Is Manny Villar playing with fire?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-07-21

The big difference between a military war and a political war is that in a military war, you can plan to kill your opponent. In a political war, you should only plan to defeat your opponent by getting more votes.

Of course, our political wars here do not exactly follow that norm as some politicians resort to murdering their political rivals. You see a lot of these in our local politics.
In both the military war and the political war, the combatants are guided by objective, strategy and plan. All strategies and tactics involve attendant risks.

When you adopt a strategy and tactic over another option, in effect what you’ve done is to assume that the benefits of the adopted strategy and tactic are superior to those of the discarded option. But you also assume the risk for not taking the discarded strategy and tactic.

In gist, that was the discussion on last week’s edition of Che Che Lazaro’s Media in Focus, over ANC, when they talked about the non-appearance of Senator Manny Villar in the ANC presidential forums. Guests in the discussion were Villar and Nacio-nalista Party (NP) spokesman Gilbert Remulla (by phone hook-up), PR practitioner Reli German and CMFR (Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility) Chairman Vergel Santos.

Remulla and German focused their points on the soundness (or otherwise) of Villar’s non-appearance. German did not see the logic why Villar should avoid the media exposure and take on the risk of being perceived as a candidate that is running away from a debate or hiding something.

Remulla justified the non-appearance as untimely because their campaign priority at this time concentrates on party buildup. But he said that in due time Villar will join these debates. Remulla mentioned that contrary to assertions that Villar is media shy — Villar does a lot of media engagements in the many places all over the country which he visits.

Santos confined his comments to the obligations of the presidential candidate to answer the questions of media. In short, resorting to packaged communications in order to avoid media questions is simply unacceptable.

By coincidence or by design, Villar and the other consistently top rating presidential candidate — Vice President Noli de Castro — are no-shows in the various presidential forums.

However, the great risk that the candidate takes when these debates are snubbed is to be perceived as lacking the guts and confidence to engage his opponents in a discussion where they can all challenge and disprove the merits of each other’s proposed program. Filipinos expect their president to fight for them and not run away from fights.

Villar’s snubbing of the Senate Ethics Case Hearing can be justified. No man should be forced to attend a hearing where his accusers and rivals are also his jurors. Villar has opted to explain his side of the ethics issue to media and we can understand why he opted to do that.

But for Villar to deprive voters the right to scrutinize their presidential candidate in a forum where the ideas, claims, personality and character of the candidate can be examined — that is altogether another matter and Villar should be called to task if this is what he plans to do up to the last day of the campaign period.

Once a person enters an election process, he or she is no different from a product in the market that must allow the consumer the right to examine and study the beneficial or detrimental aspects of the offer.

Your Chair Wrecker is no Joseph Estrada fan but we must credit Estrada, who is not known to be an intellectual heavyweight, for having the decency to appear in these debates. Estrada attended a major debate in 1998 even if he had led comfortably in the presidential surveys. He did not shine as the best debater but he went on to win by a big margin. Estrada attended two of the recent ANC Forums where Villar could only offer excuses.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, the top two candidates — Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) and Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) — snubbed the debates. They probably feared to be exposed as pretenders and were frightened by the thought of debating with then presidential candidate Raul Roco who would have made minced meat out of both of them. Had we been a matured democracy, there would have been a major backlash in 2004 against GMA and FPJ.

Manny Villar is taking an unnecessary risk by avoiding these presidential forums as ANC prefers to call them. It is a forum in the sense that the candidates do not confront each other directly. Villar is taking the unnecessary risk of allowing this to develop into a sore point against him, especially if he really plans to attend the debates or forums later on.

Why should he allow it to become a sore point? Should this develop into a point of attack by his rivals and then he attends the debates or forums later, it would appear that he was only forced to attend after it became a major issue.

Villar’s rivals do not have to prove anything here unlike the assertion on double insertion. All they have to do is to ride on something that Villar brought upon himself.

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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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