Lacson: 'Spoiler' or Opposition?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-07-24
Senator Chiz Escudero lashed back at Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson for calling him and those who supported the re-election of Senator Manny Villar as Senate President as "political mongrels." In turn, Senator Escudero branded Lacson as the Opposition "spoiler."

Lacson's insistence to run for President in the 2004 national elections had split the anti-administration votes and had prevented the Opposition from firmly securing a victory that will effectively offset even the Garci machination.

Lacson even defied the wishes of his political patron, former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada, who stood four-square behind his old friend Fernando Poe, Jr. or FPJ. Estrada's personal appeal to Lacson not to divide the Opposition votes was to no avail.

Many would have understood if Lacson had been one of the leading candidates for president in 2004. He never really figured as a threat to the leading contenders. He landed a poor third in 2004 but only after Raul Roco had taken ill and Raul's voters shifted.

Known as Erap's Guardian Angel during his presidency, Lacson was nowhere in sight when Erap's was ousted by EDSA II. Lacson readily capitulated to the new Arroyo regime. His only saving grace was not to go up the EDSA Shrine unlike Angie Reyes and the other Erap cabinet members.

Lacson’s biggest problem is that he is not affiliated with any national political party that could propel his presidential ambition. Mar Roxas has the Liberal Party behind him while Manny Villar has the Nacionalista Party — two of the oldest existing national political parties in the country.

Nobody was ever elected president in the Philippines without the backing of a strong national political party. And this is not likely to change in the near future. Even Cory Aquino, the most "non-politician" among our presidents, needed national political parties to support her 1986 Snap Election campaign — the PDP-Laban, Liberal Party and UNIDO plus a host of local parties.

Neither does Lacson enjoy the option of being drafted by the administration coalition of the Kampi, Lakas-CMD and NPC. Following the debacle of the 2007 national elections, the administration coalition is in search of a strong presidential candidate to field in 2010.

But if the administration coalition decides to adopt a presidential candidate in 2010 from the ranks of the Opposition, Lacson will be the least likely choice. There has been too much bad blood already between Lacson and Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) and her husband Mike. It will be unimaginable for GMA to take a chance on Lacson. Manny Villar and Mar Roxas seem to be the administration’s more logical choices.

At the rate the Opposition is imploding, we cannot discount the possibility that the administration coalition — still the most formidable political machinery around — can still win in 2010. More so if they are able to rally behind candidates like Sen. Dick Gordon or Mayor Sonny Belmonte who have managed to keep themselves in good stead with the public and untainted by the sins of the Arroyo regime.

Traditionally, presidential election winners are unifiers and rallying figures. Such was the role of Ramon Magsaysay and Cory Aquino. Lacson does the opposite — he promotes disunity and discord.

Landing third place in a Senate race is no assurance that one will be a strong contender for the presidency. It's easy to get many votes when the voters are allowed as many as 12 choices. It’s not quite the same when there is only one choice and it is for the most important public office in the land.

Whether true or fabricated by his political enemies, Lacson's past issues (Kuratong Baleleng, Ador Mawanay, Jose Pidal expose, Bubby Dacer case and so forth) haunt him and will weigh down his presidential bid. It would do Lacson a lot of good to commission a survey to find out just how many fear him more than they respect or look up to him.

The presidency is a trust position — the highest trust position in the land in fact. GMA's lack of public trust was what crippled the administration's Senate candidates in the last elections. A survey confirmed the alarming level of public distrust that Madame Arroyo suffered from.

Lacson's political enemies have linked him to brutality, libel, theft, abduction, kidnapping, murder, money laundering and even espionage. Although none of these accusations have been proven, many people will still believe that "where there is smoke, there is fire." Lacson will have to bear with the reality that many people will most likely play it safe and not elect him president.

Maybe that is why Lacson is so bent on waging a negative campaign against the reputation of his rivals. It has become a known campaign strategy to heap dirt on one's rivals if a candidate cannot project a wholesome image.

If her public image as a liar and a cheat has resulted in GMA's public rejection, Lacson should not underestimate the power of public perception on one so repeatedly accused and suspected of crimes.

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