The 2010 presidential fight gets uglier
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-07-31
Guns blazed ferociously and stealthy daggers found backs to dig into. We talk not of the Iraq War but the fight for the 2010 presidency. Previous presidential battles were similarly vicious but what’s surprising is that open hostilities have erupted this early.

So far, we are aware of the following:

Villar-the-next-President coffee mugs

Shortly after the election for Senate President, Malacanang beat reporters received coffee mugs with the inscription: “I’ll have coffee with you in Malacanang — Manny Villar 2010.” The malicious prank was apparently intended to embarrass the re-elected Senate President (SP) by projecting him as rabidly over-eager and ambitious.

Demolition text messages

Then text messages started circulating. I received two of these and both came from mobile number 09276429381. Both text messages were attacks on Villar and the Opposition Senators aligned with him.

The first text message sent to me harped on the loyalty issue, citing the “Political Mongrel” tag that originated from Sen. Ping Lacson. The other text message I received was even more direct — it accuses SP Villar and Sen. Chiz Escudero as the 2010 President-Vice President tandem of Malacanang.

Big media buyer

A White Paper on supposedly the “Most Corrupt Editors, Journalists and Columnists” was circulated on the internet. On the surface, it appeared to be one of those mischievous exposes that come and go. It provided a detailed excoriating attack on editors of broadsheets.

On closer scrutiny, the intention becomes obvious. It identifies a presidential wannabe, known to be highly popular with media, as one who is supposedly a big financial provider of editors and leading personalities in the press.

This looked like a preemptive move on the part of the dirty tricks operatives. By tagging sympathetic media as recipients of this politician’s slush funds, they are also making media more wary of supporting or being identified with the presidential aspirant.

‘Hello Erap’ tape

Unthinkable perhaps, but even former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada has been cast by news reports as the main actor in a supposed “Hello Erap” transcript of a tape that is said to be doing the email rounds.

The said transcript supposedly reveals a conversation between an administration official (former Chief of Staff Mike Defensor was named in some media reports but he denied it) and Estrada where the former president was asked to split the Opposition in the 2004 Presidential Elections in exchange for getting his son Jinggoy off the plunder rap sheet. The apparent political objective of the Opposition split was to enhance the administration’s chances of victory.

Save for the White Paper on alleged press mercenaries, the group of Manny Villar is the clear target of these demolition jobs. These appear to be generated by rivals who have a moist eye for the 2010 presidency.

Knowing the rough and tumble world of Philippine politics, we can never rule out the administration as the probable perpetrator of these shenanigans. Indeed, it stands to reason that the regime could well be the one and only grand puppeteer of the four schemes.

One thing I learned after seeing political operators up-close is that they like to spin their web of lethal schemes when somebody else will be perceived as the main suspect of their misdeeds. In this case, suspicion focuses on the Opposition presidential wannabes who were agitated by the re-election of Manny Villar as Senate President.

It will be remembered that when Senators Mar Roxas, Ping Lacson, Loren Legarda and Jamby Madrigal (oh yes, I was informed by one of her operators that she has presidential ambitions) banded together to push for the election of Sen. Nene Pimentel as Senate President, their stated objective was to level the playing field for all Opposition presidential candidates. To them, the Senate Presidency enhances Manny Villar’s bid for the 2010 presidency.

When the undercurrent of hostility among Opposition presidential wannabes spilled out in the open, I think that it presented a golden opportunity for the regime’s political operators to heighten Opposition in-fighting. It’s like a severely bleeding seal finding itself one meter away from a Great White Shark that has not eaten for days. It’s wishful thinking to expect the regime’s political sharks not to bite.

From what is unfolding, the Opposition can kiss their 2010 ambitions goodbye. All the administration needs in order to win in 2010 is for the Opposition to again make the mistake of 2004 and split their votes.

I’ve said it before: Two Opposition candidates running for president in 2004 will lose to somebody like Sen. Dick Gordon or Mayor Sonny Belmonte running under the powerful Lakas-CMD-Kampi-NPC coalition. These two administration allies both enjoy a positive public image and are each backed by a fantastic executive track record — the Subic Bay transformation for Gordon and the Quezon City fiscal turnaround for Belmonte. Untainted by the sins of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Gordon and Belmonte are exciting candidates who will enjoy the backing of what is still the best political machinery in the country.

  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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