POSTSCRIPT / March 4, 2007 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Opposition machine is already sputtering?

DISMAL PREVIEW: Just three weeks into the election season, the campaign engine of the Genuine Opposition (GO) appears to be sputtering already. Wrong spare parts installed? Lack of fuel? No road map? Bad driving?

It could be all of the above, and more.

Its senatorial ticket hurriedly glued together before the deadline for filing of candidacies seems to be suffering from a bad case of incompatibility. That happens when family issues are allowed to color judgments, when political butterflies and opportunists are allowed to sneak in.

Realizing the error of inserting J. V. Ejercito into its Senate lineup, the opposition operating under the shadow of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada pulled him out and made him campaign manager na lang. But now he is again being replaced by Sen. Serge Osmeña.

Until this late date, we don’t know GO’s final senatorial lineup. Is Senate majority leader Kiko Pangilinan in or out? If you ask me, he is better off campaigning with his Liberal partymates than with the ragtag GO senatorial squad.

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FUND LACK: The lack of logistics is evident. Assuming GO has enough fuel, somebody seems to have a vise grip on the faucet. The richer candidates, like Manuel Villar, are lucky to have their own funds and their own idea of how a campaign should go. He moves as if GO needs him more than he needs it.

Some opposition candidates tell us that contributions have been slow in coming. Of course. Big money goes to the player who shows a winning form, and GO – at this point – still has to show it has that.

Opposition candidates can only drool when they hear tales about the administration Team Unity’s bulging campaign chest.

The billions that the Arroyo administration had raised for the Cha-cha campaign were not used. They have been augmented by a fresh wave of fund-raising for the May polls. In addition, there are government funds that the administration can always dip into for certain operations.

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NO PLATFORM: Where is the opposition Road Map, if any? If GO has a carefully crafted alternative platform of government, it must have been stamped “Top Secret” and zealously hidden from public view.

The only thing clear so far, based on their statements and body language, is that the opposition wants to win enough congressional and senatorial seats to impeach President Gloria Arroyo. How is that for a platform?

There is no organized effort to tell the people how the opposition plans to jumpstart the economy, create jobs, stabilize prices, build more dwellings, improve education standards, secure the peace, and generally make life better under a new dispensation.

Meantime, administration candidates are basking in the positive growth of the economy, as borne out by macro indicators and validated by third party foreign experts.

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FIASCO UNLIMITED: The problems of the opposition become more evident in the field. The media are replete with reports of changes and cancellations of GO rallies, of confusion and demoralization.

Take the case of the last-minute decision to call off what was to be its first out-of-town campaign sortie in Iloilo, supposedly because of an “unconfirmed threat.”

The rally was hyped as a grand event of sorts because it was the opening salvo of GO’s countryside campaign. To ensure success, it was set in Iloilo, the bailiwick of opposition stalwart Sen. Franklin Drilon.

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MAGIC GONE: The organizers made it appear that the rally was cancelled out of concern for the safety of its candidates. But the real reason, as confirmed by oppositionist Rep. Rolex Suplico himself, was the embarrassing spectacle of its senatorial bets going on stage only to face a sparse crowd.

Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone, who now heads Team Unity’s media operations, said field reports reaching him placed the crowd in the aborted GO rally at around 50. What ever happened to the “Erap” magic that supposedly produces a mammoth crowd at the mere mention of his name?

The opposition has been blaming Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez for that disaster, saying the old man was operating a cellphone brigade that was sending text messages to scare the crowd into staying away.

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TIP OF ICEBERG: The Iloilo fiasco is actually only the tip of the iceberg.

When the opposition campaigners went to nearby Antique, the same dismal sight greeted them. This sad turn of events may be traced to the GO’s having no local candidates and network there. Many of the candidates went back disappointed to Manila , but Sonia Roco stayed and campaigned solo.

Twice earlier, GO had to change the venue of its proclamation rally in the national capital.

It first considered Makati (where opposition Mayor Jojo Binay could make anything happen), then San Juan (the vaunted Estrada bailiwick), and finally Plaza Miranda (which they discovered too late is no longer the Plaza Miranda of old).

If the opposition cannot even manage a credible campaign, how can it run the county kung sakali?

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NO PRESENCE: These false starts are an indication of what could happen on May 14.

There is no doubt that the opposition cannot match the effective reach of the administration. Already handicapped by limited logistics, GO has no organizational presence in much of this archipelago.

Remember, btw, that the Commission on Elections has junked automated polls. We are back to the old mano-mano magic of Philippine elections.

In the 1,500 towns and 81 provinces, there are only a handful of opposition local executives who could influence the elections. Not all of them are running this time. In fact, in several places, the administration candidates are running unopposed.

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DINAYA RAW: Where there is no GO presence, who would campaign for its senatorial ticket, deliver the votes, see to it that they are counted and properly reported to the manual national tally?

Who will distribute the sample ballots that many voters in the provinces use as voting guide?

Even when there is a local opposition candidate, it often happens that he is busy ensuring his own election to bother with the national candidates of the party.

In many places where there is no GO presence, it seems that the only option left for the ill-prepared opposition is to complain later that its candidates were cheated.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 4, 2007)

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