And they’re off

The election period begins today, with command conferences, a gun ban, and the Daily Tribune saying that constitutional change is dead -for the duration of the campaign. Not to mention the Ombudslady suddenly rediscovering the joys of suspensions: including an en masse suspension for the political leadership of Pasay City.

Time is running out for the administration, the opposition, and those interested in a “third force” to firm up their senate slates. Fel Maragay in his column says Prospero Pichay wants to run and has bought two aircraft for the campaign; and that “Chavit” Singson’s eager to go national.

(The Inquirer’s story on how local officials claim they’re pushing Luis “Chavit” Singson’s name, points to a big problem the administration faces. Yes, the Palace owes him big time for rounding up governors and flying them to Manila at (reportedly) his own expense in July, to shore up a rapidly-deflating presidency; and yes, he probably knows, as the saying goes, where all the bodies are buried; but for a campaign that will be based on two, related messages -first, a continuation of the Edsa 2 showdown; and second, “better us than them”- Singson doesn’t exactly make for an inspiring poster child. And Pichay? Pure poison.)

Maragay says that contrary to the scuttlebutt, the administration bench is pretty deep:

From various sources in the administration camp, this journalist has stumbled on about 40 names in the administration’s master list of prospective senatorial candidates. Aside from those already mentioned [Pichay and Singson], these names include:

From the Cabinet: Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Tourism Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano, presidential adviser on political affairs and former Senator Heherson Alvarez and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority director general Jose Syjuco, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap.

From the House of Representatives: Juan Miguel Zubiri (Bukidnon) Gilbert Teodoro Jr. (Tarlac), Prospero Nograles (Davao), Edcel Lagman (Albay), Marcelino Libanan (Eastern Samar), Bulogio Magsaysay (Alliance of Voluntary Educators-partylist).

From local government units: Mayor Lito Atienza (Manila), Mayor Edward Hagedorn (Puerto Princesa), Gov. Josefina de la Cruz (Bulacan), Gov. Gerry Espina (Libiran), Gov. Tomas Joson (Nueva Ecija), Gov. Luis Villafuerte (Camarines Sur), barangay chairman James Marty Lim (Marinduque, president of League of Barangays).

From the Senate: Senators Manuel Villar, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto and Joker Arroyo (Wednesday group) and Senator Edgardo Angara (Laban ng Demokratikong Filipino).

From other government agencies: Optical Media Board Chairman Edu Manzano, special envoy Roy Cimatu, National Irrigation Administration chief and former National Police Chief Arturo Lomibao.

Other prospective bets: former Senator Jose Lina Jr., Gina de Venecia, Evangeline “Luli”Arroyo, lawyer Raul Lambino of Sigaw ng Bayan, Romela Bengzon of the Charter Change Advocacy Commission, Sonia Malasarte-Roco of Aksiyon Demokratiko.

To my mind, a clever idea, releasing such unofficial lists: tarred by association will be those like Angara, Roco and Arroyo, etc. who, simply by being mentioned as administration possibilities, will begin being viewed as Trojan horses.

Marichu Villanueva, in her column, doesn’t agree. She says the administration is having a more difficult time going about mustering a complete slate:

As early birds troop to Comelec starting today to file their certificate of candidacy, the administration’s Senatorial list is getting shorter by the day. Last week, pro-administration Congressmen Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (NPC, Tarlac) and Prospero Nograles (Lakas, Davao) have begged off from being included in the administration coalition’s Senate slate. Nograles, incumbent House majority leader, would rather run for re-election in Congress. Teodoro’s partymates from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) have endorsed him to President Arroyo to appoint him as her new Defense Secretary…

From the ranks of the Arroyo Cabinet, Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Bayani Fernando and Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Angelo Reyes have declared one after the other their respective desires to stay in the Executive Branch. Third term Manila Mayor Lito Atienza also announced he declined to be drafted in the 12-man Senate of the administration coalition slate. Atienza, who heads the Liberal Party wing in alliance with the Arroyo administration and strong supporter for Charter Change (Cha-cha), is reportedly being groomed to assume a key post at the Palace.

My column for today is A policy of panic.

An interesting column by former national treasurer Liling Briones: should school feeding programs involve feeding kids in school, or sending them home with food? And her experience with immunization indicates that automation isn’t a cure-all.

(incidentally, Gail Ilagan responds to my senatorial wish list.)

Kerry Collison points to unsolicited advice for the Australian PM: he shouldn’t cozy up to Manila in expectation of a mining boom.

In the blogosphere, A week or so ago, RG Cruz predicted the administration had a survey up its sleeve:

…the administration is now putting its back on its real plan C- The administration line up for the Senate in the elections. I had been told by reliable sources that DBM Sec. Rolando Andaya has declined the nomination, as well as broadcasters Mike Enriquez and Korina Sanchez ( I must clarify though that I have never spoken to Korina on this issue and so this should not be in any way viewed as a statement coming from her by virtue of our being from the same company)

And so I surmise that’s why the names in the apparent senatorial slate kept changing. From the time I received information posted in my last post – to when I ran the story on bandila 2 weeks ago, to when Korina ran a similar story on bandila last thursday – the names have been changing. but notice the consistent names – defensor, durano, pichay, barbers, reyes, manzano and zubiri. These names have been cropping up in the lists I and Korina have featured in our reports. The variables are nograles, agbayani, and duque, plus Mike-E and Korina.

In the last week there have been reports that Senators Manny Villar, Ralph Recto, Francis Pangilinan, Joker Arroyo – all who have kept quiet where they intend to run come crunch time – are signing up with the administration. They are on top of the surveys – and they certainly would do better to have the administration machinery behind them instead of against them. It maybe a proxy war between PGMA and her predecessor, but lets face it, History shows that people choose senators not on the basis of who they side in malacanan, but on their personal merits. Thats why its been often said that running for senate is a very good way to test the waters for a run for the presidency or vice-presidency.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in a briefing last week told reporters that as far as the Palace was concerned, recto is an administration senator – since he has not openly spoken against the President – nor served notice to the contrary effect.

When that happens, expect the administration to have a formidable line up – one that even Erap’s camp may just find themselves hardput to surmount. The opposition maybe topping the surveys now and in the last few months – but common wisdom dictates that its scary to be on top this soon – theres the risk of peaking too early. already Ive heard of a survey that will soon come out showing adminsitration figures moving up the surveys… and into the winning circle. Pia Cayetano was not in the winning circle of surveys this time in 2004 – but she placed strong at number 8 i think in the homestretch. and So was Mar Roxas. Bong Revilla, who topped the surveys finished second to Roxas. So did Jamby Madrigal.

People who are hoping for an american style-punishment of the Arroyo administration in the midterm polls are setting themselves for a heart break. the idea of may 2007 being a proxy war exists only in the political arena… but in the real world… the fight for the senate is, and wil always be, a battle of personalities – GMA and ERAP notwithstanding.

I’m not entirely convinced by RG’s entry, though I think it’s a fair indication of how the Palace wants things to be seen. Iloilo City Boy’s entry on the latest permutations in Iolio politics points to the danger inherent in the “third force” concept (much as I’m instinctively sympathetic to the idea): that it won’t prevent an overall opposition win in the Senate, but might prevent a total administration defeat. And the same applies to many local races that we forget tend to be decided, even in the best of times, by very narrow margins.

A well considered entry on the Baro (the traditional term for it; and more regionally-neutral; read Nick Joaquin and he always refers to the “Barong Tagalog” as the baro) from Madame Chiang.

And because it’s there: everything that needed to be pointed out about the iphone, courtesy of

What I wish we had: a Portable Antiquities Scheme.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

12 thoughts on “And they’re off

  1. I do get the feeling that RG Cruz is a conduit for the administration’s propaganda. He thinks he’s getting a scoop everytime he talks to his Malacanang Sources, but I think he’s the one being PLAYED by Defensor et al with their well timed “leaks” for RG Cruz.

    Sample. Etoyung talking point ng Admin that was repeated almost word for word on his blog without raising questions about the way they came up with their statistics. What a tool.

    here’s a snippet:

    The President will stress the need to build on its gains. Defensor says PGMA is the only president under whose term, in postwar history, weve posted consecutive growth. We average 5.5% per quarter for the past 5 years. Unemployment is at 8.2%, while 7 of the 10 poorest provinces are also now okay. Companies are posting higher revenues, singling out PLDT, Ayala and SM. There is expansion both inside and outsidethe country, defensor adds. The Poverty index is down to 24% from 34%, despite the population growth to 86million.

    I questioned the reliability of arroyo’s stats here.

  2. for me, the “third force” concept is another term from SPOILER or STALKING HORSE (also check Ralph Nader’s failed Candidacy in 2000 and 2004.)

  3. I would like to see Chavit running for the Senate. The hero of EDSA 2 should see how he fares in a national elective office. It should be a validation of all that he did for the nation.

  4. To be fair to Chavit, he said he was willing to face the charges against him and to be incarcerated with Erap. But a grateful GMA and civil society didnt press charges against him.

  5. john marzan said: “I do get the feeling that RG Cruz is a conduit for the administration’s propaganda. He thinks he’s getting a scoop everytime he talks to his Malacanang Sources…”

    How do you know he thinks this way?

    “if even jojo robles (of manila standard today) admits that some of arroyo’s statistics are deceptive, what does that make RG cruz?”

    A reporter doing his job of reporting?

  6. Mlq3,

    Re Tribune’s “Election period starts today, ends Palace Cha-cha push.”

    On the contrary, the coming elections, looming as a real threat to Malacanang, increases the pressure on GMA and allies to pre-empt the May elections. Plan C spells Contingency Plan, SOP for any government under threat or siege – Martial Law.

    The parallel preparations/operations by Malacanang for an el/no-el scenarios is typical of over/covert mode/style of Malacanang’s political operatives. (Though there’s a power play/struggle in Malacanang between the militaristic and civilian factions, the militaristic group will take control, in effect, using the other as a Malacanang cover that it had wanted the elections to push through.)

    Anything can still happen between now and May. A GMA lead ‘regime change’ to “protect the Republic, secure economic gains, assure a better future for our people” could still turn out to be the most viable option for the GMA and allies.

    Again and again let’s keep in mind: “Do not over-estimate popular support and under-estimate GMA’s capacity to do whatever it takes to stay in power.”

  7. I think as long as the media will remain the way they are now, I do not see any reason to be alarmed with what PGMA can do. The media, in general, has done good job in past for being independent from the influence of the palace. True media can do nothing without the vigilance of the people but I still cling to the hope that “may hangganan din ang pagtitiis ng tao kay GMA”

  8. “if even jojo robles (of manila standard today) admits that some of arroyo’s statistics are deceptive, what does that make RG cruz?”

    A reporter doing his job of reporting?

    And he’s also a blogger who’s not shy about giving his own opinions on the things he reports either.

    john marzan said: “I do get the feeling that RG Cruz is a conduit for the administration’s propaganda. He thinks he’s getting a scoop everytime he talks to his Malacanang Sources…”

    How do you know he thinks this way?

    Just a gut feel. I think he’s being PLAYED.

    if you’re a journalist/blogger, and malacanang offers you their talking points, you’d want to check if their statements are accurate or misleading. I guess the guy just wasn’t curious enough to do his homework.

  9. JerusalemofGold,

    What media, ABS-CBN and GMA? They dominate the mass media sector, sets the agenda, get their personalities elected, hype coontroversies when it serves their interest, otherwise, ignore issues or divert public attention with junk entertainment, etc.

    Erap’s impeachment was covered live by Ch 2 and 7? How many or how few’s got ANC to watch GMA’s impeachment junked?

  10. I always thought that a failed attempt to revise the Constitution could lead to members of the ConCom and Adcom to run for Senate seats.

    Maragay’s article shows that it is not that far off.

    Anyway, welcome back Manolo.

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