With a lineup that looks like a stew of the previous supper’s leftovers, the Arroyo administration will be lucky if it can win four Senate seats. Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will need more than three Garcis to pull another fast one with that TEAM Unity lineup.
There are at least six administration candidates who are either unrecognizable or unlikely to win in the May 14 national election. These are Leyte Governor Jericho Petilla, Zambales Governor Vic Magsaysay, Bukidnon Representative Miguel Zubiri, Surigao del Sur Representative Prospero Pichay, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram and former Chief of Staff Mike Defensor.
National voters are hearing the names of Petilla and Kiram for the first time. Zubiri and Pichay showed poor ratings in the recent Pulse Asia survey, ranking 29th and 32nd, respectively. An obscure Magsaysay is running, with only the famous name of his relative, the former president, for credentials.
Despite all the media exposure he has been getting, Gloria’s fair-haired boy, Mike Defensor, ranked 19th in the Pulse Asia survey — likely the effect of the strong anti-Gloria sentiment weighing him down.
Chavit Singson can claim national recall, owing to his key role in the ouster of former president Joseph "Erap" Estrada in 2001. But as to his acceptability as a Senator, that remains to be seen. Chavit’s big advantage of course is the big Ilocano vote and a massive campaign war chest that can buy him lots of advertising exposure.
Four others in the administration lineup — independent Senators Ralph Recto and Joker Arroyo (members of the Wednesday Club) and erstwhile Opposition members Senator Ed Angara and former Senator Tito Sotto — are hardly what we can call true-blue Gloria boys. But ironically, these are the four who stand the best chances of making it to the magic 12. They are known nationwide and true enough, they rated well in the latest Pulse Asia survey. Formidable 8 of the Opposition
Given the imperfections of each member in both camps, you will find at least eight Opposition candidates who are virtually unbeatable. These are (with their corresponding ranking in the Pulse Asia survey): (1) Loren Legarda, (2) Senator Panfilo Lacson, (3) Senator Francis Pangilinan, (4) Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, (6) Senate President Manuel Villar Jr., (10) Aquilino Pimentel III, (13) House minority leader Francis Escudero and (14) Tarlac Rep. Benigno Aquino III.
With JV Ejercito’s withdrawal (JV was ranked 9th in the Pulse Asia survey) and Gringo Honasan (ranked 12th) running while under detention and without a party, Escudero and Aquino can be considered ranked 11th and 12th, respectively. In fact, these two young aspirants will most likely move up from their present rankings given more media exposure.
Another Opposition candidate, John Osmeña is perching on the 13th rung. Those trailing Osmeña will find it hard to overtake him from his present ranking. His position bolstered by the big Cebuano vote, Osmena could well be the 9th winning Opposition senator.
Compared to the unheard of personalities in the administration lineup, the other Opposition candidates have the edge. For one, Nikki Coseteng cannot be considered an unknown. Coseteng has been elected Senator before. Mutineer Antonio Trillanes is not an unknown unlike the administration’s Petilla and Kiram. The Oakwood Mutiny has made Trillanes a national figure although it remains to be seen if he had roused enough pizzazz to get voted to the Senate the same way as Gringo Honasan.
Raul Roco’s widow, Sonia Malasarte Roco, carries with her the name of the "best president we never had" and the Bicol vote is as reliable as the Ilocano and Cebuano votes. She has qualities on her own. Compared to Petilla, Magsaysay and Kiram, Sonia has better chances. The Gloria baggage
Ultimately, the outcome of the senatorial race will be determined by the weight of the baggage that the administration candidates carry. Many of them having neither facial familiarity nor name recall, their biggest handicap is really being part of the team identified with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The administration campaign strategy is attempting to shift the focus from Gloria and Garci to the lure of economic improvement. Can this work with the sorry state of Arroyo’s battered credibility and the misery index that belies all claims of economic improvements? Arroyo’s recent tantrum when questioned on her touted economic gains eloquently demolished her own campaign pitch.
Four of the better rating senatorial candidates of the administration got their numbers from being associated with the Opposition or being independent of Arroyo. Thus, it remains to be seen how aligning with Madame Arroyo will affect the candidacies of Joker Arroyo, Ralph Recto, Ed Angara and Tito Sotto.
A former member of the Opposition who joined TEAM Unity, Tessie Aquino-Oreta, is not even in Pulse Asia’s top 20 — she ranks 23rd.
We must remember that Erap’s masses are a loyal vote block. It has supported and elected Loi Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada into the Senate. The same voters would have placed JV Ejercito in the Senate if he did not withdraw from the race.
Now, how much of their ratings can Angara, Sotto and Aquino-Oreta retain without those Erap loyalists voting for them? For Joker Arroyo and Ralph Recto, how many of the over 60% who want Macapagal Arroyo ousted will still vote for them — now that they have decided to cast their lot with Gloria Arroyo? The ‘salamanka’ factor
Many people fear that the administration will not abide by the rules. That is a fair commentary considering that they have not purged Garci’s operators from the Comelec.
But in an election pregnant with anti-Gloria sentiment crying to be expressed, and where the administration lineup is most anemic, it is doubtful they will be able to pull the usual chicanery without provoking dire consequences.
For one, there is a CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) and a middle class that will react. When Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) was cheated in 2004, the CBCP and the middle class couldn’t care less. FPJ was seen as the greater of two evils.
The situation now is different. Add to that the restive military and you have the perfect ingredients for People Power or worse — civil war.