POSTSCRIPT / August 25, 2009 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Erap surely running; In tandem with Chiz?

SURE BET: The wise strategist should assume at this point that Erap Estrada is sure to run in the May 2010 elections and that only the Supreme Court or Divine Providence stands in the way of his victorious comeback.

The former president has said that if the opposition cannot agree on a common standard bearer, he will run. Clearly, they cannot agree – ergo, he is definitely running.

For saying this and other things below, I expect the text and email brigades of Malacanang and the leading presidentiables to pelt me with all sorts of comments, including ad hominems. But that is all right.

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VILLAR TIE: Based on my field feedback, the surveys and the analyses of political seers, the front runners at this stage of the race to Malacanang are Erap Estrada and Sen. Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party.

A second pack is not far behind. With the group is Sen. Chiz Escudero, who, while scoring high in the polls, is expected to slide down in the same way that Vice President Noli de Castro has slipped.

Escudero and Sen. Loren Legarda are the announced choices for NPC standard bearer of business mogul Danding Cojuangco.

The problem is that Cojuangco is known to be a crony of the husband of President Arroyo – making Chiz a suspected Palace stalking horse and, therefore, a shaky presidential bet.

As for the Liberal Party, it will have to move faster to catch up. Will it be a Mar Roxas-Noy Aquino presidential tandem or the reverse? The LP cannot afford to pussyfoot or be trapped in a padyak mindset.

Pressed to decide pronto and seal the crack in the party, the old guards and Roxas’ insistence on his presidential patent will prevail over the cheering squad of Aquino capitalizing on the good name of his parents.

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ADMIN BET: On the administration side, who is emerging as the Palace pet? All indications point to Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, who seems not to mind being implanted a kiss of death. Actually, he has no choice; where else can he go?

There is also Vice President Noli de Castro as possible administration candidate, but he has been coy and his guarded hesitation is not endearing him to the Palace. Besides, the First Couple is not too sure about him.

This point about being “sure” refers to the administration candidate committing to cover the tracks of the First Couple when they leave Malacanang. While Teodoro is said to be willing to protect them, De Castro still cannot bring himself to issuing such guarantee.

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POOR GOD!: What about the others claiming to be non-trapo (traditional politicians) such as the self-styled preachers riding on the apparent welling up of a spiritual reformation as the solution to the nation’s problems?

Some of those spouting political beatitudes from the mount are El Shaddai’s Mike Velarde, Jesus Is Lord’s Eddie Villanueva, and Pampanga’s priest-turned politico Eddie Panlilio.

They claim to have been told by God Himself to run and save this blighted land. Last time I checked, the good Lord – who must be nursing a migraine — has not issued a denial.

With the amateurish way these Bible-toting aspirants are carrying on, it is doubtful if any one of them can dislodge the politicians who have everything figured out to the last flying voter.

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SHADOWY PAIRS: The big-ego aspirants who insist on parading on the highway without exploring alternative routes in the valley below might find themselves shuffled out when deadline time comes for the filing of certificates of candidacy this November.

In a few days, when the new round of expanded survey results come in, many of the presidentiables strutting around will scurry for a slot as vice presidential partner of a strong standard bearer. The presidential field will then thin out.

My dirty crystal ball is starting to show these presidential-vice presidential pairings: Estrada-Escudero, Villar-De Castro and Roxas-Aquino. I will report an update when the shadowy figures come out clearer.

For the administration teamup, I see Teodoro, but the face of his vice presidential partner is foggy.

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LAKBAY: None of the front-running aspirants can claim having covered as much as a third of the ground that Estrada has stomped in his early campaign disguised as a “Lakbay Pasasalamat” (going the rounds to say “Thank you.”)

Estrada, leaning on 31 years of government service, has a program ready for implementation in case he wins. Based on what he had learned (including his mistakes) in his abbreviated term as president, his platform would be announced during the campaign proper.

Using traditional and modern devices, his troupe has covered more than 500 towns in 67 provinces. Everywhere he went, the reception has been electric, according to his key drumbeater Manong Ernie Maceda.

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LEGAL POSER: Talk of Erap running for president always triggers a debate centered on Section 4 of Article VII of the Constitution which says: “The President shall not be eligible for any re-election.”

The issue can be argued either way. Only the Supreme Court can resolve it, but only when a case is filed — which can happen only after Estrada has filed his certificate of candidacy.

The long due process — starting in a division of the Commission on Elections, on to the Comelec en banc, the appeals and counter-motions all the way to the Supreme Court — will mean a decision can come down only around April, or a month before the elections.

Question: How will the tribunal handle the hot case if by that time the surveys are showing an overwhelming mass preference for Estrada?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 25, 2009)

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