POSTSCRIPT / January 23, 2003 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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FPJ to call Con-con in his first 100 Days?

AFTER GMA, WHO?: Maybe we have not been going to the right places. But where we’ve been, the betting is that 2004 will be an exciting year for the opposition.

While the administration coalition appears to have been decapitated with the withdrawal of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from the 2004 presidential race, the opposition has several strong candidates with promise.

After GMA, who is left as the administration’s presidential alternative? No one is close enough to her to grab the baton that the President suddenly dropped midway in the race.

Oh yes, there is survey standout Raul Roco who is awkwardly trying to catch the eye of GMA. But Roco being for Roco, it might take some doing to have administration stalwarts embrace him back and field him as their standard bearer. And then, for him to go solo will be suicidal.

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THREE’S NOT A CROWD: In contrast, the opposing team is crammed with such household names as action star Fernando Poe Jr., senator Ping Lacson and, insinuating himself into the scene lately, businessman Danding Cojuangco.

Any one of them will do as standard bearer. With Erap Estrada — packing a drawing power of at least 20-percent of the votes — supporting one of these three gentlemen, the 2004 horizon appears brighter than from the administration side.

The word from the Veterans Medical Center, where a reinvigorated Estrada holds court as president-on-leave, is that FPJ (no relation) is the leading figure in the movie running in Estrada’s mind.

Both FPJ and Ping are close to Erap, but the former president veering heavily toward “winnability” (which is supposed to mean capacity to win) seems to favor his cinema colleague to his former police chief.

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FPJ-PING TANDEM: The survey reports reaching Veterans from all over have The King of Philippine Movies ahead of everybody in the opposition. At this point, Estrada thinks he has a winning tandem with Ping sliding down to run for vice president with FPJ.

In Estrada’s casting, Ping will highlight the peace and order component in the campaign platform. Peace and order is key, as far as Estrada is concerned. He says governance is difficult, if not impossible, without peace and order.

He says this was the reason he wielded a firm and resolute hand when he as commander-in-chief dealt with secessionists, rebels and such. He deplores the Arroyo administration’s losing the gains he said he made in checking the communist New People’s Army and assorted Muslim trouble-makers.

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DANDING PLAYING COY: Cojuangco, who is more at home being a kingmaker than sitting as king, is hesitant about running, according to people claiming to have seen his political innards.

But they add that if surveys prove encouraging and if Roco is fielded by the administration and the Sorianos, he may just decide to run to put Roco in his proper place.

Will Estrada support Cojuangco? He says he would, if the San Miguel chairman is picked to lead the opposition campaign to recapture Malacanang. In this event, Estrada also wants Lacson running for vice president.

We’ve noticed that in his discussion of possible FPJ-Ping and Danding-Ping pairings, Estrada does not raise the possibility of FPJ being a vice presidential candidate only.

There have been suggestions that FPJ run for the No. 2 slot to help carry whoever is running for No. 1, but it seems Estrada is not keen about that game plan. We can imagine that FPJ also may not relish that idea of playing second fiddle.

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MADALI YAN!: But is FPJ himself interested in running? The women folk will rephrase this to ask if his wife Susan Roces is already dying to become First Lady.

The correct thing for him to say at this early stage is that he is not interested. But Estrada refuses to take this script seriously, and is in fact almost resorting to hypnosis to convince his reluctant yet titillated kumpadre to run.

To FPJ’s excuse that he is not prepared for the awesome job, Estrada tells him from experience “Madali yan!” and proceeds to detail to him the standard technique of staff work.

“No one knows everything about the presidency,” Estrada points out. In fact, there is no school, no course, for the presidency. One may be a doctor of economics yet bungle the economy, he says with a naughty grin.

He keeps telling FPJ that the main thing he has to do as president is stand tall as a leader, maybe exude a heroic aura as in the movies, and become a rallying figure for national unity. He says the president can leave the micromanagement of Cabinet concerns to experts in various fields.

To allay the fear of vicious attacks on his person, the battle-scarred Estrada tells FPJ that he is fortunate that such issues as gambling, womanizing and heavy drinking that were thrown at him cannot be raised against FPJ.

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VOTING BLOCS & BETTORS: So vivid are the prospects of FPJ riding to victory in 2004 that a lot of unlikely figures are practically begging to be drafted as his running mate. Sample is Sen. Loren Legarda, who is supposed to be with the administration bloc in the Senate.

But whoever of the three FPJ, Ping, Danding — is chosen as the opposition bet for 2004 is expected to draw support from formidable blocs tested in previous elections as capable of delivering huge chunks of votes.

Aside from his own bailiwick, the opposition bet can count on Estrada’s core support among the masses, the disciplined Iglesia ni Cristo, the Marcos loyalist forces, among the main power blocs.

These blocs, as well as those who habitually gamble and bet heavily on likely winners, will bring in not only votes but also campaign funds.

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CON-CON AFTER POLLS: For update, there is a new element in Estrada’s conditioning of FPJ to run in 2004. He advises FPJ to include in his platform a plan to call a Constitutional Convention within the first 100 Days on his administration.

The idea is: A parliamentary system suited to Philippine conditions will be set up right after the 2004 election. While FPJ is president and chief of state, the head of government who is the prime minister will manage the bureaucracy and tackle the more weighty problems of governance.

Under such a parliamentary setup, FPJ the president will concentrate on uniting, healing and inspiring the nation. That job, almost like a role in the movies, will neither be too taxing nor too demanding.

In that role, a veteran like FPJ can render an Oscar-winning performance — without seeing the country neglected. So the line goes.

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STROKE OF GENIUS: Estrada must be a political genius to have thought of this plank in the FPJ platform.

First, convening a Con-con after the election will sweep away the excuse of FPJ that he is not ready for the presidency. The job description will be changed to something suitable to his talents.

Second, those who admire him but hesitate to vote for FPJ because “he is just an actor” will be assured that an expert hand, in the person of the prime minister, backed by a parliamentary team will be there to run things.

Third, the call for a Con-con within the first 100 Days of an FPJ presidency will ride on the spreading public clamor for a change in the government setup after 2004.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 23, 2003)

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