Campaign buzz: Disunity in TEAM UNITY while GO stops
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-03-06
Team Unity (TU) Campaign Manager Reli German’s response to questions of TV hosts Tony Velasquez and Pia Hontiveros on ANC’s Top Story last Thursday was a dead giveaway. Asked why he had to cede his media chores when this was supposed to be his area of competence, Reli could only say: "I wonder about that myself."

Reli had to make room for Samar Governor Ben Evardone and Tonypet Albano of Isabela who were made chief point men for media. Reli is still campaign manager but keeping the title somehow seemed more like a face-saving gesture. The rest of the question and answer was the usual damage control gobbledygook intended to downplay perceptions that a major internal power play was in the works.

While TU was busy explaining away reasons for movements of their key officers last Thursday, the Genuine Opposition (GO) was just as busy accounting for the last-minute cancellation of an Iloilo rally the night before. GO claimed that a "credible warning of a bomb threat" prevented them from pushing through with the event which was to have been a major Visayan sortie. GO even went to the extent of naming Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez as the mastermind behind the bomb scare.

Of course, outrageous stories tend to be believable when it is Gonzalez who is said to be behind them. After all, his colorful and bizarre commentaries can be so incongruous and unbecoming of his supposed title of Justice Secretary.

But something told me that there was something more behind the aborted GO rally than what meets the eye. I’ve checked with some of my trusted sources and they told me that there were 50,000 or so reasons why the rally did not push through. This time, I think I can exonerate Raul Gonzalez from culpability and for not being one of the 50,000 reasons.

Then GO also aborted a rally in Antique two days after that one scheduled in Iloilo — this time to allegedly avoid local conflicts. The GO excuses need imagination and credibility.

In the midst of all this, my friend Senator Serge Osmeña was asked to take over as GO campaign manager. This is of course good news for GO. Serge is a no-nonsense strategist and can stretch the limits and results from meager campaign budgets.

I then asked my good friend, the PALACE INSIDER (PI), about the sudden rigodon at the TU campaign organization. PI was featured in my February 18 column about the real game plan of Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA).

I learned that the development about Reli German was but a part of a broader theater of conflict in TU. PI told me that Reli and the team headed by Paul Aquino tangled with a Pearl Viernes, a GMA original team member. Paul Aquino is the brother of Lupita Aquino Kashiwahara, the Palace image wizard whose job is to make the unbelievable look and seem credible.

Paul is said to be in charge of planning the conduct of the TU campaign while Reli takes care of physical arrangements on site. The well-oiled TU machinery is reportedly geared to be three rallies ahead in terms of organization and planning. However, this has not been the case. Local government officials allied with the regime have been complaining that they have been advancing funds for TU because funds intended for campaign sorties slated in their areas are not reaching them.

Pearl Viernes is allied with Mai Jimenez and supplies the staple of rallies — the on-stage entertainment. Pearl Viernes and Mai Jimenez had conveyed the complaints of the local government officials to GMA and this was what triggered the organizational changes.

These problems may just be the tip of the iceberg for both TU and GO. All these are but manifestations of the entire problem with organizations that get together for convenience, rather than for a principle or a shared vision.

The TU senatorial candidates, I’m told, are not feeling the advantage of machinery and resources that they expected by running under GMA’s banner. Like I said in my February 18 column, the Palace game plan is to concentrate resources on winning 90% of the Congressional seats to ensure that no impeachment case prospers.

GO, on the other hand, has departed from legitimate powerful issues, such as GMA, and is concentrating its resources on individual promotions. This is a strategic blunder because the issue of people’s frustration over GMA is the only way GO can achieve the realistic favorable outcome of winning the Senate and another 80 or so House seats that it targets.

I’ve said time and again that Joseph Estrada is as much a liability as he is an asset while GMA is more a liability than an asset. TU and GO success will depend on how they cope with these realities.

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