POSTSCRIPT / April 15, 2004 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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FPJ chart remains flat as GMA creeps upward

PARALLEL LINES: Friends asked if we have an inside line to Pulse Asia after the outfit reported its survey findings that President Arroyo had overtaken challenger Fernando Poe Jr. in the race for the presidency.

They were surprised that Pulse Asia reported Monday an Arroyo lead after we said the same thing in our column the day before. We added rather extravangantly in that Sunday piece that Ms Arroyo would win, but only by a slight margin, if the elections were held that day.

The answer to their question, of course, is: No we have no links to Pulse Asia. While we probably run on parallel lines at times, the lines never overlap.

The numbers in the Pulse Asia survey conducted March 27 through April 4 were: Arroyo, 34 percent; Poe, 31 percent; Raul Roco, 12 percent; Ping Lacson, 10 percent; and Eddie Villanueva, 3 percent.

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BARRIER BROKEN: With a clear 3-percent lead in a survey with a claimed margin of error of plus-or-minus 1.4 percent at the 95-percent confidence level, Ms Arroyo appears to have broken, like the rebounding peso, the statistical barrier for a victorious dash to the May 10 finish line.

Even at what the experts call a “statistical tie” — meaning the difference between the front runners is so insignificant — the incumbent President catching up from way back is presumed to have captured the psychological lead.

Like in boxing, if the challenger is unable to at least overwhelm the champion in points and is able to extract only a draw, the crown is retained by the title-holder.

As things stand, with a popular Poe unable to pile up enough points in surveys to overwhelm the sitting President, he is bound to lose his bid for the presidency.

The President is perched up there. Whoever challenges her rule must first bring her down before he could deal the death blow to her continued presidency.

That is a tall order for a challenger who can only manage a statistical tie, because as we keep saying the President has at her command money and machinery that would spell the difference in the homestretch.

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ROCO VOTES: The departure of Roco from the race, which is a de facto withdrawal, is likely to benefit Ms. Arroyo rather than Poe.

Ever since Roco joined the race, the general assumption has been that he would take substantial votes away from Ms Arroyo. We cannot now twist the assumption and say Roco votes belong to or must go back to Poe.

Roco devotees are generally the intelligent types not likely to fall for another actor who is a high school dropout without any experience in public service and, worse, without a platform of government and a clear vision of how to lead the country to recovery.

To most of them, we dare say that a choice between Arroyo and Poe, as an alternative in the absence of Roco, is clear.

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POWER BROKERS: It may not be the best scenario, but a sizeable chunk of the votes will be delivered by the veteran politicos spread out in the regional bailiwicks.

These power brokers have been dealing symbiotically with Malacanang with gratifying results.

For most of them, there is no reason why they would suddenly jump off the Palace’s gravy train to listen to the promises of, and latch on to, a newcomer like Poe.

Having shown his disdain for politicians in general and lacking the political skill to wheel and deal, to live and let live, to scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours, Poe is ill-prepared and ill-equipped (also ill-tempered) to snare many of these power brokers to help him win the presidency.

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POE CAMP IN DISARRAY: An indication of how the Poe camp is in disarray is the changing of their national campaign manager at this late stage of the game. If the coalition opposition’s campaign is going great guns, as claimed, why change the field marshal?

The replacement of comedian (also a senator) Tito Sotto with veteran Makati Mayor Jojo Binay is a good move. But it may be too late — or too embarrassing, in which case Binay’s taking over may not push through.

Another indication of how Poe’s campaign is faring is the coalition’s admittedly being low on funds. In this country of gamblers, a “winning” candidate never runs out of money, actually other people’s money. In fact, the really “strong” candidates sometimes end up being choosy with contributions.

They have an excuse for the dwindling logistics, though, which is that the citizenship case against Poe held back potential contributors. That may be a good explanation, but it does not solve their critical funding problem.

And in this country, nothing much moves except when oiled with the greasy stuff we call money.

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MITRA DEBACLE: Somebody said that money, even a surfeit of it, is no guarantee of victory at the polls. Of course money is not everything, but it helps. A lot.

To illustrate, they point to the debacle of the late Speaker Ramon V. Mitra Jr., who started out clearly looking like a sure winner with a bulging war chest to boot, but got lost somewhere.

Question thrown us is: How come Monching lost (to Gen. Fidel V. Ramos) when his party had billions stacked up behind him?

Answer: Because the money stacks did not move to the countryside where they were needed and where local politicos were waiting for them.

We have it on good authority that at some point toward the homestretch, instructions from up there were given to close the faucet. Poor Monching was not aware of what was happening.

There was creeping fear among some Aquino elements running the campaign then that, true or not, a Mitra win would be a victory for his good friend businessman Danding Cojuangco.

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MACHINERY TROUBLE: A side problem is machinery. Machinery is people. On the ground, it is politicians and businessmen. There are also the strategists and technicians, those with the brains, who are subordinated to the people holding the money.

Under that huge mound of big people are the ants, the field workers who organize rallies and such, carry banners, distribute flyers, hand out sample ballots, watch the count and, in extreme cases, maybe even die for somebody.

Sure, the opposition coalition pushing Poe is formidable. Formidable in the sense that it is huge. But size, as our favorite sexologist loves to say, does not matter much in this game of political titillation.

On the contrary, oversize could be a serious problem.

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POE A PROXY: Poor Poe was just shoved forward early in the game to lead the opposition, because he was seen, at that point, as the person most likely to win over President Arroyo.

The logical rallying figure in the opposition camp at that time was deposed President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, but his legal and political situation ruled out his running for another term.

For one, his formally running for president would quash his insistent contention that he was illegally removed. How does one run for president when he is still the president and there is a bar to a second term?

Now Poe, the proxy candidate, finds himself surrounded by people who just want to use him and now try to maintain their influence over him by constantly whispering unsolicited advice and making him feel dependent on them.

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CREEPING INSECURITY: The actor, who is not used to the dirty ways of politics, must have grown tired of the superstars orbiting around him buzzing around with this and that suggestion, that he had to hide behind a cordon sanitaire — with disastrous results.

Sooner or later, that feeling of insecurity would overwhelm the political neophyte. This can explain why we now see him hiding also from media. We would not be surprised if he is now developing a complex.

Deliberately or not, Poe was conditioned by his handlers to be dependent on them. In fact, at least three in his senatorial team staunchly believe they are better prepared than Poe, their standard bearer, to sit as president. They are probably right.

Now how can Poe claw his way out of that “machinery” marked by crisscrossing ambition and conceit?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 15, 2004)

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