Joseph "Erap" Estrada’s scored a big one over Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when he asked his winnable son JV not to run for Senator. It did not put to rest the dynasty issue but it did put him ahead of Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
As far as most Filipinos are concerned, this coming May 14 election is also a proxy fight between Gloria and Erap. If the opposition is able to amass the critical number of votes in the House of Representatives, then that would propel the impeachment case forward to what will likely be a more opposition-dominated Senate. That will mean lights out for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and a new dawn for Joseph Estrada. Erap will not be returning to Malacañang but he will likely regain his freedom and get a chance to rehabilitate his damaged reputation. Justice in this country has an uncanny way of adjusting to the new political tide.
The clash between Estrada and Arroyo started way back in 1996 when Macapagal Arroyo tested the waters for the 1998 presidential elections which Estrada won. Failing to get the Lakas-CMD presidential nomination, Macapagal Arroyo was forced to play safe by running instead as Vice-President under presidential contender Joe de Venecia, the personal choice of then incumbent President Fidel V. Ramos.
Round one between Erap and Gloria became uneventful, there being no confrontation. The next two rounds were losses for Estrada. The second round was the 2000 - 2001 impeachment trial and his subsequent ouster by way of EDSA Dos. The third round was a proxy fight with old friend Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ) running for president in 2004. He won but lost in the counting.
Now we enter the fourth round — the May 2007 elections. At the outset, Estrada seems to be enjoying the upper hand, bolstered by the favorable impact of his decision to sacrifice the senatorial ambition of JV Ejercito and the fact that the opposition continues to maintain a wide lead in the surveys. The administration’s difficulty to put together a 12-man Senate lineup, needing to pirate from the opposition and independents, shows the impact of the anti-Arroyo national mood.
Leading in the recent Pulse Asia Senate race survey are: (1) Loren Legarda (46.6 percent), (2) Senator Panfilo Lacson (34.6 percent), (3) Senator Francis Pangilinan (34.6 percent), (4) Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano (31.7 percent), (5) Former Senator Vicente Sotto III (28.8 percent), (6) Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. (26.4 percent), (7) Sen. Ralph Recto (26 percent), (8) Sen. Joker Arroyo (25.8 percent), (9) San Juan Mayor Joseph Victor Ejercito-Estrada (25.7 percent), (10) Aquilino Pimentel III (24.4 percent), (11) Sen. Edgardo Angara (24 percent), (12) Former Senator Gregorio Honasan (23.3 percent), (13) House minority leader Francis Escudero (23.2 percent) and (14) Tarlac Rep. Benigno Aquino III (22.5 percent).
Ranked number 15 onwards are: (15) Former Senator John Osmeña (17.9 percent), (16) Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (17.1 percent), (17) Actress Susan Roces (16.9 percent), (18) Former Senator Francisco Tatad (16.3 percent), (19) Presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor (14.3 percent), (20) Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon (13.9 percent), (21) Actor Cesar Montano (12.8 percent), (22) Actor Edu Manzano (12.4 percent), (23) Former Senator Teresa Aquino-Oreta (11.5 percent), (24) Georgina de Venecia (11.5 percent), (25) Former Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado (11.3 percent), (26) Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla (10.9 percent), (27) Former President Fidel Ramos (10.5 percent), (28) Manila Mayor Jose Atienza Jr. (10.3 percent) and (29) Bukidnon Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri (10.3 percent).
Many of those who are within the winners circle — those with ratings of more than 15 percent — have been associated with the opposition. As to how erstwhile opposition stalwarts former Senators Tessie Aquino-Oreta and Tito Sotto and Senator Edgardo Angara will be affected by joining the administration ticket remains to be seen.
Likewise, high ranking Senators Ralph Recto and Joker Arroyo, who are not perceived as administration toadies, may suffer an erosion of their ratings for also joining the administration ticket.
Other aspirants (removing those who aren’t running) registered ratings of: (30) Actor Richard Gomez (9.2 percent), (31) Sonia Roco, (7.8 percent), and (32) Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay (5.6 percent). Quite interesting that Roco, Gomez and Pichay are determined to run despite their occupying the lowest ratings in this survey.
If you look at the rankings, those in the administration lineup who stand a chance to land in the winners circle come from either the ranks of the independents (Recto and Joker Arroyo) and the opposition (Aquino-Oreta, Angara and Sotto). True blue Gloria boy Mike Defensor is ranked number 19 with a rating of less than 15%.
So, it is highly probable that the winners that the administration will produce will be those whose loyalties may be in question. Can Macapagal Arroyo rely on Angara, Aquino-Oreta, and Sotto to defend her if an impeachment case is elevated to the new Senate?
At the start of the year, the administration was capitalizing on the negative effects that being associated with Estrada had on the opposition. I have written a lot about these negative factors in the last four weeks. The damaged reputation of Estrada prevents the opposition from claiming a moral high ground against the equally sinful regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Because of the Erap factor, the voting reverts back to the choice between the perceived greater and lesser evil, a choice which leaves the nation with a bad result, whichever way. This is what a strong third force would have avoided. A strong third force would have provided voters a clear non-Gloria and non-Erap alternative.
Now, Estrada somehow managed to create a semblance of "high ground" over Macapagal Arroyo when he prevailed upon his son JV to withdraw his Senate candidacy, knowing fully well that JV — ranked 9th in the survey — had an excellent chance of winning.
It also helped a lot that JV Ejercito is seen as the more articulate, the more respectable son of Estrada. JV’s half brother Jinggoy has been implicated in the Juetengate case of Estrada and in one occasion displayed his boorish nature when he struck a fellow showbiz star during a televised basketball game.
In contrast, Macapagal Arroyo has a son (Mikey) and a brother-in-law (Iggy) in Congress with another son (Dato) about to run as a congressman in Bicol, a province that is not his birthplace. Not only that, ever since Mikey and Iggy became congressmen, nothing substantial in terms of important legislation has been initiated by them.