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Separate Opinion
‘Miting de avance’

By Isagani A. Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:14:00 03/29/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Eleksyon 2010, Personalities, Politics

The next presidential election will be held on the second Monday of May 2010 according to the Constitution and the Omnibus Election Code. The six-year constitutional schedule may be disturbed, however, for various imaginable reasons as in a fairy tale. Among these is the establishment of a different form of government, the extension of the terms of the members of Congress, stress of weather like a tsunami or a volcanic eruption, a coup d?état by the Armed Forces of the President, or a revolution. Any one of these causes can happen in this republic of ours, but the most welcome would be a revolution like EDSA People Power I.

Assuming that the prescribed election will be held contrary to Conrado de Quiros? dour prediction, we have to reckon even now with the plans of some of our so-called leaders who have already announced their intention to replace Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the questionable tenant of the Palace of the People. This is the most fervent wish of the majority of the people who would prefer any such change at this anxious time to the unbearable status quo.

Such plans are, for all their presumably good effects, violative at the present time of existing laws. In a word, they are premature. They are unlike the old ?miting de avance,? the final campaign rally, which was always held on the night immediately before the election as the dramatic climax of the candidates? appeal for the people?s support. The next day would be the moment of truth or poll irregularities.

The rule, according to Section 7 of the Code, is that the campaign period for the presidential election should be 90 days before such election, which in the present case is scheduled in 2010. That election is now more than one year ahead, or 404 days to be exact this Sunday. Yet the presidential hopefuls have already girded for battle and are ready for mortal combat.

However strictly Congress may define campaigning as a prohibited act outside of the allowed period, it simply means to the people at large as vying for their vote by all means fair or foul, mostly foul. To the politician, this is a full-time job he must perform 25 hours a day if he hopes to survive. Confining this activity to a short period before the election reveals an astonishing ignorance of life in the hustings where ?lambanog? [coconut liquor] is the common bond. This must be relished the whole year round and not only during the campaign period.

The statutory limitation of the campaign periods was intended to impose a moratorium on politics during which the people should forget political shenanigans and instead address themselves to the real work before them, which is the improvement of their own lives and the betterment of their communities. Politics should not be their continuing obsession. There would be time enough for that during the campaign period fixed by the law when they can discharge their duties as sovereign voters.

Unfortunately, it is the legislators themselves who are frustrating the statutory objective. They are themselves focusing the attention of the electorate on their own ambitions to run in the next election, and they are doing these as many as 13 months before the designated date. They obviously think, characteristically enough, that starting earlier than the race itself is the best way to win it.

The real honest-to-goodness presidential candidates are, as reported, in this paper, Noli de Castro, Manuel Villar, Mar Roxas, Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Panfilo Lacson, Jejomar Binay, Bayani Fernando, and former President Joseph Estrada, who is probably expecting a boomlet that has not boomed so far. Richard Gordon has not been mentioned in the surveys but is running just the same because ?it is the people who elect, not surveys.? And there?s Ed Panlilio, too, who has taken a sabbatical leave from the clergy to join the political cesspool where he will find all the sinners.

Vice President De Castro has not attracted the same following as Joseph Estrada in 1998 or Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004 although he relies mainly on the ?bakya? [lower-class] crowd. Legarda has better chances from the same audience because she is prettier and speaks better English. Roxas was especially successful as ?Mr. Palengke? during his run for the Senate five years ago but does not have a single commercial now. Escudero is probably checking if he is already 40. Binay is unbeatable only in his bailiwick in Makati City, but Bayani is not discouraged by his poor showing in pink Metro Manila. Lacson is strongly denying the charges of his former henchman Mancao, who may yet be another ?Nicole.? Villar regrets he said that those without a billion pesos need not run, leaving him alone in the race with all that cash.

All of them say they are not campaigning yet although they have all declared their candidacy for president in 2010 and are now asking the people for their vote in the election next year. That may be prohibited campaigning but it is unlikely they will be prosecuted by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez who is not going to be impeached for sleeping on the job. Everything moves in comfortable indolence here except running for President of the Philippines. The aspirants have moved the clock forward and are already racing with the wind.

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