There’s the Rub


/ 10:15 PM January 06, 2014

The continuing viability of the ruling coalition, say members of the ruling coalition, depends on P-Noy’s anointed for 2016.

“I think the President will be a hard act to follow,” says Rep. Ben Evardone, “but I believe those who believe in him will also believe in his choice. The LP however should draw lessons from the debacle of major political parties, it has to reinforce its nontraditional status.”


But Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao warns: “Major political players within the coalition will bolt if they see [that] the common candidate is unwinnable. The challenge for the coalition is to hook a credible candidate for president that has excellent chances of winning.”

All this is not without its ironic aspects. Evardone is right of course to say the LP should strive to become nontraditional to avoid the fate of the major political parties that came and went. But if so, then he probably would never have become an LP member, let alone its spokesperson. He used to be Lakas-Kampi before he bolted it in 2010 when P-Noy became the presidential bet to beat. You can’t get more traditional than that. You can’t get more trapo than that.


More: The ruling coalition, which coalesced in May last year for the senatorial elections, includes the Liberal Party of Mar Roxas, the National People’s Coalition of Danding Cojuango, the Nacionalista Party of Manny Villar, and the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino of Edgardo Angara. The LP is home to anyone who will swear allegiance to Roxas. The NP is headed by the one person the LP characterized in 2010 as the king of the daang baluktot. The NPC is headed by a Marcos crony who, the Yellow Forces made sure, would not snatch the 1992 elections. And the LDP is headed by a senator who managed to dodge prosecution for setting up an NGO and plowing his pork into it.

You can’t get more traditional than that. You can’t get more trapo than that.

In fact, the proposition is not: The ruling coalition will hold if P-Noy chooses a credible and winnable candidate. It is: The ruling coalition will hold if P-Noy’s choice actually wins. He, or she, loses, and the ruling coalition crumbles.

The LP was nothing (at least post-martial law) until P-Noy won. The last time it made a stir was in 1992 when Jovito Salonga ran for president, and he didn’t just lose, he lost miserably. It will go back to being that faster than a speeding padyak if P-Noy’s anointed loses. Look at the ruling parties/coalitions in the past and see if you can still remember them: Cory’s PDP-Laban/Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, Fidel Ramos’ Partido Lakas Tao/ National Union of Christian Democrats, Erap’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino/Laban ng Makabayang Masang Pilipino, and Gloria Arroyo’s Lakas-Christian Social Democrats. They’re all just alphabet soup now.

The quick succession of one ruling party/coalition after another must also reveal one vital fact: Except for Cory’s, the endorsements of incumbents have not really mattered. Ramos endorsed Joe de Venecia and he lost, Gloria endorsed Gibo Teodoro and he lost. Cory’s endorsement itself was problematic: She went against her own party which went for Ramon Mitra, supporting instead Ramos. Ramos won, Cory’s party lost.

Doubtless, P-Noy’s popularity will be a boost to whoever he will anoint. But it won’t be the decisive thing. That his popularity has taken a dive in recent months must show that the public won’t go meekly along with an unpopular position or option. It will buck it. If the past is anything to go by, two factors are far more decisive in candidates winning—or losing—presidential elections.

One is that he or she is not seen as a trapo. That was what killed Mitra and De Venecia, which also shows that in presidential elections merely having the resources and organization or controlling the ruling party or Congress does not assure victory. Mitra and De Venecia had both: Both were Speakers of the House, both had consummate skills in wheeling-and-dealing. Unfortunately, they were also widely seen as trapo for those very things.


Arroyo of course was atypical in that she came to power without winning a presidential election or without leading an Edsa like Cory. She became president first by luck—she happened to be the vice president during Edsa II—and second by Garci. She was the trapo to end all trapo, and Teodoro paid the price for it.

Two, and the flip side of the coin, is that he or she must have a larger-than-life or mythical quality about him or her. That counts for a great deal in this culture. Cory clearly had it. Ramos was associated with Edsa, a fact Cory underscored when she endorsed him. Which struck a contrast with Mitra’s trapo aura. Of course to this day, Miriam insists she won the 1992  elections. She certainly did phenomenally well, the product of the Bulletin in particular turning her into an epic, heaven-sent, scourge of corruption.

Erap was as larger-than-life, or mythical in his fame as he was in his fall. His screen persona extended to his real-life one, his masa following little able to delineate where the one began and the other ended. Vestiges of it persist to this day but they are a pale echo of the past—he was hard put to win as mayor of Manila in the last elections.

P-Noy of course had the same larger-than-life quality, whose sheen was burnished not just by Cory by way of legacy, but also by Gloria by way of contrast. He was the Good to Gloria’s Evil, in the same way that Cory was the Good to Ferdinand’s Evil.

Someone like this emerges in the two-and-and-half years before the next elections, and he or she will sweep Mar Roxas and Jojo Binay aside. Unless of course P-Noy discovers him or her first. He doesn’t and the Liberal Party will go the way of the other erstwhile ruling parties.

A faded rule, a forgotten rule.

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