And then there were four
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-11-05

The bolting from the NPC (Nationalist People’s Coalition) by Senator and presidential wannabe Chiz Escudero effectively narrows the choices for the 2010 president to four candidates. These are frontrunner Senator Noynoy Aquino, Senator Manny Villar, former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada and administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro.

Judging from the many media commentaries, if Chiz Escudero were to still pursue his presidential bid, it is evident that he has lost a lot of ground to still be considered a viable candidate. There is the credibility fallout and the questions regarding the wherewithal with which to run a viable presidential campaign.

A dominant brand like frontrunner Noynoy Aquino with over 50% in current ratings can run as an independent and still win because of the vast public support that is forming the wind beneath his wings. But a fourth placer in the nationwide SWS September 18-21 survey like Chiz Escudero cannot hope to muster the support base that made the Noynoy phenomenon.

Of course, there are still the announced intentions to run for 2010 president like those of resigned Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, Nicanor Perlas and Senator Jamby Madrigal, to name a few, but your Chair Wrecker will not even extend to any of them the usual two chances of none and nil. There is reason to believe that even their relatives and closest friends do not entertain illusions of their being viable 2010 presidential candidates who can even come close to being number four.

Gilbert Teodoro’s chances are pegged on attracting the 20 to 25% support that Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) manages to get in the surveys. Even when GMA registers her worst satisfaction or approval ratings - there is always that base of GMA support that never dives less than 20%.

To be competitive, Teodoro must be able to retain the 20 to 25% GMA support base and then aspire to attract some of the Opposition voters with his personal as well as professional qualities. If he can muster at least 30% of the votes and if he, Villar and Estrada manage to reduce Noynoy Aquino’s immense lead — then Teodoro might have a chance of bagging the 2010 presidency.

Victory for Teodoro means that he will get 30% or better, that Villar and Estrada will not get more than 30% each and that Noynoy Aquino slips below 30%.

That is a very tall order for Teodoro to accomplish because where he is right now would indicate that even the GMA support base is not that excited about his candidacy. The Lakas Kampi CMD Party machinery that he will be banking on is suffering from desertions to other parties like the NP (Nacionalista Party) of Manny Villar, the LP (Liberal Party) of Noynoy Aquino and even the PMP (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino) of Joseph Estrada.

Should Chiz Escudero opt not to run for 2010 president, the 8% of respondents (assumed to be mostly the youth) that he got in the nationwide September 18-21 SWS single choice survey — will likely gravitate to Noynoy Aquino. Thus, Noynoy can become more dominant rather than lose ground.

While Teodoro may have the personality to appear attractive to young voters, his association with the unpopular GMA regime, his announcement to pursue the policies of the GMA regime and his support for Charter change which many regard as a resurrection mechanism for GMA — will be more than enough to sink his candidacy even before it takes off.

Between Manny Villar and Joseph Estrada, it is doubted if Estrada can still generate anything near the numbers which he enjoyed during the 1998 presidential elections. Villar has to be considered as the more serious threat to Noynoy Aquino. Villar’s “nanggaling sa mahirap (emerged from the ranks of the poor)” resonates better than Estrada’s old campaign refrain of “para sa mahirap (for the poor)” which is now seen by his voters as a broken promise of 1998.

Even if Estrada hurdles the legal questions about his 2010 candidacy and dodges being charged for the Dacer-Corbito murders which is ground for disqualification to run for public office — his conviction for plunder had significantly eroded his popularity among the masses that made him 1998 president. In 1998, it was the promise of a better life that the masses saw in Estrada. Now many of them know better.

Manny Villar’s biggest obstacles in trying to overtake Noynoy Aquino are as follows:

1. Villar lacks the charisma to attract the youth. He can only bank on the masses — hoping that they’ll empathize with his “once poor” background.

2. Villar is being hounded by corruption controversies. Regardless if no legally damning case was ever established against Villar, the fact is that he is up against someone like Noynoy who is untainted. In politics, the perception can be more important than the facts.

3. Villar will find it hard to project himself as a reformist president in an election where the voters are searching for dramatic, meaningful change. At best, Villar can only project himself as the better version of traditional patronage politics. The transfer of administration stalwarts to the NP and Villar’s level of media spending reinforce that perception of money politics.

Noynoy Aquino isn’t just a market leader. He is a dominant brand that’s no different from Colgate domination of the national toothpaste market.

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