POSTSCRIPT / April 18, 2004 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Without majority mandate, the winner can't govern well

GMA PULLS AWAY: As the lead pack in the presidential race heaves into view, we see through the dust only President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and challenger Fernando Poe Jr. running neck and neck in the dash for the May 10 finish line.

The President appears to be pulling away from a challenger weighed down by logistical, organizational and personality problems — if we believe the surveys and the political insider information coming our way.

Poe’s early lead continues to suffer erosion while the stock of Ms Arroyo creeps up slowly but steadily. The surveys show that their lines, one going down and the other going up, crossed early this month.

The glimmer of an Arroyo victory, however slight, now has impatient kibitzers asking if Ms Arroyo’s possibly winning her own full term will finally bind the country, heal its wounds and nurse it back to health.

The answer is “Not necessarily.”

* * *

NO ONE-MAN JOB: There is no one man or woman — certainly not one among the five serious candidates for president — who can lead the country back to normalcy, and on to progress, on the basis alone of his or her poll victory.

A victory by mere plurality or a slight margin over the second-placer is an open invitation for instability and endless political combat.

Other factors must fall into place for the winner to be able to speak with the ringing voice of a leader armed with a clear mandate to lead this benighted nation to a new dawn:

  1. The president-elect must win by a majority, or more than half of the votes cast, to be able to claim having received a mandate. A mere plurality of the votes divided among five candidates is not convincing enough to quell obstructionism.
  2. The president-elect must carry enough of his or her senatorial slate to assure the administration party a working majority in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. Congress is crucial in fast-tracking recovery measures.

* * *

LOSERS MUST QUIT: No one among the five presidential candidates can clinch a clear majority win in a close fight such as this one raging before us.

There must be a way of persuading the tailenders in the race to withdraw — if by the end of the month, or 10 days before Election Day, there is clearly no way they could score an upset.

With the field thus left to the two top contenders, whoever wins will then be assured of garnering a clean majority and, therefore, a clear mandate.

The “weaker” candidates need not withdraw in favor of anybody. They could just quit in favor of the country. Their graceful exit from sure defeat could even be parlayed as a patriotic act that leaves them morally intact to participate in the next political campaign.

The entire exercise is premised on this long-suffering country in bad need of a strong president wielding a clear mandate.

* * *

WIELD PUBLIC OPINION: Unlike in some countries, this two-stage process of elimination and selection is not built into our system.

The Filipino will just have to improvise and appeal to the patriotism of the sure losers. Public opinion could probably be brought to bear on the laggards to withdraw and not waste time and money.

Some of them might consider withdrawing if they could recoup their expenses (plus a little profit maybe). This is something they could discuss with the front-runners, if the latter would not mind talking business.

Since we have no local precedent for this process, we will have to rely heavily on the weight of public opinion and the innate decency of the presidential candidates.

Some respected sectors in the community should help make this happen, even if it means pressuring candidates, as it is crucial to our healing as a badly battered people.

* * *

SIX-SIX SPLIT: The latest surveys show the administration and the opposition splitting 6-6 the top 12 winning positions in the senatorial fight. Or it could tilt a little for a 7-5 sharing of the seats.

Former trade secretary Mar Roxas (K-4) topped the charts in the latest Pulse Asia survey of 4,800 respondents nationwide. The others in the top six slots were Ramon Revilla (K-4), Fred Lim (KNP), Juan Ponce Enrile (KNP), Miriam Santiago (K-4) and Nene Pimentel (KNP).

The next six were Ernesto Maceda (KNP), John Osmena (K-4), Jinggoy Estrada (KNP), Lito Lapid (K-4), Jamby Madrigal (KNP) and Dick Gordon (K-4).

Right behind the 12 pacers were Rodolfo Biazon (K-4), Robert Barbers (K-4), Orly Mercado (K-4), Pia Cayetano (K-4) and Kit Tatad (KNP).

* * *

NEOPHYTE CLIMBS: Madrigal’s climb from No. 18 to No. 11 surprised many observers. She cut a curious, sometimes lonely, figure tangling with the traditional politicians with her “Kontra Politika Movement.”

Old voters may recall that her grandfather, Vicente Madrigal, was senator during President Quezon’s administration and her aunt, Pacita Madrigal Gonzales, was also senator when Ramon Magsaysay was president. The late Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, who was executed by the Japanese during the last war for not collaborating with the occupiers, was her grandfather.

The younger voters will probably remember her as Presidential Adviser on Children’s Affairs in President Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s administration.

Movie actress Judy Ann Santos goes with Madrigal on the campaign trail, helping serve as bridge between the masses and this member of an old-rich family.

* * *

RECALL R.P. FORCE?: Should we bring home the Filipino soldiers and policemen serving with the allied peace-keeping forces in war-torn Iraq?

The difficult decision rests on the President alone. She blows hot and cold on the question as she has to weigh the political realities of a presidential campaign versus the demands of maintaining firm ties with the US, particularly President George W. Bush.

It is not in the tradition of the uniform to ask soldiers and policemen what a commander should do, but in this case, it might be useful to ask them individually if anyone among them wants to come home.

If some of them want to come back to the warmth and safety of home, by all means, let them. They can be replaced from a long list of standby volunteers.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 18, 2004)

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