Analysis

The makings of a debacle on May 13

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The prospects of the Liberal Party’s senatorial ticket to make a 12-0 sweep in the May 13 midterm elections further dimmed yesterday after its three front-running candidates were warned to show up at the opposition United Nationalist Alliance campaign rallies, or be expelled from the UNA ticket.

The three candidates who were warned—Senators Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero, and Grace Poe—are running on the UNA ticket and as guest candidates of the administration’s Team PNoy. Because Legarda and Escudero, who are not Liberal Party  members, rank first and second, respectively, in the latest survey of Pulse Asia, the administration team expects them to win two sure seats for its ticket, in addition to five of its candidates who are predicted to win. The survey showed that both tickets were locked, with five members polling among the top 12 in the winning circle, aside from their common two candidates (Legarda and Escudero.)

As Election Day approaches, this delicate balance appears precarious. And the prospects of the administration ticket winning 12-0 become more uncertain each day.

After the proclamation of the Liberal Party   ticket at Plaza Miranda on Tuesday, Vice President.

Jejomar Binay, warned the common candidates that they would be expelled from the UNA if they failed to show up and speak at its future rallies. On that day, Escudero and Legarda joined the Liberal Party rally at Plaza Miranda. Escudero even wore the party’s signature yellow color.

According to the LP campaign manager, Sen. Franklin Drilon, Escudero and Legarda were handpicked by President Aquino as for his “daang  matuwid” (good governance). He claimed that the three common candidates were merely adopted by the UNA. This ambiguous arrangement in which guest candidates straddle two horses put the common candidates on the spot over their ideological position, or where their political loyalties lie. Are they administration fifth columns in the opposition camp? The President has called for a definition in terms of policies between the administration and the opposition, but the campaign is not clarifying this muddled issue. To put it bluntly, what does Team PNoy stand for? What does the opposition team stand for? Or is the UNA an extension of a single-party rule, which is the declared objective of the Liberal Party when it seeks a 12-0 result in the elections?

In working for this objective, the Liberal Party is actually throwing our political system back to the days of single-party monopoly of power by the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL), which was installed by the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. This is the direction to which the Liberal Party —under the Benigno Aquino III Guided Democracy—is driving our political system. It is working to wipe out any semblance of an opposition party by seeking to make the opposition senatorial candidates as subservient members of the next Senate.

What do Escudero, Legarda, and other candidates of the UNA who claim to be in the opposition think about this grand cooptation scheme foisted by the LP, which is not even holding the majority of seats in Congress? The LP is the smallest party in the Senate, with fewer than five seats. And yet it is the nucleus of and the driving force behind this effort to establish a one-party rule under Mr. Aquino’s new “straight path” democracy, where dissenting voices have no space to contradict the projects and policy priorities of the administration. Are the candidates who like to call themselves members of the opposition willing to be part of this conspiracy to subvert the independence of the Senate with a 12-0 sweep by the Liberal Party? The administration claims that it seeks a Senate that will not undermine its projects and programs and will continue its so-called accomplishment of raising economic growth to 6.6 percent in 2012.

Are the people happy with the results of the political and economic reforms of this “daang  matuwid” administration in the past two and a half years? It does not show. First, the surveys show that voters are disposed to vote enough opposition people into the Senate to frustrate a complete administration party takeover. The Pulse Asia survey of January came as a shock to a complacent administration. It showed that the trust and approval ratings of President Aquino and Vice President Binay dropped significantly; their scores showed two-digit declines from their previous ratings.

The President scored a 66-percent approval rating, but more important to note is that he scored a 12-point drop in his November rating of 78 percent, as the proportion of those undecided about his performance grew by 12 points from 16 to 28 percent. His approval rating dropped across all areas and classes.

Among the key developments at the time the survey was conducted—which may account for the plunge—were the controversy over the use by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile of the chamber’s savings as Christmas gifts to a number of senators; the investigation into the killing of 13 people in Atimonan, Quezon; and the increasing incidence of criminality, like jewelry-store robberies in shopping malls in Metro Manila, indicating a breakdown of law and order and creating uncertainty among the population in the capacity of the government to take control of lawlessness.

This decline took place despite the high-powered hype of the 2012 economic growth. This growth also came under heavy criticism from independent economists that it had not created enough jobs to alleviate poverty.

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