The flawed arithmetic of the Opposition
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-05-05

The Opposition should master their arithmetic if they are to win in 2010. The logic behind their concept of addition and division is terribly flawed.

Also, the Opposition should brush up on their Marketing 101. Politics is very much the social science of Marketing. But the way the Opposition is wittingly or unwittingly creating disincentives, one gets the impression that they are promoting the status quo.

Politicians swear by their mantra of “politics is addition” and yet they miscalculate that some additions result in corrosive divisions. When you attract divisive personalities into your ranks, you do not add to your numbers but drive some of your diehards away.

Without even taking into consideration that the Opposition could be infiltrated by Administration double agents, they are displaying mindsets and behavior that could only bring them to political defeat. The single biggest flaw of the Opposition is to think that the 60 to 70% of Filipinos who desire a regime change are theirs no matter what they say or do.

Just because 70% of Filipinos have decided to stop riding in jeepneys - that does not mean that the bus operators automatically get these jeepney riding commuters. The commuters can opt to ride on the MRT, LRT, tricycles or simply walk.

Nissan cannot presume that all disgusted Honda car users will automatically shift to Nissan. The mango growers cannot presume that all those who decided to stop eating bananas will automatically shift to mangoes.

In politics, voters can always look at other alternatives. Or they can see the government as the lesser evil if the so-called alternatives fail to present a convincing case for change. We all saw how bad a US president George W. Bush was during his first term. And yet, Bush got re-elected simply because the Democratic Party candidate - John Kerry - failed to present a convincing case for change.

There are too many signs that the current Opposition to the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime is likely to do worse than what John Kerry did in 2004 in the US. Instead of reinforcing their ranks, the Opposition is self destructing. Their current intramurals will only leave battered, weakened warriors to fight the powerful GMA machinery.

The Opposition presidential wannabes are deluded in thinking that the GMA camp is so badly discredited and has absolutely no chance of winning in 2010.

They’ve overlooked the fact that, even during her worst ratings in the SWS and Pulse Asia surveys, GMA has consistently managed to maintain a 25% support base. They’ve overlooked the fact that under our multi-party system, 25% is not very far from the votes of winning presidential candidates in 1992 and 2004.

They’ve overlooked the fact that, without GMA running, the Administration presidential candidate could be attractive even to those among the 60 to 70% that are seeking regime change. Take the case of Vice President Noli de Castro. Even though de Castro is part of the GMA regime, he manages to top the surveys.

Don’t you agree that given the Administration political machinery, plus GMA’s loyal support base - de Castro can easily garner over 30% of the votes? It would not be surprising if de Castro approximates Joseph Estrada’s 38% vote in 1998 which was considered then as a landslide victory. Under those givens, there is no need for Garci to ensure an Administration win in 2010.

At the rate the Opposition is demolishing each other, GMA’s 2010 presidential candidate can still win even if they don’t choose de Castro and opt for Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro or Independent Senator Richard Gordon (both untainted by regime scandals) on the given that GMA delivers her 25% loyal support base. With GMA’s 25% support base, either Teodoro or Gordon can easily get 30% of the votes which should be more than enough to win if there are four or more presidential candidates.

If the Opposition fails to present the ideological division that will sharpen the animosity of the 60 to 70% seeking regime change, then they’ll merely increase the odds favoring the GMA regime. It is imperative that the Opposition should spell out in clear and unmistakable terms how they are the real alternative to regime change and the attainment of a better life.

If Joseph Estrada’s plan to include staunch regime defenders Senators Juan Ponce-Enrile and Miriam D. Santiago in the Opposition Senatorial lineup happens, that will further blur the ideological divide and enhance the chances of GMA’s surrogate presidential candidate. That will be the classic case of two additions resulting in a big subtraction.

If the Opposition allows Senator Panfilo Lacson to get away with his unethical tirades against the leading Opposition presidential candidate, Senator Manny Villar, then they’ll merely erode their own chances of political victory in 2010. Villar has consistently kept close to de Castro in the surveys which is why he has become fair game.

Villar has a national party and the wherewithal to fund a well-oiled presidential campaign. Villar is one presidential wannabe with a legitimate claim to having come from the ranks of the poor - a priceless political capital. A former Speaker of the House and Senate President, he has the stature that people seek in their presidential candidates.

You cannot destroy an Opposition asset like Villar and not enhance the GMA regime’s chances of victory.

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