POSTSCRIPT / April 14, 2009 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Peek into Erap's list of 2010 senatoriables

TATAKBO SIYA: Don’t look now, but former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada might just be around in the 2010 presidential race longer than some elitist clique or moral force may want — if not as candidate himself, probably as a king-maker of sort.

Now looking more physically fit than he did last year, Erap is going ahead full steam in his relentless courtship of the same masa that installed him in Malacanang in 1998. Field reports and surveys show him still with a sizeable following.

Where would he swing the affection (and votes) of his fans — to the fulfillment of his own dream of a comeback or to the victory of a favored presidential candidate?

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POSITIONING: The answer to that is “It depends.”

It depends, first of all, on what the confidential and public surveys (they do not always tell the same story) will say shortly before the November deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2010 polls.

If the surveys show he would not top a field of at least four presidential candidates, why run at all, only to lose? Why suffer another humiliation after his ignominious ouster in 2001 and his conviction for plunder in 2008?

Wherever it would lead him, his positioning and runabout campaigning continues.

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IGNORING BAN: Assuming Erap sees a fighting chance and goes for it, his next problem will be the Constitutional ban on presidents running for reelection (Article VII, Section 4).

But at this point, Erap has been conditioned to think that the ban does not apply to him, because (1) he had served only less than half of the six years of his term, (2) he is not the incumbent president to whom, he thinks, the ban applies, and (3) he will not run for “reelection” which is not allowed but will just “run again.”

The legal debate will drag on from the Commission on Elections, which must decide whether or not to give due course to his candidacy, and all the way to the Supreme Court.

While all these suits, pleadings, et cetera, are raging, will his name be printed on the ballot since he has not been declared with finality as ineligible? The printing presses cannot wait.

Even the Supreme Court may have reason to worry if, simultaneously with the pleadings, the surveys show that Erap is still popular enough to win. Will the tribunal consider the political factor that the ultimate voice is that of the people?

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BAG OF TRICKS: Whatever fate awaits him, Erap is already filling up his campaign bag of tricks.

He goes out on “Lakbay Pasasalamat” sorties to thank the masa for their continued support. These forays into vote-rich districts look like campaign outings, but with everybody doing it the line between what is allowed and what is not has been blurred.

On the eve of his 72nd birthday on April 19, the putative candidate is set to distribute some 30,000 bags of goodies to neglected areas in Metro Manila.

To earn some money and, incidentally, to improve his recall, he will come out soon with TV ads for a drug for arthritis. (Recall that he had a celebrity knee problem in 2004.) He takes the medicine and somebody asks him: “Makatatakbo ka pa ba?” (Note the allusion to the legal question of whether or not he could run for president.)

Erap replies: “Sinong nagsabing hindi? Humabol kayo!”  and off he jogs away.

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COMING SOON: Not only that. Putting to good use his cinematic talent (a Famas Best Actor Hall of Famer), he has another movie in the making for the Metro Manila film festival this December. Expect it to be shown in theaters nationwide.

Erap will play the politically suggestive title role in “Ang Tanging Ama N’yo”  to be produced by Star Cinema. It takes off from the box office hit “Ang Tanging Ina N’yo” starring comedienne-actress Ai-Ai de las Alas.

The “Tanging Ama” film may reel out like campaign material, so will the censors board or the Comelec ban it? Erap will just love that, as the ruckus will crank up the film’s political mileage the way the banning of Ferdinand Marcos’ “Iginuhit ng Tadhana” did decades ago.

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KINGMAKER: My fearless forecast is that despite his making presidential forma, eventually Erap will decide not to run, but will just play the role of kingmaker.

This might explain why practically all politicos planning to run for president, vice president or senator make it a point to talk to him. Many aspirants visit him at his Polk Street redoubt in San Juan. Others send their wife or a common friend to make contact.

One thing with Erap is that he is sought by almost everybody on both sides of the fence. This is not surprising as even President Gloria Arroyo has long made peace with Erap in preparation for her exit in 2010.

With President Arroyo no longer running, all ticket combinations — regardless of tentative party labeling — are possible in 2010.

The last time we talked with Erap, btw, I saw his list of senatoriables for his Partido ng Masang Pilipino. On it were Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Miriam Santiago, Roy Golez, Adel Tamano, Serge Osmena, Koko Pimentel, Jojo Binay, Gina de Venecia, Grace Poe, Ted Failon, Teddy Casino, Bong Revilla, Danny Lim and Butz Aquino. But that is more than 12.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 14, 2009)

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