The realistic options of the last 31 days of campaigning
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-04-08
Today marks the last 31 days of campaigning for national and local positions in the May 10, 2010 elections. At the end of May 8, all candidates will have to stop campaigning or face disqualification.

In the most coveted electoral contest — the presidency — the realistic options have narrowed. For those who are currently ranked fourth place and lower in the credible polls — their chances of winning have moved from improbable to almost impossible. It has never happened in Philippine presidential elections that a presidential candidate rallied and won from a single digit rating with only a month of campaigning left.

Not even a national well-oiled party machinery can do the job now for those ranked lower than fourth place. Theoretically, Lakas Kampi CMD’s Gilbert Teodoro has the edge in party machinery but it is now doubted how many members of his party are still supporting him.

Sans a dominant political party machinery, a fourth, fifth and sixth ranked presidential candidate can only hope for victory through the active participation of people’s organizations. But that’s unlikely to happen with the way they’re rating. Only popular candidates who are perceived as the most needed Chief Executive will earn the people’s active participation.

Thus, we can consider the May 10, 2010 presidential election as now down to a three-way fight between race leader Noynoy Aquino (Liberal Party) and current second and third placers Manny Villar (Nacionalista Party) and Joseph Estrada (Pwersa ng Masa), respectively. Since we adopted the multi-party system, the 1992, 1998 and 2004 presidential elections were won by candidates holding the top two places of the last polls before voting. No third placer went on to win a presidential election since 1992. This should silence those detractors of the SWS (Social Weather Stations) and Pulse Asia — the most credible polling firms in the country.

Following the trend since 1992, it is increasingly looking like a Noynoy Aquino victory. As what your Chair Wrecker observed ever since the son of Ninoy and Cory joined the presidential derby — Noynoy Aquino is the dominant brand. In both the credible SWS and Pulse Asia nationwide surveys, Aquino has always kept the lead. The closest it got was a two-point lead over his closest rival but this lead expanded to 9 points in the March 19-22 SWS poll, 13 points in the March 21-23 Manila Standard Today poll and 12 points in the Pulse Asia March 21-28 poll which was released last Tuesday.

The odds favoring Aquino were enhanced by the volatility of the ratings of the second and third placers, as showed in the March polls. Villar’s upward momentum has stopped and he registered an ominous drop. Third placer Joseph Estrada has been rising closer to Villar, bringing a 19% rating gap in the February SWS poll to just 9% in March.

Significantly, Villar and Estrada are courting the same class D and class E voters. In the SWS March poll, Villar lost 7% in the class D (75% of voters) while Estrada gained 5%. Aquino retained his class D rating. Thus, it is clear in the March SWS poll that Villar is losing points to Estrada. Aquino added 1% to his overall ratings while Teodoro remained static.

What should worry the Villar camp is that they’re already suffering from a downward spiral when two new killer issues erupted — the "PEKENG MAHIRAP" and the “Mike Villarroyo” issues. Even without a downward spiral, Villar could be sunk by these two new killer issues. So, imagine what negative effects these will have on his rating and ranking in the next poll.

It will not take much for Estrada to overtake Villar in the April polls. That 9% gap that separates them in SWS can easily evaporate with a 5-point swing — Villar losing 5 points and Estrada gaining those 5 points. If Villar dropped by 6% in the SWS March poll, he could easily drop by as much if not more with the two new killer issues. No wonder, the Villar camp is now behaving like a mortally wounded tiger — making wild accusations.

If indeed, as the trend indicates, Estrada overtakes Villar in second place, Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) will lose her last option to have a friendly 2010 president. That of course assumes that the “Mike Villarroyo” news report is widely believed. In Aquino and Estrada — both considered ‘toxic’ to her — GMA will be facing a hostile president. One seeks to prosecute her and the other could do even worse to her and her family.

Realistically, a friendly new president is the best GMA could aspire to have on July 1, 2010 when she must turnover power. All this ‘failure of election’ and ‘legalized extension of power due to a programmed failure of election’ scenarios constitute a wild dream that could end up as GMA’s worst nightmare.

A failure of election will not allow the issue to fester beyond May 30. GMA will not have enough time and opportunity to rule as Speaker of the new House of Representatives. A change will happen in this country whether through election or People Power. In the event that People Power engineers that change, GMA will reap her worst case scenario.

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