An Erap 2010 comeback is now being floated
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-06-19
To many people, the 2010 presidential election is far too distant to think about. Not so for the presidential wannabes who have actually started their own campaigns even before the close of the last elections.

A Genuine Opposition (GO) Senator lost no time in snuggling up to the Arroyo regime even before formal proclamation of the first 10 Senate winners had been made. Not having the resources and political machinery of Manny Villar and Mar Roxas, this particularly ambitious GO Senator does not have what it takes to wage a nationwide presidential campaign.

However, if presidentiables Manny Villar, Mar Roxas, Ping Lacson, Loren Legarda and Dick Gordon think they have only to contend among themselves, they’re in for a big surprise.

Two highly reliable informers, one of whom is a political operator of Joseph “Erap” Estrada, told me that the former president’s closest political aides met at the Club Filipino on June 5, 2007 and floated the trial balloon for an Erap 2010 comeback.

The meeting was organized by two of Estrada’s closest operators: Rolly Ramirez and Pablo Casimina. The meeting was reportedly attended by Estrada sons Jinggoy and JV, newly-elected representative and Erap Spokesman Rufus Rodriguez and PMP (Partido ng Masang Pilipino) members.

Originally meant to thank supporters in the last elections, the discussion invariably veered towards the suggestion of an Erap 2010 comeback. The promoters of an Estrada Part II are pegging their hopes on two things:

1. That the Constitution allows Estrada to run again for president given that he had not served four years of his 1998 presidential term. Estrada was only into his third year when he was ousted on January 21, 2001.

2. That Estrada will not be convicted for the plunder case awaiting judgment in the Sandiganbayan. Conviction will disqualify him from running again.

Estrada categorically denied planning a 2010 comeback in last Friday’s interview with ANC’s Ricky Carandang shortly before the final summations of his trial. But then, didn’t Gloria Macapagal Arroyo also say that she was not running in 2004?

I don’t relish the prospects of an Estrada comeback and I’m certainly not promoting it. I’ve said time and again in this column that if the country is to move forward, we have to exit from this disastrous era of Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Despite my personal revulsion to an Estrada comeback, it is understandable why Estrada’s political operators are craving for it. The presidentiables in the Opposition have only themselves to blame for this development.

They encouraged a dead horse to re-emerge for the 2010 presidential derby. They allowed Estrada to take center stage and fund the May 14 election campaign of the Opposition. Now the Opposition’s national victory has fueled an impetus for an Erap comeback.

The biggest loser among the Opposition 2010 presidentiables is Senator Manny Villar who now even stands to lose his post as Senate President. Villar committed three monumental political blunders:

1. He allowed his Wednesday Club to divide rather than consolidate under the Opposition. Villar, Joker Arroyo, Ralph Recto and Kiko Pangilinan would have all won had they ran under the GO banner. That would have also made Villar, not Estrada, the big winner in the last elections and would have inhibited others in the Opposition from clamoring for a change in the Senate leadership.

2. Villar deferred to Estrada instead of assuming the leadership of the Opposition. The post was his for taking but he held back and instead deferred to Estrada who was not really keen on taking the lead role.

3. Villar scrimped on spending for the Opposition victory, concentrating on his own election campaign. Villar had the money to reduce and offset the financial contributions of Estrada. Now the other Senate victors owe Estrada for endorsing them and for financing a good part of their campaign as well.

The split-up of the Wednesday Club had put Villar in a political grouping that is neither here no there, neither Administration nor truly Opposition. People generally distrust those who are betwixt and between causes and allies. The phenomenal rise of political neophyte and inadequately funded Antonio Trillanes IV emphasized the power of projecting a clear position on issues and causes.

In politics, it is a big handicap to be seen as a blurry and clouded image. People want to see what benefit you can bring or what causes you will uphold and advocate. This is what is now fueling the clamor for change in the Senate leadership and this development is something than will further erode Villar’s presidential chances in 2010.

It is no coincidence that one of the prime movers for change in the Senate leadership is Ping Lacson, another presidential wannabe. Villar’s replacement by Nene Pimentel enhances the presidential ambitions of Lacson et al, especially since Nene is not a presidential contender.

Other than Vice President Noli de Castro, an independent and another member of Villar’s Wednesday Club, Opposition candidates dominate the 2010 presidential race.

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