THE REMAINDER OF THE NATIONAL CAMpaign has two parts: from the present time, when the newest surveys have defined the remaining challenges ahead for the two leading candidates, to Holy Week; and then, from the resumption of the campaign after the Comelec ban on campaigning on Holy Thursday and Good Friday (April 1-2), to the end of campaigning on May 8, two days before election day. Straddling these two phases – the middle and final stretches of the presidential and vice-presidential campaigns – are the local campaign period that begins on March 26 and overseas voting which begins on April 10.
Most voters have already made up their minds, but it isn’t enough for a cheat-proof win for the leading contenders. As the campaign becomes increasingly ferocious, the candidates might gain or lose small percentages but all of them need to find a way to set themselves apart from the rest and demonstrate what most voters are hoping to find, after a decade of missed opportunities: leadership.
The challenge of leadership hinges on the willingness – or reluctance – of the candidates to take a stand on the President going beyond toying with the idea of voiding the coming elections by means of martial law to actively pursuing it as a viable contingency plan.
G.K. Chesterton, in “Eugenics and Other Evils,” put it this way: “The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are mortally hurt. People talk about the impatience of the populace; but sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because men moved too late. It is often necessary to resist a tyranny before it exists. It is no answer to say, with a distant optimism, that the scheme is only in the air. A blow from a hatchet can only be parried while it is in the air.”
The President likes exploring multiple options simultaneously. For this reason, she has an official candidate, but is also pursuing her own candidacy – both in her district and nationwide – while putting in place obstacles in the path of candidates who she knows will never compromise or collaborate with her. Which is where martial law comes in.
The President anointed a candidate whose personal qualities have been overshadowed by his owing his candidacy to her, strangling his chances in the cradle. As if the President’s kiss of death weren’t enough, the Frankenstein Coalition isn’t supporting his candidacy with the vigor (and resources) it approached the 2004 elections. This can only suggest that Gilbert Teodoro is a token candidate in the eyes of the President herself, and it’s well to remember that Ana Maria Pamintuan had pointed out in her column back in March last year that Teodoro was viewed as someone who had to relinquish the defense portfolio if plans, then rumored to be afoot for martial law, could prosper. As it turned out, when the President broke the last remaining post-Edsa political taboo (martial law), Teodoro was already a candidate, out of Camp Aguinaldo, and could only make a cosmetic impact on the outcome of the Ampatuan Massacre.
So much for Teodoro, now in the galling situation of not even getting the full commitment of his President or his party. The President instead has been pouring resources into Pampanga to get herself elected to the House of Representatives and is said to be meeting quietly with congressmen and local officials to get herself elected speaker in the next administration. Plan A.
Meanwhile, Plans B etc.: She has set out to unconstitutionally (and unethically) appoint the next chief justice; she has appointed a controversial chief of staff for the Armed Forces; she overturned a century of jurisprudence by having Cabinet officials remain in office even after they decided to pursue their own candidacies – foiled only when the Supreme Court overturned itself; and her people tried to handicap future presidents by proposing to give the current Pagcor and immigration chiefs fixed terms (foiled in the former case and reduced to a year in the latter instance).
The Comelec has, meanwhile, set the tone for the coming elections by saying it expected 30 percent of the automated precincts to end up conducting manual polls (coinciding with Prospero Pichay’s confident expectations of the administration being able to deliver 33 percent of the votes), while accrediting the PPCRV and denying accreditation for Namfrel supposedly because certain Namfrel officials were “partisan” although PPCRV can be said to be partisan, too, as it has consistently toed the Comelec line, peculiar behavior for a supposed electoral watchdog.
All this suggests a government that considers failure an option for the election. But a credible election – one that takes place and isn’t accompanied by massive disenfranchisement, system failures, and a protracted, controversial count – is the minimum requirement for the country being able to move on and buckle down to work. As the campaign enters its final phases, the noise, locally and nationally, can only help the usual suspects in devising ways to expand their options, with the ultimate objective of keeping the President’s options open while reducing those of her potential successors.
Someone has to stand head and shoulders above the crowd, and focus public attention on the collision course between the President and her allies and the May elections being conducted credibly. To return to Chesterton’s warning, it isn’t an axe that’s in the air. Instead, the President is moving with all the deliberate and inexorable speed of a PNR train. It’s crawling along because by that means it can remain unnoticed in the din of the current campaign – until it’s too late.
Please see the following:
Danger signs, in The Mount Balatucan Monitor; Bangit is next AFP chief in Ellen Tordesillas’ blog. When a tie is not really a tie in the March 10 PDI. Defining the terms of combat, in Mon Casiple’s blog.
My articles Getting even, March 23, 2009; The Palace strikes back and other scenarios, March 24, 2009;Â Out of sight, out of mind, April 30, 2009; Thirty-three percent, September 15, 2009;Â Day 1 and Day 2 of the martial law hearings in Congress last December; Midnight appointments, January 15, 2010;Â Scorched earth to the bitter end, January 18, 2010;Â The dynamics of succession, January 23, 2010.
Jekyll-and-Hide campaign in the PCIJ, September 2, 2005; Ronnie Puno and the endgame, October 30, 2007 andÂ Between Puno and Puno, August 24, 2009 by John Nery.
Albert del Rosario’s Sleepless Nights, August 14, 2009 and Mrs. Putin, November 30, 2009 in Ricky Carandang’s blog.