The making of the Opposition defeat in 2010
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-05-03

There is a most admirable trait of the then Opposition to the Marcos dictatorship which is glaringly missing in the current Opposition to the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime.

The Opposition leaders then — most notably Salvador “Doy” Laurel, Jovito “Jovy” Salonga and Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. — made the supreme sacrifice of sidelining their personal presidential ambitions in order to achieve Opposition unity which eventually led to victory via People Power after the 1986 Presidential Snap Elections.

What made their self sacrifice most admirable was the fact that they all gave way to a woman without any previous political track record — Corazon C. Aquino. Despite their established credentials, despite the fact that Filipinos have not yet elected a woman president, despite the fact that they had political parties to support them, despite the reality that as of November 1985 Cory Aquino was only known to about 22% nationwide (but enjoyed tremendous strength in the conversion ratio department) — they gave way to her and the rest was history.

Today, the Opposition faces a Marcos clone that does not hesitate to use oppressive and repressive means in order to win, that has all the money to buy political victory and possesses the cheating machinery if their coercive (goons) and persuasive (gold) means still prove insufficient to steal a political victory.

And yet, what we have today is an Opposition that is doing a better job of demolishing each other rather than unifying in order to marshal enough force to exorcise the evil in the land.

Of course, it should not be ruled out that the Opposition is infiltrated by double agents secretly working for GMA whose job is to foment animosity and disunity. In fact, it will be a surprise if the regime has not planted a double agent or two in the Opposition the way Marcos did then.

The seasoned political watchers can easily suspect two members of the Opposition whose actions can be perceived as that of a double agent working for GMA. Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and convicted former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada can be seen in this light with what they have been doing which effectively promotes Opposition disunity and discord.

To appreciate the possibility that these two could be playing the role of double agents, one must watch what they have been doing and not be guided by what they are saying. Talk is cheap but by their acts we may be able to discern what their real game plan could be.

Panfilo Lacson never had the proverbial Chinaman’s chance to win in the 2004 presidential elections. What he succeeded to do then was to make it easier for GMA to win by taking 10% of the Opposition votes. These days, he is busy trying to bring down the highest rating Opposition presidential candidate, Senator Manny Villar, with charges that he was not able to prove in the Senate Finance Committee under Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile.

When Joseph Estrada was pardoned by GMA, many of us wondered if a deal had been struck. After all, we never associated GMA with Christian charity but with horse trading of the smelliest type. That Herr Ronnie Puno brokered that pardon all the more raises questions as to what could have been the trade off.

These days we wonder if all these sorties that Estrada is doing nationwide, mimicking a presidential campaign, are not part of a plan to further divide the Opposition. Estrada’s claim that he will run for president if the Opposition cannot unite in 2010 is a virtual statement that he will run (assuming that the Supreme Court says that he is qualified to run again).

Being a political veteran, Estrada knows that this crop of Opposition presidential wannabes will never unite behind one presidential candidate, especially when there are double agents around to ensure that there will be discord and disunity. If Estrada is truly intent to play the role of Opposition unifier, then all the more he should relegate himself in the background and focus on building bridges between the Opposition intramural players. How can Estrada effectively unite the Opposition intramural players when he has decided to become a player in the intramurals himself?

In that list of possible Opposition Senate candidates that Erap recently announced, the inclusion of staunch GMA defenders Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile and Miriam D. Santiago effectively blurred the distinction between the Administration and the Opposition. If you remove that distinction, you effectively dishearten the easily 60% anti-GMA voters and enhance the Administration’s acceptability.

In the build up to the 2007 Senate elections, this Chair Wrecker warned the Opposition — specifically the Nacionalista Party of Manny Villar and the Liberal Party of Mar Roxas — that they should not allow Estrada to reassert himself and reinvent his leadership role in the Opposition. We took the view that there is a bigger base of voters out there who seek to be rid of the hardships that they associate with GMA and Erap.

Instead of asserting their independence in 2007 from Erap and GMA, Villar and Roxas opted to follow the old cliché that politics is addition. Now they are both stuck with Erap and they don’t even know if Erap is going to really push their candidacies or will promote his comeback bid.

Had Villar and Roxas disassociated the Nacionalista Party and the Liberal Party from Erap in 2007, their standards will clearly be the rallying points of Filipinos today seeking the exit from the GMA and Erap nightmares. Disassociation by the two national parties would have effectively marginalized Estrada.

Such is the plight these days of Manny Villar and Mar Roxas as they both hope against hope that they can still enlist Joseph Estrada to support their presidential bid instead of competing with them.

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