POSTSCRIPT / May 14, 1998 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Coming soon: Victory for Estrada, Macapagal

ADMINISTRATION Lakas leaders are warning the public against jumping into conclusions based on the early, partial and unofficial election results being reported by radio, TV, newspapers and other private counts.

But public opinion abhors an information vacuum. The people cannot wait. Two full days after they voted, the electorate still has no official word from the Commission on Elections at least on who is leading in the presidential derby.

If a Comelec-deputized teacher in Sta. Ana district lugs the ballot box to the Comelec main office in Intramuros, she can deliver the ballots and the tally sheets after a two-hour walk. But two days after the close of voting, Comelec still does not have the tally in Sta. Ana and other nearby areas.

Indeed, we are still in the carabao stage as far as elections are concerned. And it seems that this throwback to the Stone Age is intentional.

* * *

IGNORING the warning, we scan the scanty but scattered unofficial results and we see an opposition Estrada presidency looming in the dark horizon. We also make out a mixed tandem, with Sen. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Lakas party emerging as Estrada’s vice president.

From our perch, we cannot see how Speaker Jose de Venecia of Lakas — who is sometimes even third or fourth placer behind Sen. Raul Roco and Mayor Alfredo Lim — can overtake Estrada.

If Estrada’s lead is in the magnitude of only one or two million votes, that’ easy to overcome. But at the rate the frightening figures come cascading from all points, even Moses leading Joshua may find it difficult parting and crossing the Red Sea.

But of course we have to remind ourselves and you poll watchers in the States that politics is precisely the art of the impossible.

* * *

IN the 1992 presidential elections, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago was also reported in early media tabulations to be leading Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, the anointed candidate of then President Cory Aquino.

As it later turned out, Ramos glided by Santiago toward the homestretch and won by a cigar – actually a cigarette — with a slim 23-percent plurality.

Two days after the slow count started last May 11, Estrada has been leading De Venecia two to one. But of course we should not forget the cigar and the art of the impossible

Recalling the last presidential polls, we are reminded by the dismal defeat of then Palawan congressman Ramon Mitra – also a Speaker of the House of Representatives – who landed not only second to Ramos but somewhere near fourth place.

There is another parallel. When Mitra faltered in the pre-poll surveys, the moneyed supporters who earlier promised logistics were suddenly out of reach. Many of the local leaders who smelled a debacle reportedly pocketed the campaign funds entrusted to them and Mitra’s candidacy just wilted away.

De Venecia seems to be going through a similar Mitra wringer.

The day after the close of voting, with early returns showing Estrada with a commanding lead, suddenly the Magnolia mansion of De Venecia in posh Dasmariñas Village in Makati was deserted. The now-forlorn headquarters used to be choked with people brimming with hope, some of them hanging around hoping for free meals and fat envelopes.

Fleas are known to abandon a dying host of a dog even before it actually dies.

* * *

IT is not fair to Estrada, but I shudder at the thought of the movie star and college dropout clinching the presidency.

I can’t tell my twin sons to look up to Estrada and follow in his footsteps.

I can’t sleep counting government offices, classrooms and Philippine embassies dominated by the portrait of the mustachioed aging actor.

I flinch when I imagine Estrada sitting with APEC leaders in one of their summit roundtables mumbling like Stallione talking to a horse.

Mimic Willy Nepomuceno as Estrada says he would build two other Malacañangs, one in the Visayas and another in Mindanao. The First Lady would keep house in the original Palace by the Pasig, Willy says, the Second in the Visayas and the Third in Mindanao.

But in fairness to Estrada, he has humbly confessed his sins. In fact, on the Sunday before Election Day, he went to Mass – even received Holy Communion! – and kissed Loi, his No. 1, in public.

* * *

AN Estrada president may not be too much of a problem, after all. Some of us have that feeling that he could ad lib his way through every scene to the delight of his fans.

He faces Herculean problems, not the least of which is the government’s being virtually bankrupt after all that big-time stealing and wanton spending that came before him.

But outgoing President Ramos would have a bigger headache. Remember that opposition stalwarts such as Sen. Edgardo Angara vowed to drag Ramos to court for what they called plunder.

Some opposition leaders, with an expectant public watching, are thinking of the Korean model where former presidents were convicted and jailed for graft. Can Filipinos do that?

With that alone, Estrada may just be able to jolt this country back to its senses. Mainly a sense of right and wrong.

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