Who really got burned by the Senate coup?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-11-27

A good indicator on who got burned by the Senate coup is the STAR INBOX of November 24 about what readers felt about the ouster of Senator Manuel Villar as Senate President. Over 90% of the text messages — folks who pay to be heard — favored Senator Manuel Villar and were critical of the conspirators. Rarely does the STAR INBOX get such an overwhelming consensus.

Only the ignorant and the naïve would believe that the Senate coup last week that replaced Manuel Villar with staunch administration defender Juan Ponce Enrile was due to questions on the integrity of the deposed Senate President, as what the Cassius among the conspirators has been peddling.

Those who are wise to the ways of our traditional politicians know that the 2010 presidential elections — the fact that Villar’s star keeps shining bright despite the stabs in the back and up front that he has been getting — was what motivated the conspirators to install Juan Ponce Enrile as Senate President.

Immediately after the May 2007 senatorial elections, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Mar Roxas, Loren Legarda and Jamby Madrigal plotted like the envious cabal that assassinated Julius Caesar to oust Manny Villar as Senate President. Lacson, Roxas and Legarda being presidential wannabes, they felt that the Senate Presidency gives Manny Villar undue advantage.

In a way, they’re right. Being Senate President placed Villar as third in the line of presidential succession and that is added stature. It makes it easier to imagine Villar as president when the public mind has been conditioned to regard him as third in the line of presidential succession.

Had the conspirators succeeded then in placing Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel as Senate President, there would have been less public outcry. The top Senate post would have remained in the hands of the Opposition — in keeping with the voters’ mandate to have an Opposition Senate majority.

In the recent coup that succeeded, had the conspirators placed Sen. Mar Roxas, the only one among them with the stature to sit as Senate President, the outcome would also have been less controversial. But it is unlikely that these conspirators would allow another presidential wannabe to replace Villar because that would bring them back to square one.

When the conspirators placed Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile as Senate President, despite strong signals that Charter change is on the move and Enrile’s pro-Charter change stance — that was when many Filipinos saw the conspirators in the worst possible light.

To many Filipinos, this act showed how the conspirators are willing to sacrifice national interest in order to serve their ambition. Not only that, this act showed terribly bad judgment on the part of the conspirators for them to think that they can manipulate Enrile to play their game. It is bad judgment just as it is narrow-minded and utterly stupid.

Do they think that they can offer Enrile more than what Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) gives to motivate him to push her political agenda? Do they really think that Enrile will value the Senate Presidency over what he and his wife had been getting from GMA?

Who among them will have the guts to face up to Enrile when he starts to throw his weight around and move things in accordance with the agenda of the administration? Just look at the committee distribution and how many chairmanships administration allies have gained.

The conspirators did not even figure out that even if Villar is no longer Senate President, he has already enjoyed the boost in stature from being third in the line of presidential succession. When the 2010 presidential campaign goes into full gear, Villar will still enjoy the stature that the Senate Presidency had already given him.

Envy, like blind rage, can really cloud a person’s judgment. The conspirators did not even think that the Senate Presidency restricted Villar’s political space for maneuvering. He could not take on issues that could further boost his presidential image for fear of upsetting the administration Senators who supported him. Now, thanks to the conspirators, Villar has all the political space to take on any position that enhances his 2010 prospects while still enjoying the image boost he got from being a former Senate President and House Speaker.

The narrow-minded conspirators overlooked all these. Because of the way they think, who in his right mind will feel confident electing any of these conspirators as president?

In the two recent SWS and Pulse Asia surveys on 2010 presidentiables, Manny Villar rose in ratings and practically tied Vice President Noli de Castro (who led by only 1%, a virtual tie when margin of error is factored).

The conspirators must have panicked when they saw that Villar even rose in ratings despite their ‘Road to Nowhere’ muck racking. The ‘Road to Nowhere’ demolition job on Villar happened in September — before the SWS and Pulse Asia October surveys.

In the SWS survey on Net Satisfaction Ratings of Top Public Officials (released to media on November 24) — Villar topped it with 43%, followed by Noli de Castro with 34%.

Parañaque Representative Ed Zialcita of Lakas told me at the Peninsula Hotel over a month ago that Villar already has over 100 congressmen committed to him in 2010. The Senate Presidency is the least factor that made them consider Villar a winner.

Villar has the popularity, a national party and the wherewithal to win the 2010 presidency. With so many factors going for him, does it surprise you that Filipino crabs — very green with envy — are trying desperately to demolish Manny Villar?

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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