arroyo regime.

Those Filipinos who voted overwhelmingly to create an Opposition-dominated Senate now find themselves betrayed. In this zarzuela, Administration allies — the supposed minority in the Senate — will determine who sits as Senate President and consequently head the plum committees.

Public wrath is poised towards Sen. Manny Villar. In retaining the Senate Presidency, he accorded the regime’s Senate allies the political leverage to offset the opposition’s decidedly dominant number.

The tally now stands at 12-7-2 for the Opposition, Administration and Independent senators, respectively. The present cast of 22 does not include the contested 23rd senator whose proclamation had been sidetracked by the comic-tragedy act of Ben Abalos and Lintang Bedol.

Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Chiz Escudero are now also being given the bad press — branded as “traitors” — for going it with Villar, with some nudging from press factors of presidential wannabe Senator Ping Lacson.

Your Chair Wrecker is by no means pleased with what’s happening — having to watch self interests being pursued even before the mandate of the people has been served. But before I wreck any more chairs, I decided to enlighten myself as to how the back stabbing has started and developed.

I consulted an important Opposition leader who isn’t allied with any of the Senate protagonists and I talked with insiders in the camps of Ping Lacson, Manny Villar and Mar Roxas in order to get an accurate picture of who initiated the game and who threw the first punch.

Before we direct our wrath at anyone, let’s make sure that we are directing our anger to the right person and for the right reason.

For one to appreciate the dynamics of the Senate Presidency power play, one has to be familiar with the dramatis personae and the power blocs they belong to. There are basically four power blocs, as follows:

1. Power bloc #1: Senators Ping Lacson, Jamby Madrigal, Antonio Trillianes IV and Nene Pimentel. This is the core of the “Pimentel-for-Senate President” promoters.

2. Power bloc #2 or the Liberal Party (LP) bloc: Senators Mar Roxas, Noynoy Aquino, Pong Biazon and by affinity (not really a Liberal but very close to Mar Roxas and willing to be a Roxas running mate) — Loren Legarda. Their agenda is the 2010 ambition of Mar Roxas, an agenda that’s best served if Manny Villar is replaced as Senate President by non-presidentiable Nene Pimentel. Kiko Pangilinan is a Liberal but there is a conflict with his closeness to Manny Villar and the Wednesday Club.

3. Power bloc #3 or the Villar Nacionalista and core support group: Senators Manny Villar, Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero and Jinggoy Estrada (not a Nacionalista but by virtue of former president Joseph Estrada’s preference for Manny Villar).

4. Power bloc #4 or the regime allies: Senators Juan Ponce-Enrile, Miriam Santiago, Bong Revilla, Lito Lapid, Ed Angara, Joker Arroyo and Dick Gordon. Unconfirmed administration ally Gringo Honasan will likely vote with Juan Ponce-Enrile.

A theoretical power bloc, the Independent Senators Kiko Pangilinan and Gringo Honasan are only Independent by name.

Confusing as it is, these power blocs operate with certain givens — the fact that some of their members cannot sit beside (a gross understatement!) certain senators. Juan Ponce-Enrile cannot work with Jamby Madrigal. Ping Lacson cannot collaborate with Ed Angara and Joker Arroyo. Noynoy Aquino can’t be expected to align himself with Juan Ponce-Enrile and Gringo Honasan.

Because the Opposition has divided itself into three power blocs, the regime’s seven allies in the Senate now outnumber any one of these three blocs. This forces anyone who wants to sit as Senate President to strategically seek accommodation with the seven regime allies.

In this game, Lacson is disadvantaged because he is unacceptable to the regime and is forced to work only within the ranks of the Opposition. But such is not the case with Mar Roxas and per my sources, it was Mar who first attempted to solicit the alliance with the regime senators in order to dislodge Villar as Senate President.

Mar is not exactly interested to be the Senate President but depriving Villar of the position will definitely weaken Villar’s 2010 bid. Lacson is similarly motivated which is why he and Mar are both pushing for Pimentel to become Senate President.

Villar outfoxed Mar and beat Mar in his own game by winning the support of the Administration Senate allies. Mar and Ping now find it convenient to brand Villar a “traitor” to the Opposition’s cause, never mind if in fact it was Mar who was first tried to collaborate with the regime allies — an option Ping would likely use too if he was acceptable to the regime.

We really shouldn’t expect a chaste virgin to be elected head of any brothel of traditional Philippine Harlot Politics — not in the Senate, not in Congress and most especially not in the Executive.

  Previous Columns:

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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