Manny Villar's bad hair week
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-03-09

Capped by last Friday’s release of the February 21-25 Pulse Asia survey that showed him drop by six percentage points (vis-à-vis the January Pulse Asia poll) and now trailing presidential race leader Noynoy Aquino by seven percentage points — last week could well be Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Manny Villar’s worst ever bad hair week.

After the January Pulse Asia poll showed Aquino and Villar with 37% and 35%, respectively, which is considered a statistical tie — the Villar rah rah boys went to town heralding that Villar has attained the winning momentum, that Aquino is losing steam and that the road to Malacañang Palace is clear for them. Then, the February Pulse Asia poll was released and that must have struck like an assassin’s bullet through the temple of the head.

Instead of reinforcing their claimed winning momentum, the latest Pulse Asia poll confirmed what your Chair Wrecker has mentioned in recent columns that Manny Villar displays the volatility of a weak brand in the marketing context. In July 2009, Villar registered a 33% rating only to fall to the middle 20% ratings after the entry of Aquino in the presidential race. Now, he has done it again. From 35% in the January Pulse Asia survey — his highest rating ever — Villar dropped to 29% in February.

To compound Villar’s woes, the rating of Joseph Estrada — seen as Villar’s main competitor for the class E votes because of their positioning — rose by 6%. This rise is perceived by many as accomplished at the expense of Villar. If ever Villar is propositioning Estrada to withdraw from the presidential race, the latest Pulse Asia poll will serve to reinforce Estrada’s resolve to pursue his quest for a chance to redeem his shameful 1998 presidency.

Aquino lost 1% from the January Pulse Asia poll, from 37% to 36%, but that is negligible per Pulse Asia president Dr. Ronnie Holmes due to the 2% margin of error. Aquino is comfortably ahead of his nearest competitor by 7%. Based on a 40 million projected voter turnout, that 7% is around 2.8 million votes.

Judging from the way he reacted, Villar defender and spokesman Gilbert Remulla must have been unsettled by the latest Pulse Asia poll results. Remulla sought to diffuse the impact of the Villar rating drop by saying that compared to the January 28 - February 3 TNS (Taylor Nelson Sofres) survey (Aquino 41%, Villar 30%), Aquino dropped by 6% while Villar only dropped by 1%.

Remulla said this despite his previous reaction when the TNS survey was announced last month that he does not know the methodology of the TNS survey and would rather wait for the SWS (Social Weather Stations) and Pulse Asia results. The truth is you cannot compare the results of two different surveys done by two different polling firms with possible different methodologies, samples and perhaps even questions. You can compare the February Pulse Asia results with the January Pulse Asia results but not with the TNS results.

It is believed that the drop in Villar’s ratings was caused by the many issues hounding him — from corruption, land grabbing and bribery to obscene election spending which violates the spirit of the Fair Elections Act for a level playing field. This 6% drop could be only the beginning of a bigger drop as more Villar issues continue to emerge.

To add to these issues that have been hounding Villar when the Pulse Asia February 21-25 poll was made, he was cited last February 27 by Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento for possible vote buying. Villar’s group was caught on video giving money to kids and awarding scholarships during their February 25 free concert at the Mall of Asia. This is ground for disqualification.

Last week, Villar was accused by Senator Dick Gordon of having attempted to bribe him through an intermediary last January for a favorable vote in the Villar Senate Ethics Case. Gordon’s vote would have ousted Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and effectively quashed the Villar Ethics Case.

Enrile also exposed Villar last January for an attempted bribe to ease up on the Ethics Case investigation. Reacting to Gordon’s bribery expose against Villar, Enrile remarked: “I commend Senator Gordon for unmasking the real character of Senator and presidential candidate Manuel B. Villar as a man who thinks he can buy his way to the highest position in the land with his billions of money.”

In his press statement, Enrile said: “On that same day, upon seeing Sen. Gordon arrive at the Senate session, I embraced him and whispered “Thank you, Dick. I know what happened.” At that time, he seemed surprised at my gesture and just hugged me back.”

Enrile added: “Sen. Gordon privately confirmed to me that such offer was indeed made and that he felt furious and insulted by the temerity and gall of Villar to think that he can be intimidated by money, much less lured by an offer for a position of power. He immediately said NO to this offer.”

The Gordon bribery issue becomes a credibility battle. Who will you believe — Dick Gordon or Manny Villar? You should then ask yourself — between Gordon and Villar, who has a trail of corruption issues hounding him?

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