GMA’s real game plan: Forget the Senate but win 90% of the House
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-02-18
In a telephone interview last Tuesday, DZXL Radio’s Ely Saludar asked my views about the just-announced Senate candidates under TEAM Unity and the Genuine Opposition. I predicted an 8-4 election result in favor of the Genuine Opposition. My assessment was thoroughly discussed in my February 15 column.

Before he interviewed me, Ely had Ateneo University Professor of Political Science Benito Lim on the other phone patch who had similarly predicted an 8-4 Senate win for the Opposition. Prof. Lim shared my view that this would be the offshoot of the strongly anti-Gloria Macapagal Arroyo public mood which has been validated in surveys.

It’s bad enough that TEAM Unity is heavily bogged down by the baggage of Madame Arroyo — their woes are compounded by the fact that many of their candidates are either not widely known or rate poorly in surveys.

Even with enormous regime campaign resources, it will be very hard for a slightly known candidate to suddenly gain nationwide recognition in just three months, especially amid all the election-related media noise and clutter. There is a limit to candidate ad spending — and the maximum allowed is not enough to generate the needed recall in three months. Another fact of life is the less known you are, the less likely that you’ll get front page banner headlines. GMA’s big joke
It was only after I had a good talk with a friend and Palace insider that it suddenly dawned on me that Madame Arroyo has pulled a big joke on us. My friend and I regard each other with mutual respect as political observers and we both want to get a sense of the truth from all sides.

I had deduced from my friend’s assessment that the regime really had a tough time putting together a lineup for Senate candidacy, hence the resulting ragtag combination of unknowns, independents and former oppositionists.

My friend the Palace Insider (or PI) then unwittingly let the cat out of the bag — Madame Arroyo has conceded the Senate race but will use all resources to win at least 90% of the House to prevent an impeachment case from prospering. PI thinks that Leyte’s Jericho Petilla sensed the real game plan which is why he withdrew and went local.

Add to that Ronnie Puno’s proud boast that they are confident of winning 90% of the House and it now makes sense why the regime has been vigorously trying to unseat key local government executives like Makati’s Jojo Binay, Pasay’s Peewee Trinidad, Cavite’s Ayong Maliksi, Iloilo’s Neil Tupas, Sr. et al. These local executives are crucial to delivering Opposition victories in their congressional districts.

PI and I agreed that Ronnie Puno must have quit his Local Government post to run anew as Antipolo Representative in order to pursue a bigger plum — to be the Speaker of the new House. As DILG boss, Puno would have been a vital cog in promoting the regime’s Senate candidates. But if the regime has already conceded defeat in the Senate race, then it makes sense for Puno to go for another stint in the House and gun for Speaker of the House.

Processing all these inputs, we reached these conclusions:

1. Consistent with all her previous attempts to thwart any ouster threat, Arroyo will not allow the Opposition to obtain the critical number of votes in the House that could effectively elevate an impeachment case to the Opposition-dominated Senate.

2. This ouster hysteria is also why Arroyo’s party, Kampi, is poaching Lakas-CMD people. Arroyo fears that a disgruntled Speaker Joe de Venecia and his Lakas-CMD (after she junked the failed Con-Ass of Dec. 7, 2006) may just decide to seek a coalition with the Opposition during or after the elections.

3. This also explains why those who have been tasked to manage the Senate campaign of TEAM Unity are not regime frontline shock troopers like Puno and Eddie Ermita (2004 campaign) but second liners. Likewise, this explains all this talk about shunning showbiz stars during TEAM Unity rallies. The monies and resources are going to be directed to the campaign to dominate the House by hook or by crook.

4. The regime will not disturb the people’s expression of their real sentiments in the Senate vote. The expected Opposition Senate victory will be the regime’s Exhibit A to demonstrate that the May 14 elections were clean and honest.

5. The Senate victory of the Opposition will be used to sanitize the special operation to win the House objective. The Senate loss is well calculated - Arroyo has effectively neutralized the Senate with EO 464 and the Senate cannot try an impeachment case that a regime-dominated House won’t elevate to the upper chamber.

All those groups who are moving to safeguard the May 14 vote should re-gear their efforts towards securing the district votes and not just concentrate their attention and resources on the national votes. If we can secure the sanctity of the district votes, it follows that the Senate votes are protected as well.

The strong anti-Gloria national mood will not only deliver an Opposition rout in the Senate but will also add many district seats to the Opposition Coalition. The only way Ronnie Puno can deliver his 90% House victory is by the same method that spawned the Garci crisis.

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