Why are they afraid of the third force?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-01-21
People are casting doubts on the prospects of a "third force" in the May 2007 elections. Their doubts center on their hang up on the term "third force" and its historical roots – the time when third forces always ended up third. Failing to fully appreciate the new political realities, many are predisposed to perceiving a "third force" as a pre-destined loser.

This refers to a recent welcome development that promises to pit a real alternative to both the Arroyo regime and the not-so-real threat of the has-beens and losers rallying around the disgraced Joseph Estrada.

Per news reports, the Nacionalista Party (NP) of Senate President Manny Villar is poised to field an opposition ticket for the May 2007 elections in alliance with the Liberal Party (LP) and other groups who enjoy credibility in presenting an alternative against a looming Gloria Macapagal Arroyo versus Joseph Estrada proxy fight.

When I say the Liberal Party, I mean the real Liberal Party with Senators Mar Roxas, Kiko Pangilinan, Frank Drilon, Pong Biazon, Representatives Neric Acosta and Dodo Mandanas et al. I do not refer to the motley group led by Manila Mayor Lito Atienza who tried to steal the LP brand on behalf of Malacanang.

By previously attempting to steal the Liberal Party, Gloria M. Arroyo actually affirmed the LP’s stature as a leading opposition group. The attempted party coup only succeeded to establish the following:

1. It identified who were Gloria M. Arroyo’s lackeys in the Liberal Party.

2. It established who followed the Liberal Party tradition of opposing a regime with dictatorial tendencies. Roots of the third force bias
The perception of the "unviable third force" is rooted to the pre-martial law period’s two-party system of political contention, patterned after the US model. Under those circumstances, a third party was indeed considered a losing proposition.

But under today’s (post-1986) multi-party system and the blurring of political lines, the "unviable third force" has become a fallacy. In fact, the winners of the 1992, 1998 and 2004 presidential elections were not even from the so-called "entrenched parties." Rather, they came from political parties and coalitions that were created prior to those presidential elections.

Fidel Ramos won under the Lakas-NUCD banner in 1992, the first time Lakas-NUCD entered an electoral contest. Joseph Estrada won under a freshly-minted coalition of the LDP (Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino) and PMP (Partido ng Masang Pilipino). Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ran under the K-4 coalition in 2004 but I can’t really say with all honesty that she was elected in 2004. Why such a force will be THE FORCE
In the event that the NP manages to coalesce with the LP, it will be wrong to refer to this as the "third force" in the May elections. This is because an NP and LP coalition will then carry the greater number of national and local opposition incumbents.

In effect, the real third force will be the so-called United Opposition (UNO) of the PDP-Laban (Philippine Democratic Party-Laban) and PMP (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino) which rallies around the disgraced Joseph Estrada. The LDP (Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino), which used to be aligned with UNO, is now inclined to join the NP-LP coalition.

Thus, it is not surprising that certain quarters associated with the Estrada camp are now feeling threatened by the NP-LP coalition and are spreading the rumor that this is an Arroyo regime maneuver designed to split the opposition. They even suggest that the Arroyo regime is financing the coalition.

The scuttlebutt does not fly though. Their motives are quite obvious. An NP-LP coalition will marginalize the UNO which will be left with nothing to sanitize the pathetic reality that it is merely a recycled Estrada gang.

For that matter, the Arroyo regime would be the last to want to see an NP-LP coalition because that would provide a real clear-cut alternative to the regime which the UNO, weighed down by the Estrada political baggage, can never hope to offer. The regime has been projecting this election as the third episode of the Arroyo-Estrada fight because it knows that the likes of Joseph Estrada and his ilk can never be credible as the harbingers of reform and economic salvation.

The myth of a third force enhancing the regime’s chances of stealing a victory cannot weigh more than the advantage of having a real, attractive alternative. In a one-on-one (Arroyo regime versus UNO) where there is no real alternative, the Arroyo regime stands better chances of winning. Just compare where the Philippine peso and stock market were under Estrada and where the Philippine peso and stock market are now under Arroyo. Those are hard issues that the Estrada gang cannot deflect.

The other myth being propagated is that two opposition slates will allow the regime to cheat, following the rationale that the opposition lost because they split their votes. Again, this cannot compensate for the reality that the regime’s chances of stealing a victory are lessened in a situation where the voters are excited because there is a real alternative who they believe will deliver reform and improvements in their lives. The NP-LP attraction
If there is a political banner that can grab the initiative and capture the public imagination during this period of confusion and uncertainty, it is the Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party coalition. There are many positive factors going for the NP-LP coalition that the other political parties cannot claim.

The two parties enjoy a glorious political tradition. The NP and LP produced the six Philippine presidents from the 1946 to the 1969 presidential elections (1969 was the last presidential election before Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972).

Presidents Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino and Diosdado Macapagal were elected as Liberals. Presidents Ramon Magsaysay and Ferdinand Marcos were originally Liberals and became presidents as Nacionalistas. Carlos P. Garcia was the lone true blue Nacionalista who was elected president during that period.

The NP and LP provided the leadership when the Philippines was second only to Japan in Asia in economic performance. That was also the time when we were regarded as the showcase of democracy in Asia.

Not a Philippine president, Ninoy Aquino is perhaps the most famous Liberal. His struggle against the Marcos regime epitomized the struggle against dictatorship, so much so that his widow became the symbol of the crusade that restored democracy in 1986. His son, Noynoy, will be part of the NP-LP coalition.

Other than the glorious past of the Nacionalista Party and the Liberal Party, they also boast of having a dynamic, young group that would appeal to a very young Philippine population. Already, the LP produced a senatorial election topnotcher – Senator Mar Roxas – who won with the highest number of votes ever. The NP on the other hand has a strong presidential bet for 2010 in the person of Senate President Manny Villar.

The prospective NP-LP coalition brings a different and badly needed dimension to the fight against the excesses of the Arroyo regime – the credibility from a glorious past that can provide a road map for the future and young dynamic leaders that can inspire and mobilize a long-suffering nation.

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